After a year of praying, planning, and renovating Cardinal Gibbons recently reopened the Short Journey Retreat Center and welcomed its first retreatants to their home away from home.
As the school’s permanent home for retreats the 12-acre center in Smithfield will enhance and expand opportunities for students, educators, and families to grow in their faith. With that in mind the center- which Gibbons purchased from the Diocese of Raleigh in 2018 - has been renamed the Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Center.
Over the last few weeks, the first retreats were held at the center. Its continuing renovation, both inside and outside, is being done with assistance from the helping hands of students, educators, coaches, parents, and alumni.
Just yesterday, May 15, some 26 alumni from the classes of 2017 and 2018 - fresh from their freshman or sophomore years at college - gathered at Short Journey for a “sneak peek” of the center before its grand opening later this year. In typical Gibbons fashion, the alums pitched in to help with the center’s ongoing beautification.
This sunny Wednesday the alums, along with engaging with friends and enjoying an outdoor cookout, stained benches built by Gibbons technical theater students and helped prepare for the upcoming Kairos retreat at the end of May. The day was sponsored by Gibbons Retreats and Gibbons Alumni.
Other Gibbons touches seen throughout the property, included outdoor seating painted green and gold, as well as photographs of past and present retreatants. There were also banners and signs, inside and out, announcing the center’s new name.
Some of the alums reminisced about the times they spent at the center. One was Donald “Tripp" Fraley ’17, who attended his first Gibbons retreat at the center five years ago. “Excited," is how Tripp, now a UNC-Wilmington sophomore studying business, described his recent visit to the center.
“Back then, we joked that we wished Gibbons would just buy the center and resurrect it,” Tripp said. “Seeing that wish come to fruition is incredible.” As important, he noted, is that we are part of building the future for younger students – part of their journey at Short Journey. “That’s our legacy,” he explained.
For Gibbons students attending the inaugural retreats at the reopened center (either as retreat leaders or attendees) also was a déjà vu experience. Three years ago, Prism, their first Gibbons retreat, also was held at Short Journey.
“When I led the recent retreat I was able to see how much the center has grown since my freshman year,” said Tess McCarthy ’19. “It wasn’t just about the new bathrooms and newly painted rooms. But that it is now a place that will bring four retreats into one center. It was where I started my Gibbons retreat journey, and when I led Kairos, it was where I had some of my last steps on this journey."
Agreeing with that assessment is Adam Castiller ’20. He attended one of the first retreats at the newly reopened center as well as a Prism retreat there when he was a freshman. “It’s nice to see how much improvement has been made at Short Journey,” Adam said. “I think it’s pretty cool to be part of such an important moment in our school’s history.”
Both said having a permanent home for retreats enhanced their experience. “It's a place where you find trust your freshman year and build upon it during your four retreats,” said Tess.
Adam added, “I feel like there’s a lot of freedom… It’s the same kind of feeling I have when I stay after school for a few hours.”
Principal Jason Curtis said the purchase and renovation of the center not only preserves but also celebrates the rich history of the center for future generations. In addition, it provides them with a home for retreats where they will experience the love of God, and the formational experiences of prayer, worship, and reflection.