Marywood Spirituality Center logo.120513 copyAnita Draper
Catholic Herald Staff

ARBOR VITAE — Renovations are in progress at the regional and provincial headquarters of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the Diocese of Superior’s only retreat center.

Located on Trout Lake in Arbor Vitae, the Marywood Fransiscan Spirituality Center offers spiritual guidance, outreach, private and directed retreats, and a program of creative classes.

The improvements are part of a concerted effort to keep the center financially viable in a time when many such facilities are struggling.

“In 2008, we had a feasibility study by a group out of Chicago. That study was done in order to confirm our viability and our sustainability in the area in the future,” explained Addie Halfmann, marketing director for the center. “One of the things that was given to us as a goal, in order to make us viable — we need to get better-known in the area. We need to increase our visibility throughout the Northwoods area.”

To that end, Halfmann and Franciscan Sr. Elizabeth Amman, director of Marywood, began reaching out to local churches of all denominations, expanding its newsletters, joining local organizations and generally beefing up public relations.

Since 1992, the center has been an ecumenical refuge for anyone needing to reconnect with God in a natural, nonjudgmental and stress-free environment. Visitors can stay at a Northwoods cabin, speak with one of six certified spiritual directors — whom Sr. Elizabeth describes as “listeners” — write the novel they’ve been putting off or participate in classes on painting, drumming and energy healing.

“I think a common thing we will find is people are searching,” Sr. Elizabeth said. “We are a safe place for them to share.”

“We’re here to serve and help people get in touch with their inner selves, the God within,” Halfmann added.

When they looked into improving the property, the sisters learned they would be unable to change the footprint of the buildings because of Marywood’s lakefront location.

In lieu of expanding, they are adding updates and improving energy efficiency in their current space. Rooms will also be soundproofed and office traffic and communal gathering spaces reshuffled so they no longer intersect.

“The layout of the office building is going to change quite dramatically,” Halfmann commented.

The sisters at Marywood are grateful for the support of the Fransiscans and Bishop Peter Christensen, she said. Locals have also been generous in supporting the center’s mission, and they collect donations from visitors who stay in the property’s four cabins.

Not everyone is able to pay, according to Halfmann, but the doors remain open to anyone in need.

“We are a treasure hidden away in the Northwoods,” she added.

Sr. Elizabeth agreed.

“We need the people’s support as much as the order’s support,” she said.

Donations of appliances, beds, flooring, window coverings and other items are sought to complete the renovations, which are expected to continue into February. For information, call 715-385-3750 or visit