Yesterday, I mentioned the importance of the great work done by retreat houses throughout this country. In some limited ways, they are a substitute for the enormous school system that was such a great source of strength to the Church over the last 150 years. That system is still very much with us but not as large as it used to be. When a child is born, or when an adult enters the Church training or formation, education has to take place. Retreat houses, scattered as they are all over the country, are a great resource in accomplishing this end. Today, I want to talk about the wonderful reality of Eagle’s Wings retreat center located in the ranch country a few miles west of Burnet.
A wonderful couple owned some beautiful ranch country and became conscious of the fact that there was no facility within a 100 or 150 miles that would provide programs for Catholic youth of that broad area. They approached the Diocese of Austin and were willing to give a large amount of land to the Diocese, but would expect the Diocese to make a commitment to building a retreat facility for youth. Diocesan leadership did not feel that it could assume this responsibility at that time and turned the generous offer down. What to do?
Mr. and Mrs. Haffner talked to a few men and women about their dream and soon perceived a solid mood of support for that dream. Talking to people with good backgrounds in finance, engineering and construction, they soon had a solid support group they had developed by themselves and without diocesan commitment and support. Jump ahead five years and guess where we are? Mr. and Mrs. Haffner, with that support team from the beginning, and later the enlistment of help from many others, have brought about what for me is the most beautiful retreat house that I have ever seen. Made of solid stone construction, they now have five beautiful buildings and are on their way to building two more. Young people come in groups from the Dioceses of San Angelo and San Antonio and, of course, Austin. The facility, with a continued fine leadership, has become an extraordinary source of faith and enhancement of Catholic living in that area.
I am extremely proud of Eagle’s Wings youth retreat facility but I am even happier about what it represents for me – that lay people are more and more advancing to leadership in every position of the Church and although they would like to have ecclesiastical support, they have proven time after time that they can get great things done without it.
Onward through the fog.