History of the Norbertine Center for Spirituality
A Gift to the People
For more than 35 years the Norbertine Center for Spirituality has served as an ecumenical haven for those seeking the sacred.
Imagine a gathering of Norbertines who were dreamers of possibilities: a determined and visionary chairperson, a supportive abbot, and an empty wing of a magnificent abbey. Imagine.
In 1978 such a group led by Fr. Joel Garner, O. Praem. (currently abbot of Santa María de la Vid Abbey, Albuquerque), and encouraged by St. Norbert Abbey’s Abbot Emeritus Jerome Tremel, O. Praem., began discussing the use of a wing of the abbey vacated by the move of theological training to Chicago. After one year of collective imagining, the group strongly concurred that this wonderful space could and should be used for the spiritual growth and development of lay men and women, as well as religious persons. Their dream: that this empty wing of the abbey would be opened up to the public so that all might have an opportunity to experience this holy space.
Their dream was affirmed by Green Bay’s then-Bishop Robert Morneau, who had lived at the abbey in the early 1980s. He shared, “I wonder if there isn’t a need for some type of spirituality center in our diocese (offering) programs, retreats, workshops, ’desert days’ and a place of solitude and rest.”
Not only was space available, but numerous Norbertines also offered their support of this new initiative. Thus, in 1979 the Norbertine Center for Spirituality (formerly known as the Ministry and Life Center) was founded.
“The underlying purpose of the center has always been the belief that Norbertines, as they work with and for those who seek spiritual growth and development, themselves grow and develop spiritually,” offered Fr. (Abbot) Joel, who was named the founding director.
We felt the abbey was a gift to us from the people and that, in turn, it should be used by everyone.
—Abbot Joel Garner, O. Praem.
Subsequent directors have brought their own special gifts and ministries to the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, along with devoted and gifted staff members who also have contributed to its success, popularity, and nurturing environment. Spiritual directors, program and group facilitators, retreat directors, office managers, housekeepers, and volunteers all have played their part over the years as the Norbertine Center for Spirituality continues to grow and evolve—nourishing souls, bodies, and minds.
Norbertine Center for Spirituality Directors
- Abbot Joel Garner, O. Praem.
- Annie Egan
- Tony Wieczorek
- Fr. Alan Scheible, O. Praem.
- Fr. John Bostwick, O. Praem.
- Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem.
- Fr. Conrad Kratz, O. Praem.
- Judy Turba
- Tony Pichler (current director)
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