By RENEE WEBB
The blessing of the new convent and chapel at Domus Trinitatis on Oct. 22 brought Sister Marie Hesed’s dream of a spiritual renewal and retreat center to life.
Thirty-three acres of land in rural Carroll near Willey was donated to the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) sister in 2013 by Donna and Leon Kennebeck for the retreat center and the ground-breaking was held in 2015.
In opening comments at the Mass held in the convent’s chapel, Bishop Walker Nickless referred to Domus Trinitatis “as a wonderful effort of love.” More than 150 people attended the liturgy, filling the pews in the small chapel with overflow on the lower level.
As the bishop blessed the water to be sprinkled on the walls of the chapel and the people gathered there, he said, “May it be a reminder of our baptism and symbol of the cleansing of these walls.”
“What a joy and honor it is for me to be here today, not only to bless this place but to affirm the work of the sisters in our diocese,” Bishop Nickless, in his homily. “What gifts they are to us.”
The bishop noted it was fitting to have the chapel blessing on Oct. 22, the Feast of St. John Paul II. The bishop described him as a modern-day saint who had much joy and enthusiasm for the church and Gospel.
As the pope of the new evangelization, Bishop Nickless said the saint worked to ensure the ancient message of the Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed to those today in ways people could relate to it.
“That is what the SOLT sisters have been about these many years,” the bishop said. “That sharing, spreading, proclaiming the Gospel in new and exciting ways – mostly by their example, the living out of their faith.”
Referring to the reading, Bishop Nickless said St. Paul reminded the faithful that everyone has been given gifts for the building up of the church. He thanked the congregation for all they have done to help with Domus Trinitatis.
“The Lord needs all of us and all of our gifts to do what he wants to accomplish so we can attain unity of faith,” he said.
The bishop told the faithful to follow the words of the Psalm, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Today, they rejoiced in Domus Trinitatis, which means the home of the trinity.
When the Mass had concluded, Sister Hesed gave thanks to the many people who made this project possible – the bishop for receiving them into the diocese and to Father Tim Johnson and the parishioners of St. Mary Church in Willey for opening their hearts to them.
Following the liturgy, Bishop Nickless blessed the remainder of the rooms in the convent.
After the service, Donna Kennebeck walked out of the convent with tears in her eyes.
“This is such a blessing that God has given us,” she said. “Hopefully, this will bring about vocations. Ultimately, we want to help bring people closer to the Lord.”
Her husband, Leon, said they donated the land for the project because they wanted to give something back. The Kennebecks now reside in Panora but had lived in the Willey area for years. With many children and grandchildren still in the area, Leon added Domus Trinitatis can be a place for them to come.
“We are only on this earth for a short time, and we need to make the best of our time,” he said.
The convent is just one of the buildings planned for the site. The priest’s residence/men’s retreat house is nearing completion. In the future, they would like to add a spiritual center, adoration chapel, rosary walk, cottages and more.
While no overnight retreats have been held thus far, the center is presently holding adult faith formation classes focused on the catechism. Various prayer and church groups also use the space.
Amy McCargar, a Domus Trinitatis volunteer and parishioner at Holy Spirit in Carroll, said someone had accurately described the retreat center as a place that prayer built.
“I really believe that – starting something in the middle of a cornfield you think it’s such a big project, but we are here,” she said. “It’s amazing to see what people can do when they come together. It’s exciting to finally see it here.”