On June 10, 1979, just six months after his Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Philip Straling blessed the groundbreaking of Sacred Heart Retreat Camp.
The Retreat Camp had been a hope of Servant of God Sister Ida Peterfy, Foundress of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, since the Sisters’ arrival to the United States in 1956 after escaping Communist Hungary. At the time of the community’s founding in Hungary in 1940, the Sisters were involved in children’s camps, where they were able to covertly teach the joy of knowing God, in the midst of Nazi occupation.
By the summer of 1980, Sacred Heart Retreat Camp hosted 850 people for Family Retreat Camps and Girls’ Camps. Since the fall of that year, more than 150,000 retreatants have enjoyed the beauty of creation and the opportunity to encounter God, including seminarians, confirmation students, RCIA groups, catechists, young adults and entire families.
Like the Diocese of San Bernardino, Sacred Heart Retreat Camp serves all ages and a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds. A highlight of its history was the celebration of its 35th year, commemorated by a Mass celebrated by Bishop Gerald Barnes in 2015, attended by past and current Family Camp retreatants. The Episcopal Motto of Bishop Barnes, Amar Es Entregarse, “Love is the Total Giving of Oneself,” is expressed in the work of the Sisters, whose consecrated life and gift of self to the Church is often the first encounter with consecrated religious for the youth attending retreats.
The mission of Sacred Heart Retreat Camp is steeped in the charism of the Sacred Heart Sisters. It was a three-day retreat that changed the life of Sister Ida, inspiring her to profess private vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience before the Blessed Sacrament on her 18th birthday. She later shared, “A great change in my relationship with God took place during a retreat before my senior year of high school. In the quietness, the newness of God loving me first, knowing me by name brought forth a new response of awe and a very personal love.”
The Sisters strive to provide this atmosphere of encounter with God, both for the retreats they facilitate and in their hospitality for those groups providing their own retreat director. One high school student recently expressed this reality in these words: “As my journey concluded at your Sacred Heart Retreat Camp, it began my journey to Christ’s love.”