It will be a sacred place to create traditions and memories; it will be a place to call home. This place is Short Journey Retreat Center in Smithfield, which Cardinal Gibbons High School, in an innovative strategic decision, purchased earlier this month, underscoring its commitment to the spiritual formation of its school community and its connection to the history of the Diocese of Raleigh.
Principal Jason Curtis said, “spiritual formation is at the heart of our mission at Cardinal Gibbons and having our own retreat center will enable us to enhance and expand the opportunities we offer students, educators, and families to grow in their faith.” He added that the center will become an integral part of the school’s ongoing plans to continue increasing the number of retreats and spiritual formation opportunities. “Retreats are, and will continue to be, an essential part of the Gibbons experience, and I’m grateful to our Board of Trustees for committing to a bold plan that will ensure that future generations of Gibbons students will always have a home for our retreats,” he noted. (View the video message below from Mr. Curtis about purchasing the center.)
Cardinal Gibbons Retreat Director Crista Anders agreed and added, “With our own center we have a place where we can establish traditions and witness transformations, and we can all return home to again and again.”
Principal Jason Curtis said, “spiritual formation is at the heart of our mission at Cardinal Gibbons and having our own retreat center will enable us to enhance and expand the opportunities we offer students, educators, and families to grow in their faith.”
And just as the school’s former Western Blvd. campus, now the site of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, links Cardinal Gibbons to Diocesan history, so does the Short Journey property. The Diocese purchased the 12-acre property in 1983 at a public auction to serve the needs of its youth, young adult and campus ministry programs, said Msgr. John A. Wall, who led those programs and worked with the Diocese decades ago to buy the center.
Gibbons purchasing the center is an “exciting and joyful opportunity, and I praise God for it,” said Msgr. Wall, who now serves as Pastor Emeritus at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary. “The center is an historical building that has served thousands of people over the years, bringing them closer to the Lord,” he noted. “Knowing of the spiritual formation opportunities Gibbons has been offering to its students, it is wonderful to think that the school can now use the center to enhance those opportunities.”
Short Journey was built in 1926 and served as a school for African American students for 44 years before closing its doors in the 1970s due to desegregation. More than 20 years earlier, amid the ongoing integration of schools in North Carolina, Cardinal Gibbons became the state’s first integrated high school.
Cardinal Gibbons is again at the forefront as one of the few schools in the nation to own and manage a retreat center, providing it with an invaluable resource. To be sure, the center will augment the school’s already flourishing retreat program, which offers overnight spiritual retreats specifically designed for students in each grade.
The Gibbons community is looking forward to the school having its own retreat center. “Having our own center gives us scheduling flexibility to provide the opportunity for every student to attend a retreat,” said Retreat Director Tim Yelenic. “It also offers a place to launch our Retreat Pilot Program for athletics, clubs, parents, and other organizations, which will further enhance our spiritual and communal growth.”
Students are also excited about the acquisition - just ask Jill Foye ’18 and Jack Zarnik ’18, who have attended as well as led retreats at Gibbons. That Cardinal Gibbons will have its own retreat center, they said, shows “the importance the school places on and the love it has” for the spiritual formation of students.
“Instead of just some students going on retreats, the center would make it possible for every student and all departments to have the Gibbons retreat experience,” Zarnik said.
“Having our own retreat center,” Foye added, “would provide a sense of permanence and familiarity to the retreat experience and allow the memories that are made there to be permanently etched in stone.”
Principal Curtis said plans call for renovating the facility in the coming months and hosting school retreats there starting as early as 2019. “The Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Retreat Center,” he said, “will be an essential part of the Gibbons journey for many years to come, and we can’t wait to get to work on imagining and planning for so many new opportunities.”