One beautiful sunny morning in March 2014, I drove to Colombiere Conference and Retreat Center to cover a story for The Chaldean News about a women’s Lenten retreat. It was a Friday and my son, a preschooler, didn’t have school that day. One of the directors of the retreat encouraged me to bring him along so I did.
Colombiere is nestled on acres of towering pines and oaks in Clarkston, Michigan. I remember upon entering the long road that leads to the building, I felt a sudden disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Inside, my son stopped to view some of the statues and look out the window at the walking trails and gardens. We took the elevators to an upper floor and went into a most lovely chapel with bluish décor. Father Sameem Balius was performing mass. He talked about the importance of retreats, how they renew peoples’ faith and help them experience the loving presence of God and to seek the wisdom necessary for good daily living.
Later we moved the cafeteria, which was surrounded by large windows. My son and I observed the green acres of land. A few nuns were doing their morning walks. I interviewed the priests and organizers of the retreat, who initially started it years prior “to combine prayer, meditation and spiritual education”, and went home feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to visit this place, especially with my young son. (I included below a link of the article I wrote in 2014).
Two years later, my family and I went to Cancun, Mexico and I ended up participating in a spiritual ceremony that had me thinking to bring home the experience I enjoyed in the Riviera Maya. As an author of 12 books, I wanted to also combine writing workshops with it. I’ve worked with many writers and have found that oftentimes, there are spiritual blocks preventing them from moving forward in their career. I’ve also worked with many people who have healed several issues in their lives through the process of writing. I decided to start a writing and spiritual retreat and named it The Path of Consciousness, based on the sign welcoming patrons to the spiritual ceremony in Mexico. Last year, Reverend Barbara Yarnell of the Center of Enlightenment and another dear friend Lisa Argo offered to help me find the right venue and prepare other necessary work.
Someone suggested we visit Colombiere. The name didn’t ring a bell but when we arrived to the building, upon driving into the long road, I immediately remembered the day my son and I went there, the peace that enveloped me and I’m sure him as well since he was so good throughout the day, allowing me to enjoy mass and interview people. From that one visit, we agreed this is the perfect place for the writing and spiritual retreat and didn’t end up touring other retreats. Later, I discovered that Colombiere is said to be “one of the best-kept secrets.”
As someone who loves history, when I learned of the story behind Colombiere, I invited Janice Seeley, director of conferences and retreats, to come on my show and share it. Colombiere opened as a Jesuit training facility in 1959. It is named after Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit teacher, orator and spiritual director, who lived in France from 1641 to 1682 and was canonized May 31, 1992. In the course of preparation for the priesthood, the young Jesuit undergoes fifteen years of training, years of formation. Some examples of the classes offered in liberal arts were English, Latin, Greek, French, Literature, History, Education, and Speech. This rich background prepares the young Jesuit for further studies in philosophy and theology.
From the beginning, the Jesuit Healthcare Center for retired priests and brothers has been located there, as well as a large community of Jesuits involved in the operation of Colombiere. After the number of seminarians declined by the late 70s and 80s, they decided to open up an infirmary/retirement center for the Jesuit priests. In addition, the remainder of the building opened up as a retreat center. Although the facilities reflect the Jesuit influence, they are not limited to those of the Catholic faith. Colombiere hosts a wide spectrum of non-profit and for profit groups and is available for educational, religious, and governmental day and overnight programs, as well as both corporate and religious retreats.
Aside from having the writing and spiritual retreat there, I’m also considering having the Girl Scout troop which I lead to spend a night or two there, where mothers and daughters can enjoy quiet time without the interruption of electronics or television. If you want to check out the spiritual and writing conference and retreat which will be from October 5 to 7, visit this link The Path of Consciousness