Sisters of Providence
St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
What makes Sisters of Providence, the central Indiana Catholic women’s congregation and mother house, unique is that it is located on 1,200 acres of forest, wetlands and farmland in a beautiful, peaceful setting. “It’s a nice respite for those who might live in a bigger city and want to get away from it all,” said director of marketing and communications Diane Weidenenner.
This facility is open to all faith traditions. The site receives visits from church ministers who stay for a weekend or a week. Priests and sisters schedule a year’s sabbatical there. It is an active place, with motorcoach groups stopping by for the day. There are planned programs like lectures and special prayer times throughout the year. The center can also customize activities for groups.
“We offer spiritual direction and input for them, if they want it,” said Weidenenner. Mass is said daily and on weekends in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. “There are a lot of beautiful, sacred places on our grounds.”
The grounds include three hermitages (houses) built from recycled materials that are available for guests, along with the eco-friendly straw bale retreat house with natural heating and cooling. There are secluded living spaces and individual rooms with a bath for single guests. For larger groups, the center has a prearranged group discount at a hotel in town.
The Sisters of Providence recently completed a shrine for the center’s foundress, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, who was declared the eighth U.S. saint in the Roman Catholic Church. It is her final resting place. “That’s unique,” said Weidenenner. “The shrine is a nice combination of education and spirituality along with a prayer space.”
Kent Manor Inn
Kent Manor Inn is a waterfront event and conference facility located on Kent Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “It is a historic property on about 220 acres centrally located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.,” said Christine Phillips, director of corporate, government and group sales for the inn. “So it’s easy to get to from BWI Airport and easy to travel to from Philadelphia and Delaware or for anyone wanting to hold a meeting in the Mid-Atlantic area.”
People pick Kent Manor for the serenity of this waterfront property. There are contemplation areas on the grounds, which can be appropriate for religious, wellness or yoga groups.
“We are located on an estate, and folks have the ability to rent the entire property, which is pretty special,” said Phillips. “We have 24 guest rooms, and many church, business and wellness groups try to book the entire place for their programs.”
Seventh-day Adventists, bishops and elders from the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, and members of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington are among the faith-based bodies that have sent members to Kent Manor. Lay organizations such as Johns Hopkins University and its hospital system and the March of Dimes have sent staff for meetings and events.
Phillips said a group of 10 people may seem small at a traditional conference hotel, but that’s an ideal size for Kent. “We have an extremely high service level. Because we’re small, we’re able to devote a tremendous amount of time to serve groups.” An executive chef creates meals for any religious diet.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells’ Kalahari Resort is one of three of its kind in the nation. The other two are in Sandusky, Ohio, and the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
“All are African-themed resorts and very authentic, with many of the artifacts, statues and pictures being acquired in Africa,” said Joey Greeno, assistant director of sales for Kalahari Resort.
“We have a lot of church groups come to our Wisconsin property,” Greeno said. “They stage their church event or concert, and the trip can also be turned into a vacation. There was a time when just Mom and Dad would go off to a church retreat, but now the entire family goes.”
The property hosts church conventions for 1,000, and many adult and youth groups and camps travel there, too. Some book five days, hold retreats and then have fun in their off time. Resort guests get a water park pass with their room rate, no matter how the deal is packaged.
There is more than 100,000 square feet of unique and diverse meeting space to book. There are 35 rooms, including meeting rooms, ballrooms, breakout rooms, boardrooms and common areas.
Kalahari Resort was constructed so that all facilities are under one roof and on a single floor. “There’s no reason to leave our property,” Greeno said. “Many groups want to stay here because we have easy access to everything and have so much to do.”
Kalahari has one of the largest indoor water parks in the nation. It’s indoors because of Wisconsin’s Midwest winter weather, but in summer, there’s a 75,000-square-foot outdoor water park.
“It’s amazing; winter months are still a high-demand time for us,” said Greeno. “January through March, our weekends are busy.”