Retreat to Raise Funds With Celebrity Guest’s Help

San Juan Bautista
– The Franciscan Friars of St. Francis Retreat will have a
fundraiser with a special host Oct. 15 at Casa Maria in San Juan
Bautista to help rebuild buildings lost in the early morning June
23 fire.
San Juan Bautista – The Franciscan Friars of St. Francis Retreat will have a fundraiser with a special host Oct. 15 at Casa Maria in San Juan Bautista to help rebuild buildings lost in the early morning June 23 fire.

The event will be hosted by Cindy Williams from television’s “Laverne and Shirley,” who spent Easter 2005 with her family at the St. Francis Retreat as a guest of Brother Kelly Cullen.

“It just breaks my heart that it’s not there anymore,” Williams said. “I had a wonderful, healing time with my family over Easter.”

The building’s old electrical wiring caused the blaze, Brusman said. He said the hollow walls of the old building were turned into “incendiary chimneys,” sending flames into the upper story.

Father Barry Brusman, director of the St. Francis Retreat Center, hopes the Friars can raise enough money to rebuild the offices, conference room, dining room, friary and gift shops lost in the blaze, as well as updating the plumbing.

But rebuilding the old San Justo Rancho House, built in 1863, even close to its original splendor will be a costly task.

Despite $2.5 million in insurance money, the Franciscan Friars will have to raise several million additional dollars to completely rebuild the St. Francis Retreat, Cullen said. And they cannot do it with bake sales, Brusman said.

At $60 per head, the Oct. 15 buffet will feature food from Jardines de San Juan, Dona Esther’s and Orient Express in San Juan Bautista, wine and entertainment. More restaurants from Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Salinas are expected to donate, Cullen said.

Brusman hopes the first phase – the offices, conference room, dining room and gift shops – will be done by Christmas.

Other retreats have faced difficulties raising the money necessary to rebuild, Cullen said.

The Presentation Retreat Center in Santa Cruz had to rebuild many of its buildings after the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. It took the center 11 years to raise the funds and begin reconstruction, said Sister Pat Marie, director of the retreat during the rebuilding.

Marie wanted the building to encourage the use of sustainable resources. The construction required for such buildings initially costs more.

“We were ultimately able to raise the money to do what we wanted,” Marie said.

Brusman and Cullen envision “green” buildings for the new retreat, similar to those at the Presentation Retreat Center. Straw bale walls, recycled water and solar energy will be new features of the St. Francis Retreat, Brusman said.

“To set an example to the entire community that we need to start reusing our Earth’s resources,” he said.

Leave your comments