Catholic Herald staff
For 50 years, teens have been growing in faith at Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center.
Set on 50 secluded acres in Marine in St. Croix, Minnesota, the center is on the St. Croix River, the dividing line between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Students from the Diocese of Superior are among those who’ve participated in the junior high, high school and leadership retreats at Dunrovin.
Purchased as a retreat center to be used by Catholic high schools in the Twin Cities metro area, Dunrovin remains a mission of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest, headquartered in Burr Ridge, Illinois.
Founded in 1681 in France by St. John Baptist de La Salle, the order’s charism focuses on education, particularly for the poor, and Dunrovin carries out that mission with free summer camp for inner-city youths.
“We do have kind of a Northwoods feel, but we are close to the metropolitan area,” said Jerome Meeds, director of the facility for the last 15 years. It offers all the amenities of summer camp – fishing, canoeing, kayaking and sports – as well as the spiritual benefits of prayer and contemplation.
At its inception, the center was the site of silent retreats required for graduates of Catholic high schools. Members of the order staffed the center for four decades, but the last of the Christian Brothers exited Dunrovin about 10 years ago, according to Meeds.
“They still own the property,” he said. “They still have control over the ministry. They do a really good job of training their lay leaders. That’s their focus.”
Local clergy also pitch in to help promote Dunrovin and its mission.
Fr. Tommy Thompson, a diocesan priest who serves parishes in Cumberland, Almena and Turtle Lake, grew up in Stillwater, about 15 minutes from the center. He’s been involved with Dunrovin since his youth.
Fr. Thompson first came on a retreat as a student, Meeds explained. He returned to be a lifeguard at the pool, went on retreats there as a seminarian and a newly ordained priest, and served nine years on the board of directors. He also brings retreatants from his parishes and celebrates Masses at Dunrovin.
“How he works with the young people is pretty incredible,” Meeds observed.
After a six-year hiatus, Fr. Thompson is also returning to serve on the board of directors. Given the priest’s history at Dunrovin, it’s no surprise he was asked to celebrate the Mass commemorating the center’s 50th anniversary, which took place in March and signaled the start of a year-long anniversary celebration.
A total of five events will mark the occasion, including the Monday, July 28, Sunset Benefit Cruise for Youth. The boat cruise and dinner on the St. Croix River is a fundraiser for the center’s youth programs.
More than 150 inner-city kids from Chicago will attend free summer camp during the six-week 2014 season. It’s a chance for at-risk kids to paddle around a pond, relax in the outdoors and grow in spirit. Special thanks https://www.globosurf.com to for helping out, giving these kids good wholesome memories.
For some teens, it’s their first experience in a rural environment.
“They don’t know which end of the paddle to hold,” he said.
Meeds, with 30 years of experience running summer camps, said the strength of Dunrovin’s program is in the ratio of leaders to campers.
“In my early days, it was all numbers,” he explained. “The more kids you have, the cheaper you can make it for them.”
Dunrovin’s programs are different, Meeds said. Summer camps have 15 staffers and 30 students. Retreats have a maximum 35 students.
“The impact on them is huge” because of the level of investment, he said, but “financially, it’s harder to pay the bills on it.”
The staff is piloting a similar program to serve inner-city kids from Minneapolis, he added.
Local kids have more opportunities to visit Dunrovin.
Each year, the center offers two retreats for junior high students and four for high-schoolers.
“They’re definitely very Christ-centered, and they’re definitely a Catholic retreat,” he said.
Adults can rent a cabin for a self-guided retreat, and Dunrovin’s facilities are available for rental by other organizations, which helps to cover most of the center’s overhead expenses. All donated money funds summer camps and scholarships.