In a letter dated 29 May 2020, the Provincial of the former Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus announced his decision to close the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, effective August 2021. You may read the Provincial’s letter, accompanying FAQs, and Br. Derby’s letter of response here.
While we are sorrowful at the decision, we are focused on the remaining time of ministry here in Wernersville. The Jesuit Center will continue to offer retreats and other programs for spiritual renewal, and to host groups, through August 2021. You can see our 2021 program calendar here.
With the support of Susan Baker and our maintenance staff, I was able to convert Room 159, formerly a bedroom, into a new Art Room. The new space, which we opened in January, is on the first floor, with two windows for natural light, a wood floor, and closet with a sink. We used some old tables and bookcases to create work and storage spaces, and had enough supplies lying around our offices (and from my own collection) to start us off. I am indebted to Sr. Loretta Hoag, one of our retreatants who is an artist, who kindly left us a suggested list of supplies if we were ever to open a new art room. Thanks also to Sr. Susan Kusz, through whom I was able to adapt the procedures used at JRH Oshkosh for our Art Room.
The photographs capture the creation of the room over the winter weeks. We hope that you will come and see our new Art Room and perhaps find it useful when you are here for a retreat or program. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
If you would like the list of needed supplies and/or would like to donate art supplies or books, please contact our registrar, Melinda Leonowitz, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-670-3642.
A New Space to Make Art
When I made my novitiate 30-Day Retreat here at Wernersville many years ago, I was casting about for an activity to pass some of the open time each day. One of my classmates had taken up needlepoint; others practiced musical instruments. I settled on drawing and painting, activities that I had been enjoying at school and as a young teacher before I entered the Jesuits. For me, making art was a good way to pass the time, and it also allowed God to “seep into my consciousness” in a non-rational, intuitive way. Years later, as a Jesuit tertian at Manresa House in Dublin, Ireland, I saw how painting worked for a fellow tertian from Slovenia during the Long Retreat. My classmate Jozko would create a symbolic painting capturing each day of prayer, which he would then use as a basis for his spiritual direction session with his director (and later, as a basis for his homilies at Mass in the tertianship).
Last summer, I made my own retreat at Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, WI, where they have a beautiful Art Room in their new building. The folks there organized things very well, with simple rules about the use of the room and a “needs” sheet to solicit donations of materials.
Imagine my dismay when I arrived as a staff member here at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth back in July to find our old Art Room had
been closed and dismantled due to mold! Early on, I became determined that we find a new space in which our retreatants could make art when they come here.
By Br. Christopher Derby, SJ, Executive Director