Retreat Movement

The Province of St. Barbara is unique in the global Franciscan Order in its commitment to retreat ministry. The retreat ministry addressed the needs of both the friars and the communities they served. The friars wanted to preach and evangelize to parishioners in a larger cultural context. Likewise, parishioners and groups outside the Church were in search of a place of rest, education, and reflection. The first retreats in the Province were held in Arizona, and the first retreat house was built in the hills of Malibu (1942). Retreat centers in San Juan Bautista (1947), Scottsdale (1951), Mesilla Park (1954), Beaverton (1954), Three Rivers (1955), Danville (1961), Oceanside (1976), and Santa Barbara (2007) followed. Retreats were given for women’s groups, men’s groups, married couples, and individuals seeking private religious direction. Of the nine retreat centers started during the movement, five still continue under the auspices of the Province by providing a space for rest, religious education, and workshops for retreatants. The Province of St. Barbara’s retreat centers have embraced ecumenical inclusiveness in the spirit of Vatican II. Retreat centers welcome a variety of faith traditions.

Fr. Emmanuel Muessiggang

Fr. Emmanuel served in the China Missions from 1935 to 1948. In his later years he worked at San Damiano Retreat, especially in the garden. “Working in the garden puts you close to God’s wisdom and God’s goodness and greatness,” explained Fr. Emmanuel who was a “fixture” at the retreat center, according to Fr. Warren Rouse. When he cultivated the gardens at San Damiano, he was asked to work about four hours a week, but most believe he worked around 40. Reflecting on his diverse experiences, Fr. Emmanuel shared, “I’ve dealt with the sick, heard people’s confessions, tried to be faithful to my ministry to the people of God. My life is about ordinary things.” But the ordinary life of this Franciscan was a gift to the community who found rest in the tranquil gardens at San Damiano. “Father Emmanuel is a beacon of light in this community,” said the director at the time, the late Tom Grant. “He’s very humble and will not take credit for anything. He is a gift. He’s just got this pure, great heart.” Fr. Emmanuel joined the Order in 1931 and died in 2008.

Click on the links below to view more activities the friars have been performing over the last 100 years.