| By Alfredo E. Cardenas | Correspondent

Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us

Bishop Joe Vásquez, assisted by eight priests, recently dedicated the new chapel at the Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Temple. The sanctuary, named for Our Lady of Good Counsel, accommodates 100 worshipers, twice as many as the structure it replaces, and will significantly serve the 7,500 to 8,000 retreatants that annually use the center.

Bishop Vásquez said Cedarbrake is at the center of the Diocese of Austin, and in the same way, the chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel is the heart of the retreat center.

“We admire, and we truly appreciate the beauty of this structure, but we (the people) are the church,” the bishop said, “and we should never forget that. We are temples consecrated to God, dear friends; the Holy Spirit makes us one in the Body of Christ.”

Located west of Temple and north of Belton off Texas Highway 317, Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center has served the Diocese of Austin for 47 years. The idea for a retreat center arose after Arthur and Irene Connor donated 32 acres in the 1960s and continued to be benefactors through the years.

Bishop Vincent Harris approved the establishment of Cedarbrake Retreat Center in 1977 and dedicated the first chapel in 1981 and a library in 1983. In 1996, the center expanded, with Bishop John E. McCarthy blessing five new buildings, including a chaplain’s residence, an office, and a guest house.

In addition to the Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel, the center has walking trails, meditation spots such as the St. Francis fountain, outdoor Stations of the Cross, Stations of the Light, a labyrinth, swings, picnic tables, and gazebos designed to “provide a peaceful setting for retreat and renewal.” Cedarbrake features 48 private bedrooms, each with a bathroom and shower; a hermitage; and a five-bedroom house adequate for 12 people.

Architect Bill Scarmardo, who is also a retired deacon, designed the chapel, and contractor Rene Rodriguez built the new facility over an 18-month period. Brian Egan, who has served as the director of Cedarbrake for more than 20 years, said the beautiful new chapel has double the seating capacity of the previous chapel.

The project cost of $1.4 million was chiefly provided by donations to the diocesan Encountering Christ Campaign, with generous donors supplying additional contributions for the windows and altar, he said.

“We cannot thank all our donors enough for their generosity,” Egan said. “We could not have done this without their support.”

Cedarbrake is in use 50 weeks out of the year. About 85% of retreats offered at the retreat center are self-sustaining and conducted by those having the retreat. The facility is available to Catholics and non-Catholics. Each year about 25 retreats are led by guest presenters and Cedarbrake staff. Father Harry Dean serves as the Cedarbrake chaplain; he celebrates Mass, offers retreats, serves as a spiritual director for retreatants, and celebrates the sacrament of reconciliation.

Upcoming retreats include a weekend for women at the end of June, a retreat for parish and diocesan staff members, a day of reflection on trusting the Lord and an overnight retreat on how the Holy Spirit is calling us to serve the church.

Bishop Vásquez said the retreat center “is a place of healing, of renewal, a blessing to us.” He concluded his homily with part of a prayer by Pope Pius XII to Our Lady of Good Counsel: “O Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from your Divine Son a great love of virtue, and, in the hour of uncertainty and trial, the strength to embrace the way that leads to our salvation. If your hand sustains us, we shall walk unmolested along the path indicated to us by the life and words of Jesus, our Redeemer.”

Visit www.austindiocese.org/cedarbrake or call (254) 780-2436 for more information on upcoming retreats at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center.