Coming off a beautiful July 4th weekend that saw plenty of gatherings and get-togethers, many of us are starting to put more distance between ourselves and our memories of the COVID pandemic. It is easier said than done for many businesses and institutions, though, as they strive to get back on an even operating keel following a few years of extreme COVID challenges.
Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse, a center of faith and hospitality for Central New York and beyond, was hit hard by pandemic-related obstacles.
When the “struggle to get groups coming back, at least after we reopened, hit us financially for a few months, cultivating the gift of almsgiving was something important, something we wanted to focus on as a board to assist us with general funding,” retreat house director Chris Spilka told The Catholic Sun. “We have some projects we were looking to do, but just in general to keep us afloat and keep us on the mission that goes beyond the next 100 to 200 years.”
The mission is built on a rich history of evangelization and support of the faith. The Society of Jesus — better known as the Jesuits — purchased the 1920s-built mansion in 1944 as a public retreat house and a residence for priests serving at Le Moyne College. The Diocese of Syracuse assumed ownership of the center in 1994. Countless individuals and groups, including corporate clients, have utilized the facility.
Spilka is very appreciative of the support the community has given the center through the years, and especially the recent outpouring of gifts. “We’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “We have a community of givers who come here on retreats, they see the value of the retreat house, and they want to see this place thrive forever.”
Still, the financial gap that Christ the King and similar facilities have experienced since 2020 lingers, and seeking support that helps build sustainability is key to their future. “Repetitive gifts …, people who are willing to give and understand what our mission is all about,” Spilka says, adding that “for each and every group that comes in, whether it’s a retreat that we run or that they run, this place serves as a refuge for so many.”
Spilka also points out that the culture of giving gifts to the retreat house is reciprocated by the house’s generosity to those in need. “We think that’s important, to cultivate the culture of giving but also to be a place where people who may not be able to afford it can come here on retreat and not worry about finances.”
While the retreat house has undergone needed maintenance and improvements, like any structure, especially in a vintage environment, constant repairs pop up. Spilka says he himself “was working on three toilets one weekend. Our maintenance guys won’t replace them.” The team there strives to maintain the classic, antique-style fixtures and features of the house, part of the charm and warmth of the facility, but also part of the challenge. “We had ‘the great flood’ a few months ago,” Spilka reports. “We had water that went through two floors and damaged part of our building. With it being an old house, we try to cultivate its old charm. We don’t want to replace certain things that give it its old flavor, make it so special. So, we need to be able to respond to keep our building going and to do new projects like our patio space outside with the bonfire pit.”
Spilka’s goal is “not just to make this a surviving culture, but a thriving culture. We need help from everyone to get there.”
If you have not been there recently, visit the house online at ctkretreat.com to see some of the updates and improvements made as well as information on retreats. To support the retreat house with a gift, visit https://ctkretreat.com/give.