A quiet space for time apart - Albuquerque Journal

A quiet space for time apart

Abbot Joel Garner of the Norbertine community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey tours the new, expanded retreat and conference facilities. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A dozen holy men call it home, this quiet perch on the West Mesa with commanding views of the Rio Grande bosque and, farther off, the Sandia and Manzano mountains.

Now, the members of the Norbertine community Santa Maria de la Vid want more visitors, and have added lodging and meeting spaces to accommodate them.

“This is such a beautiful place physically,” said Abbot Joel Garner, leader of the community. “We’re just happy to share it with others.”

Visitors have always been welcome here. The religious community has for years offered retreats for the public in the abbey’s four-unit guest hermitage and at its retreat center for groups of limited size.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the closure of four spiritual retreat centers in the Albuquerque area, said Garner, 83, who has led the community for more than three decades. The closures, he said, left a void for people who want to escape “the hurried pace of American life – and breathe.”

The Norbertines responded by expanding their modest retreat center, adding new lodging and meeting spaces. The expansion will allow the abbey to accommodate about 60 people for overnight stays, with ample space for conferences and gatherings.

The Norbertine community of Santa Maria de la Vid. Members of the community have added lodging and meeting spaces for visitors. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The abbey occupies a 70-acre swath of the West Mesa. Though just a few hundred yards off bustling Coors SW in the South Valley, few sounds from the outside world penetrate.

The Wisconsin-based St. Norbert Abbey established the community in Albuquerque in 1985 and purchased the South Valley site 10 years later from a community of Dominican sisters. The Norbertine Community here became an abbey in 2012 after it attained some size and financial stability.

In 2008, the community opened a 20,000-volume Norbertine Library that is open to the public.

Patti Dailey, director of the Norbertine Spirituality Center, said the expansion will allow the Norbertines to accommodate groups and, at the same time, serve people seeking solitude in a hermitage.

The four new hermitages are located a short walk from the abbey’s other structures.

“Our hope in designing the new space was to have a wonderful, inviting group-retreat environment, and then still be able to have individuals come and spend anywhere from two to 30 nights in one of our new hermitages,” Dailey said.

“We’re hoping to provide a very contemplative environment for people who just want to come and be,” she said. “There are more and more people really desiring that need for quiet and space, and time apart.”

The community will offer public tours of the new facilities at an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit norbertinecommunity.org.

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