The coronavirus pandemic has dealt severe financial blows to Bay Area retreat centers, putting some of them in danger of closing.
After nearly five months without any income, St. Clare’s Retreat Center, a mission of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, is contemplating the end of its half-century long mission of providing spiritual peace and healing.
“The retreat house has very small margins. What we bring in is what we pay out,” Franciscan Sister Christine Marie Chauvel of St. Clare’s Retreat House said.
Even before COVID-19 shut down much of St. Clare’s revenue, the Soquel retreat center had been hit hard financially. In September, Santa Cruz county stopped grandfathering in easements on the property, forcing the sisters to spend money destroying old wells and upgrading the retreat house with a commercial kitchen. Then the chapel floor and roof needed to be fixed.
Franciscan Sister Mary Vincent Nguyen, the retreat directress, said that was manageable until the shelter in place order meant no money was coming in at all to cover their ongoing expenses.
Sister Mary Vincent said she has reduced the retreat house’s monthly expenses to by half, about $25,000, but even on such a reduced budget they’ve run through their savings. They have been able to cover the salaries of their two full-time employees but had to furlough their 4 part-time employees.
Now the sisters are looking to raise almost $250,000 in order to stay open. Sister Mary Vincent said the sisters are “praying mightily that God has the bank account to get it all handled,” but she said they have to face the possibility they might not be able to reopen the retreat center’s doors.
I’m sure many dioceses around the country can tell a similar story. Please: Support these places in whatever way you can.