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Fatima Retreat Center will be missed

Charlie Camosy | Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Seeing the headline in The Observer last week on the closing of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Center was not news to me, but it did make the fact that it was actually going to happen hit home for the first time. My time at Fatima has been some of my most important spent at Notre Dame. I could point to family and couple retreats, Notre Dame Encounters, the legendary informal post-game Mass and barbecue and their amazing staff as just a few of the many examples of what made Fatima special – not just for me, but for literally thousands and thousands of others.But what made Fatima unique is harder to put into words. Access to many Notre Dame experiences is becoming increasingly based on how much money and/or connections one has – a sad state of affairs for a University which claims to be guided by the example of Christ. (The reality is that it is the example of the Ivy League, sadly, which seems to be the primary guide to many of the choices of this University). Fatima, perhaps because it was largely free from formal University interference, was one of the few campus institutions which bucked this trend. People of modest means, and who were otherwise unconnected to the University, could attend a football weekend retreat, actually get tickets to the game, and have the full Notre Dame experience that many of us simply take for granted. Busloads of school children would have retreats at Fatima every year – an experience that (and I know this first-hand having talked with many of them) they take with them for the rest of their lives. Father Steve Gibson, long-time director of the center, has touched the lives of countless persons – from all different kinds of backgrounds – who have come through Fatima’s doors. He is a hero to many of us whose spiritual formation has been shaped in large part by his leadership, guidance, example and love. Simply put, Fatima is the Church at its best. Its passing is not only sad, but disturbing as well. The CSC provincial who made the choice to destroy this vibrant community (in order to give retired priests a lakefront retirement resort on the Notre Dame campus) was bombarded with letters of protest in support of the retreat center staying just as it is. They fell on deaf ears.Everyone understands that retired priests need a place to stay, but what those who have had the Fatima experience cannot understand is why this vital community needed to be destroyed in the process. In a time where the Church desperately needs institutions to help feed the faith lives of lay people disillusioned and disturbed by the way the hierarchical Church has organized its priorities in the past, the closing of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Center – in order to house retired priests – should give us all pause.

Charlie CamosyClass of 1997April 19