It is just a 40-minute drive from Cardinal Gibbons High School, but what you notice first when you step inside the retreat center is the stillness. The external world seems to drift away from this 12-acre Cleveland Road property in Smithfield where Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Retreat Center stands, and where students, educators, and parents will go to grow in their faith, connect with God, and take a break from the busyness of their lives.
“As an educator and a parent I’m so excited that future generations of Crusaders will grow in faith surrounded by a joyful school community at Short Journey, and can’t wait to see the traditions formed and memories made in this new home,” said Principal Jason Curtis.
Less than a month ago Cardinal Gibbons, in a strategic innovative decision, purchased the retreat center from the Diocese of Raleigh, which closed it in 2016 after owning and operating it since 1983. The decision to purchase the center - made after months of careful deliberation and planning among school administrators, the Board of Trustees, and Diocesan officials - reflects Gibbons continued commitment to the spiritual growth of its school community. To that end, the center will support the school’s growing spiritual retreat program and welcome the more than 1,000 students who go on the four overnight retreats each year. It also will enhance the program by providing a permanent home for those as well as additional retreats for clubs, teams, and parents, among other groups.
The Gibbons community has positively embraced the news of the school’s purchase of the center.
This is so great. What a blessing. Very exciting news. Well done Gibbons.
Love Gibbons for doing this. Brilliant ... an investment in the religious
mission of CGHS students. Awesome.
Those are some of the early comments readers posted on the school’s Facebook page hours after the purchase was announced. Now, a few weeks later, reaction to the news about reopening the retreat center has grown. And so has the excitement about the new possibilities it portends for current and future members of the Gibbons community. Many, especially alumni who attended retreats at the center, wax nostalgic about the time they spent at the center.
“Reopening Short Journey … brings back the years of memories that it provided to me,” said Brandon Burns ’13. “For current and future students, it will provide a sanctuary of sorts. It is a place, dislocated from whatever reality is occurring outside of its walls. More importantly, however, it is an experience. Those walls have built friendships, heard stories of hardship, and mended wounds… I’ll always hold Short Journey Center in a special corner of my heart.”
Annie Disano ’12 added, “Just having a place to call home for Gibbons retreats would mean so much… I think that students will also see how much retreats are valued and will be encouraged to go on more of them.”
Educators and current students also embrace the school’s purchase of the center. “I was so excited when I heard that we purchased Short Journey Retreat Center,” said Theology Educator Kim Dandurand. “As a former youth minister … I have watched so many lives come to know Jesus within those walls. I can’t wait to watch the same thing happen with our very own Cardinal Gibbons students.” (View Mrs. Dandurand's video below about the school's purchase of Short Journey Retreat Center.)
Michael Godwin ’18 said the Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Retreat Center will be a home away from home for students. “They will,” he added, “be able to nurture their faith, as well as become closer with God and their community in the same facility throughout their four years.”
That is exactly how prospective Gibbons freshman Sebastian Zaldivar feels about the school purchasing Short Journey. “It is cool to think that for four years I can go back to a place where I will be making memories and growing in my faith,” said Zaldivar. As an eighth-grader at St. Michael School in Cary, Zaldivar attended the Middle School Retreat Gibbons led at his school. What did he like most about the retreat? “I liked how involved the Gibbons students were,” he said, adding “it felt like they wanted to be there, wanted to talk to us, wanted to be with us.”
Looking ahead, the plan is to update the center and reopen it by the start of 2019, said Principal Jason D. Curtis. “As an educator and a parent I’m so excited that future generations of Crusaders will grow in faith surrounded by a joyful school community at Short Journey, and can’t wait to see the traditions formed and memories made in this new home,” he said.