One of the distinguishing features of the Holy Cross experience got grander this past academic year. The College’s well-established retreat programs now have a new home in the Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center in West Boylston, Mass.
Since the founding of Holy Cross, retreats and programs devoted to spiritual discernment have been a central aspect of the College’s history. The new 33,800-square foot complex — featuring a chapel, meeting rooms, dining room, and living quarters with bedrooms and bathrooms for 60 individuals — allows for expanded and additional retreat programming for students, alumni, faculty, and staff.
The Holy Cross community quickly embraced the new facility.
More than 700 students — or 25 percent of the student body — took part in a retreat or contemplative program at the Joyce Center last academic year, according to Marybeth Kearns-Barrett, director of the Chaplains’ Office. In addition, more than 200 alumni have made a retreat, and more than 200 faculty members and staff have participated in one of the many contemplative experiences held at the Joyce Center.
“The most common question we get is, ‘When can I come back?,’ ” says Kearns-Barrett. “We have already seen an increase in student participation in retreats. The Class of 2017 had 37 percent of the class participate in a retreat and an additional 6 percent who participated in a contemplative program so a total of 43 percent of the class graduated having either been on a retreat and or having participated in an evening of contemplation and reflection. The previous graduating class averaged 31 percent participation in a retreat.”
A major advantage of the Joyce Center, set on a serene 52-acre property that overlooks the Wachusett Reservoir, is its location: just a 20-minute drive from Holy Cross. Previously, all programs took place at rented facilities, often hours away from campus.
“One of the most exciting aspects of having the Joyce Center so close to campus is that it has allowed faculty and staff to experience it as well as students. Upon experiencing it themselves, many faculty have then sought opportunities to bring their classes or academic programs or departments they are part of to the center. We have had many Montserrat classes, the architectural studies program and the environmental studies program all visit the center in our first year. I think the center has been an invitation to the entire campus community to slow down, be more attentive and grow in appreciation for the gifts that Ignatian spirituality has to offer all of us, regardless of our religious tradition or belief system,” says Kearns-Barrett.
The building is one of the major initiatives funded by the “Become More” campaign, and represents the College’s continued commitment to its mission of educating the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.
Watch construction of the Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center, which took place from April 2015 to September 2016.
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