With its new status as an oratory, the St. Ignatius Deemerton Retreat Centre can now offer those visiting the opportunity to celebrate all of the sacraments at a moment’s notice, pending a priest. Photo courtesy of Darryl Diemert

Retreat centre upgrades to oratory

By 
  • April 5, 2014

When is a retreat centre not just a retreat centre? When it becomes an oratory.

At least, that’s the situation at the St. Ignatius Deemerton Retreat Centre, which is preparing for its first spring season since being designated an oratory last October.

As an oratory, the retreat centre is now able to provide the sacraments to visitors.

“An oratory allows us to have groups come and be exposed to the sacraments without asking permission of the bishop each and every time,” said Darryl Diemert, president of the St. Ignatius Preservation Society, which operates the retreat centre. “What it offers to the immediate community is now that we are a legitimate oratory — and not just a retreat centre — we are free to offer access to the sacra-ments.”

The St. Ignatius Deemerton Retreat Centre is located in the village of Deemerton, about 15 kilometres south of Walkerton, Ont. The only retreat centre in Canada owned and operated entirely by Catholic laity, it can accommodate up to 63 people, and last year hosted events running from April 1 through Thanksgiving “without exception,” said Diemert.

“Without a doubt over 85 per cent of our business is Catholic retreats,” he said. “Most of our visitors come from Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and Toronto in addition to our local families.”

In addition to Catholic retreats, the centre holds community functions that use a new meeting hall constructed last year 

“Our new hall has kind of become the local community centre,” Diemert said. “In addition to retreats, local families use the hall, as other retreat centres do, for family functions.”

The hall and new designation aren’t the only upgrades the centre has experienced since the Preser-vation Society bought the former church in 2008. The original stone church was constructed in 1872. Diemert said the facility has undergone “perpetual and continual improvements and renovations,” over the past six years.

“When we took over we immediately put $130,000 into the buildings to bring them up to code. It doesn’t even resemble its former self,” he said.

That money was used to lay a new roof on the building, install an entirely new heating system, bring the building up to contemporary fire-code standards and double the floor space at the centre through renovations and additions.

For Diemert having the retreat centre recognized as an oratory is a testament to the good work which has been happening there since it was first converted from a church into a retreat centre in 1995.

“It really designates our portion of the retreat centre, which is the former church, as a place of worship,” he said. “Because an oratory is by definition a place for retreat and prayer and formation of the faith — which is exactly what we do at our retreat centre — it is fitting.

“For me personally it so cements our position as place of worship ... run by lay people and volunteers, and it provides for continuing generations of (lay) Catholics to operate it as a place of faith formation.”

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