Some places stay with you forever. For Gibbons Social Studies Educator Treve Lumsden one of those places is the Short Journey Retreat Center in Smithfield. To him, spending time there during his high school and college days was an extraordinary gift. So, when Gibbons recently purchased the 12-acre Cleveland Road property, it was as though he was doubly blessed.
The reason is simple and deeply personal. “It felt like a piece of my personal history was being preserved in a meaningful way,” he noted. “I was also overjoyed with the idea that students at Gibbons, and throughout the Diocese, would be given a chance to have not just the social experiences, but the faith-based interactions that I had. Carrying on that tradition is a noble calling.” (Lumsden, pictured top and below, during a recent Educator Day of Service at Short Journey. In the top photo he is in front of bushes he planted 10 years ago at the center.)
Indeed, Lumsden is one of many in the Gibbons school community who has ties to the center. Others include Gibbons parents, Liz Riegel and Kevin Kocher. That is not surprising since the Diocese had owned Short Journey for 30 plus years before closing it in 2016. In the intervening years, anxiousness about the center’s future ran high until Gibbons made the bold, innovative decision to buy it last March.
Of purchasing Short Journey Retreat Center, Principal Jason D. Curtis said: “It made good sense from an operational point of view – allowing us to continue expanding and enhancing our retreat program – but also from a historical perspective. It allows us to renovate a building that is personally important to many members of our school community and Diocese, and at the same time continue the building’s purpose of spiritual formation and community fellowship for generations to come.”
In the months since the purchase, the school has begun some initial cleanup of the property and the historic buildings that make up the Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Center. As now envisioned, the center, which over time will be renovated, is expected to reopen next year as the permanent home of Gibbons’ retreat program. Having a permanent home will enhance the school’s already strong retreat program by enabling it to offer additional spiritual formation opportunities to its community, from students and educators to parents. Also envisioned are plans to have retreats for teams, clubs, as well as alumni.
The added hope is that Gibbons having its own retreat center will provide its students and families a place to create memories, a place that will become central to their spiritual formation, and a place that will enable them to leave their own legacy. That is what happened for Lumsden. He explained that when he was growing up there were few Catholics his age in Carteret County… so “going to Short Journey gave me an opportunity to share and practice my faith with large numbers of people my age … and they were evidence to me that Catholic youth was greater than the 12 members of St. Egbert High School’s youth program at the time.”
Gibbons parent Liz Riegel participated in and then led several retreats at Short Journey while she was a college student at Duke University in the mid-1980s. “The retreats definitely helped grow my relationship with God during my college years,” said Riegel, parent of Sarah ’17, Mark ’19 and Megan ’21. “They also introduced me to a great group of Catholics from the wider community.”
Parents also say they are happy Gibbons purchased the center. Just ask Kevin Kocher, parent of Caroline (Cari) ’21. Kocher, whose experience at Short Journey includes being a retreat participant as well as a team member leading teen retreats, noted: “Having a permanent home … will provide a sense of solidarity, pride, and belonging. Sharing a common experience can be a point of reference to build a relationship of deeper sharing, honest sharing, that is much needed.”
Riegel said she appreciates that Gibbons bought Short Journey because the purchase “keeps the property in the family, so to speak.”
That was a relief for Lumsden. He and friends he met at Short Journey investigated the idea of purchasing and running the center themselves - a task, however, that proved beyond their capabilities, Lumsden explained. He added that when Gibbons announced it bought the center, he called his friends “and let them know that Short Journey was in good hands.”
To him Short Journey is “the perfect place” for Gibbons students to go for retreats. “My hope is that Short Journey becomes a place of comfort that they return to year after year to grow with one another in their faith,” he noted. “I believe that the students of Gibbons will love Short Journey as much as I do.”