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Beginning with a Barn

 

Forty Years of Spiritual Deepening for Global Transformation

The Christine Center was founded as a place of retreat supported by the vision of by Sr. Virginia Barta, OSF. “We are One.” Sr. Virginia prayed for guidance and felt she was directed to a 251-acre property in Willard, Wisconsin. After an appeal for contributions to numerous religious communities across the country, Sr. Virginia was successful in raising sufficient funds, which would allow her dream to become a reality. On October 11, 1980, greeted by the splendor of a colorful fall day, Sr. Virginia, and Sr. Davina Pietz, OSF arrived at the farm property, which would become The Christine Center. Accompanying the two Sisters were a caravan of cars packed with thirteen friends, household supplies, 25 plants, and Muffin, a collie-mix canine companion. Within a few days of their arrival, the reality of the harsh Wisconsin winter began to set in. Beyond determination and a sense of resiliency, it became apparent that the Sisters’ rural skill sets were limited. The Sisters needed to begin to chop and gather wood for fuel, as well as clear parcels of land for seasonal planting and harvesting. Sr. Virginia wanted the Center to become self-sustaining; relying on the resources of what the land and labor would provide. She also knew the tasks she faced were larger than she and Sr. Davina could accomplish on their own, and that help from willing volunteers would be needed for her vision to become a reality.

After a rain-drenched day, the Sisters’ vehicle became stuck in a muddy field, and their beloved dog, Muffin, had ran away. The loss of her dog prompted her to search and knock on the doors of neighbors. Muffin unfortunately was never found; however, the efforts put forth to locate her dog transformed neighboring strangers into new friends. These “angels” began to donate supplies and assistance for the construction of dwellings; and assisted with planting and harvesting; raising goats for milk; and bees for honey. Her hope was that the growing community would live peacefully, grow spiritually, and together promote global transformation.

A variety of circumstances necessitated that Sr. Virginia depart the Christine Center in 1992. Sr. Johanna Seubert FSPA arrived at the Center in 1987 and began to work closely with Sr. Virginia. Sr Johanna has continued to reside at the Center for 33 years, assuming a variety of administrative roles, as well as serving as a Diamond Approach teacher and spiritual guide for many retreatants.

Over the last 40 years the Christine Center has undergone a series of transformations from its earliest beginning in a humble Barn in 1980. By 1982 spaces within the barn were converted into a meditation hall, program meeting area and library. The barn’s silo became the chapel. Additionally, the first rustic hermitages were built by volunteers for the spiritual seekers who came to live, work, and meditate together.

The Center’s Program offerings continued to increase during the 1990’s. By 1999 it became apparent that the original barn could no longer accommodate the Center’s expanding vision. During the next two years a new main Center building was constructed by Amish carpenters, which would house a meditation hall with domed ceiling and skylights, kitchen, dining hall, and guest rooms. Existing rustic hermitages were renovated, six with added bathrooms and kitchenettes. The new main Center building was opened in 2001.

The number of retreatants drawn to the Center continued to increase in the early 2000’s. In 2010 the generosity of donors allowed for the creation of another wing which would house a chapel, meeting room spaces, library and private offices.

The Center programs continue to evolve to meet the needs of the times.

A Legacy of Sisters

Sr. Virginia and Sr. Davina arrived at the Christine Center on October 11, 1980. Sr. Virginia knew that she and Sr. Davina could not manage the demands of running the Center on their own. She prayed for help. Assistance first came in the form of local “angels,” neighbors, Mike Weyer, Harlan Brux, and Ron Langteau, who helped with land clearing and construction. Sr. Virginia also knew she needed other Sisters to assist with Program Development and the Center’s mission. The Center has been blessed with a legacy of Sisters, who have tirelessly served the Center in numerous roles, as well as our current Sisters, Resident Partners in Mission, who continue to support current lay leadership. We express our gratitude and thanks for their unfailing service and dedication.

Virginia Mary Barta, OSF

Virginia Mary Barta, OSF

1980-1992

Christine Center Foundress

Davina Pietz, OSF

Davina Pietz, OSF

1980-1983

Mary Pendergast, RSM

Mary Pendergast, RSM

1981 to 1987

Josine Doering, OSF

Josine Doering, OSF

1982, 1992- 2001

Charlotte Schmit, OSF

Charlotte Schmit, OSF

1984 to 1991

Dorothy Bendick, SSJ-TOSF

Dorothy Bendick, SSJ-TOSF

1984 to 1986

Johanna Seubert, FSPA

Johanna Seubert, FSPA

1986-Present

Suzanne Moynihan, SSND

Suzanne Moynihan, SSND

1992 to 1993

Helen Schott, OSBM

Helen Schott, OSBM

1992-1993

Maryann Greenwald, SSND

Maryann Greenwald, SSND

1993 to 1996

Margaret Wagner, FSPA

Margaret Wagner, FSPA

2000 to 2007

Cecilia Corcoran, FSPA

Cecilia Corcoran, FSPA

2005-2017

Henrita Frost, SSND

Henrita Frost, SSND

2007-Present

Gabriele Uhlein, OSF

Gabriele Uhlein, OSF

2010-Present

Margaret Zulaski, OSF

Margaret Zulaski, OSF

2010-2020

Timeline-History