The guidance for a retreat house came to Regina Dawn Akers while on retreat in Santa Barbara. She describes the experience this way:
We were staying at the Old Mission, which is a Franciscan monastery where male friars live. Where ever there is a Franciscan monastery, there is also a St. Claire monastery nearby. That is where the nuns stay. One morning I felt to walk by myself over to the St. Claire monastery. It was very, very quiet there, because the nuns are sequestered. It felt like a deserted place. I tiptoed up to the chapel, because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be there. Although I was shy as I walked up to the chapel, I felt compelled to go in. I wasn’t sure if it would be open or locked, because the place seemed so deserted, but it was open. I went into the chapel. There was no one there but me.
At first I was in awe of the presence and the sanctity of the moment and the place. I dropped down to my knees in devotion, and immediately an emptying of the heart began to happen. When I say an emptying of the heart, I mean the ‘me’ left the heart. This emptying just happened. I didn’t consciously surrender that day. I didn’t think about it or do it. It happened. The ‘me’ emptied out through grace, leaving me without any of my ideas or attachments. I was empty, open and willing for anything.
I didn’t seek guidance that day. I didn’t seek anything. I was simply present in that emptiness, deeply abiding in the fullness of devotion. Then something came into the heart, placed there by the same grace that had emptied the heart minutes before.
What came in had no words, so I have to put words to it, but it was clear. What came in was to create a haven where people can come to receive whatever they need to receive from within themselves. I knew I was being asked to create an environment, a sacred place of retreat somewhere, where all are invited to come.
When I got up and left the chapel, the somewhere stayed with me. I had not been told where. I walked back to the monastery wondering, “Where will this be?” Everything about ‘me’ had just fallen away. I didn’t need to live anywhere in particular. I could have gone anywhere. I could have left my family and everything, because there was no ‘me’.
As I turned the corner on my way back to the Franciscan monastery, I asked in my mind, “Where will this be?” I looked up and saw a street sign. It said “Pueblo.” And then I remembered that I moved to Pueblo because a dream told me to. I didn’t pick Pueblo. I was told to go. I realized with a laugh that this plan, the plan that moved me to Pueblo five years ago, is still unfolding. This guidance to start a retreat house is the next step.