Over the past decade, more than 12,000 people have made the trek to a site near Caroline, Alta., in their attempt to feed their souls with spiritual food and drink.
Now, the scene of their sanctity has embarked on a $5-million fundraising campaign to build an additional lodge and expand its current 40 guest rooms to 50, as well as add a new theatre, staff residence and large sacred garden.
Sanctum Retreat and Foundation founder and executive director Kristoph Franz Dobrowolski says the campaign has just rolled out, and the goal is to have it wrapped up within two years. Timing of construction is dependent on raising the funding.
“If everything goes as planned, we should have this new lodge up within 12 months,” he said. “We have all the infrastructure in place.
“When we built the first time, we had enough foresight to say, ‘if we’re going to expand in the future let’s make sure we do this, and this and this.’ So we created fertile ground for growth there.”
Located away from the big city on 40 hectares of “pristine” environment in central Alberta, Sanctum has been welcoming guests since 2004. Dobrowolski says the centre offers visitors the ability to revitalize their souls, regardless of their denomination.
“Truly what’s happened at Sanctum is it’s become . . . a very ecumenical and even inter-religious centre,” said the pastoral psychotherapist and chaplain, noting the centre also has three hermitages for a more rustic, individual retreat. “There’s increasingly more recognition from the various groups that they like and appreciate that and even endorse that.
“Event though we are Catholic-based, we are a place open to all people and all walks. (It’s) a place of unity and harmony between us in a world that’s filled with all of this religious conflict. That seems to be a powerful motif emerging from the mission there.”
He recalls Mother Teresa once saying the poorest place she had been to in the world was North America. She was speaking of spiritual poverty, of course.
“We are intended to be a place to feed the spiritually hungry and clothe the spiritually naked,” said Dobrowolski. “It’s a place we hope people come to and then are ultimately inspired to go on and to do the good work that God is calling them to do.”
For more information on the centre and its fundraising campaign, visit sanctum retreat.ca.