A New Retreat Center Is Dedicated in E. Flatbush

by Marie Elena Giossi

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio blesses the new Jesus of Nazareth Retreat Center in East Flatbush. Assisting him is Deacon Carlos Garcia, center director.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio opened the first weekend of the Lenten season by dedicating Jesus of Nazareth Retreat Center, the new diocesan retreat center in East Flatbush.

Gathered with a small group of retreatants and representatives of diocesan ministries on Friday evening, Feb. 24, the bishop prayed that the center would be a place of personal reflection and conversion to foster the New Evangelization in Brooklyn and Queens.

“During the season of Lent, we are called to conversion and change, to open our hearts in a new way… to declare and make known we belong to God,” he said. “This retreat center we dedicate tonight to the purpose of change. … In this place, people, hopefully with God’s assistance, will be changed.”

Calling the center “beautiful, spacious, clean and inviting,” he said, “I hope many people will come to this place of Nazareth to find their way and be with God.”

Located on the fourth floor of Nazareth Regional H.S., the center is the former residence of the Xaverian Brothers, who administered and taught at the school in years past. The space, which underwent a complete overhaul last summer, offers conference rooms, dining facilities and two wings, each featuring 22 double bedrooms. Neutral hues of brown, burgundy and cream, along with wooden accents and religious artwork, evoke warmth and tranquility. Updates to the space include central air conditioning in the common rooms and the installation of air conditioners in each bedroom.

“It’s been an amazing transformation,” explained Deacon Carlos Garcia, retreat center director, who assumed a hands-on role in repurposing the space. He finished the floors with a final coat of wax just hours before guests arrived Friday night.

Photo courtesy Jesus of Nazareth Retreat Center

The center officially opened last September following the merger of the Brooklyn and Queens campuses of the SS. Peter and Paul Spirituality Center, which had been used for diocesan retreats. The Brooklyn site at 118 Congress St. was permanently closed, and the Queens campus, which was based at the Immaculate Conception Pastoral Center, Douglaston, has resumed its original purpose of housing college seminarians.

High Demand For Space
Since opening its doors six months ago, the center has been in high demand for retreats and conferences. The space can accommodate one-day events for more than 100 people and has amenities for up to 80 overnight guests.

As for how many events have been held there thus far, Deacon Garcia said, “too many to count, thank God.

“We have been booked from the first weekend of last September all the way through the second week of (this coming) August,” with the exception of Christmas week and Holy Week, he said.

He admitted that acclimating diocesan groups to the new space has been the biggest challenge but he reminds people that the center is a blessing. “In light of the financial situation in the diocese, the bishop backed this project which says a lot about his commitment to the New Evangelization,” he said.

As for the impending closure of Nazareth Regional H.S. this summer, the deacon says the retreat center will remain in operation.

Diocesan ministries and movements that were displaced by the closing of the two campuses, including the Cursillo and Jornadas de Vida Cristiana movements, were among the first to use the new facility to conduct weekend retreats.

The Jornada movement has already held five weekend retreats at the site and more are planned, according to Feliz Perez III, president of the movement’s leadership arm. He attended the dedication with Father James Kuroly, the movement’s spiritual director, and Evelyn Sanchez, an adult leader from St. Matthias, Ridgewood.

“At the beginning people were unsure of the space and used to the old CC House (Casa de Cursillos, SS. Peter and Paul Spirituality Center’s Brooklyn campus). Now people are liking this place more and more. The rooms are bigger. There’s more space and it’s more accessible,” Perez said.

Call It Home
Sanchez was a leader at the first girls’ Jornada retreat there last October. While the leaders were as unfamiliar with the space as the participants, she felt the weekend was “beautiful and rewarding. Now we can call it home,” she said.

Several parishes and schools have reserved space for confirmation retreats and faculty days of reflection. The diocesan Pastoral Institute also uses the site to conduct lay ministry classes on Monday evenings.

While calendar preference is given to diocesan groups, all others are considered on an availability basis.

Last weekend’s dedication was held in conjunction with the bishop’s Annual Vocation Retreat, sponsored by the diocesan Vocation Office. Sixteen high school and college age young men attended.

Father Kevin Abels, vocation director, feels the center is “conducive to the retreat experience,” because it offers participants space to both reflect by themselves and with each other, “to share the journey and help form one another.”

5 thoughts on “A New Retreat Center Is Dedicated in E. Flatbush

    1. Thank you for your interest in the Jesus of Nazareth Retreat Center. Any questions pertaining to upcoming retreats and related costs may be directed to Deacon Carlos Garcia, center director, at 347-710-0010.
      Thank you for reading The Tablet.

    1. Hello Anna,

      I’m not sure how signing up for retreat works, but you can call the center at: (347) 710-0010. Maybe someone there can help you. If not feel free to let us know what kind of retreat you are looking for.