The Holy Spirit Retreat Center, from its lofty perch amid the Chugach Mountain Range, has served as a spiritual oasis for thousands of visitors across more than 50 years.
The center, located on the outskirts of Anchorage, collaborates with the Archdiocese of Anchorage as well as ecumenical groups to provide spiritual direction, retreats, workshops, conferences and programs in ministry formation both at the center and in parishes.
While the center is valued for its obscurity in the Chugach foothills, center Administrator Alan Muise knows that many aren’t familiar with the mountainside facility.
“It seems a lot of people don’t know we are here,” Muise told the Catholic Anchor.
The 22-acre campus includes a forested Stations of the Cross and a Catholic chapel. It has served as a base for marriage and engagement retreats, men’s groups, silent retreats and much more. Catholics are not the only beneficiaries. Many Protestant churches use the facilities for conferences.
“It’s important to have a facility like we have for the quietness. It’s away from the noise and daily temptations and, in that quiet, you really have the ability to connect with God,” Muise observed. “And we have indoor plumbing, towels, linens, showers.”
Father Luz Flores, who serves as the retreat center’s pastoral director, described the uniquely Alaskan facility.
“We’re close to the city and to wildlife,” he said. “We watched a mother moose and her two calves this spring.”
The facility includes eight buildings. The grounds feature a central retreat house, dining room, conference rooms, housing for guests and access to Resurrection Chapel and the Stations of the Cross nature walk. The land for the center was donated to the archdiocese in 1968 when Mary and Harry Dault gave deed to the land for $10.
Resurrection Chapel, built with a gift by Ben and Dawn Tisdell, was added in 1992. It has a reputation for being the church with best panoramic overlook of Anchorage and Turnagain Arm. A faithful gathering attend the church each Sunday, but it is not a parish in the sense of offering baptisms and other sacraments.
In 1971 Holy Spirit Center was established under late Anchorage Archbishop Frances Hurley, who placed Jesuit priests in charge. Father Vincent Beuzer ran it for eight years with fellow Jesuit priest Father Armand Nigro. When they left in 2010, the Jesuit Provence couldn’t spare another priest for the post, Muise said.
Father Beuzer passed away in 2011, in Spokane, Washington, at a retirement home for priests. Under Jesuit care, Holy Spirit Center emphasized the 16th century spiritual practices of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
Under Father Luz, much of the Ignatian flavor remains.
“From the feedback, this is a good place for silence, a sacred space for people to have a retreat that takes them away from the noisy world that they have daily,” Father Luz said. “It gives them a chance to center themselves and then be more centered in the Lord.”
Through the years, the center has experienced some financial difficulties, but the goal is to be self-sustaining, Muise said. Retreat fees of $225 per person supply about a third of the $400,000 budget a year. They also count on the Challenge Drive from October to January to supply a fifth of the annual income. The rest comes mostly from donations.
To learn more about Holy Spirit Center, go online to holyspiritcenterak.org.