Mount Carmel Retreat Centre enters new phase
A collaboration between friars belonging to an ancient order and a Catholic youth movement in its mid-30s has secured the future of a much-loved retreat centre in south-west Sydney.
Youth Mission Team (YMT) Australia will take over the management and operations of the semi-rural Mount Carmel Retreat Centre at Varroville from 2020.
Father Bernard Hancock OCD, regional vicar of the Discalced Carmelite Friars who have operated the centre for more than 50 years, announced in April that increased costs and dwindling attendances would force the centre to cease its accommodated retreats from the end of the year.
“For some years now the friars have been subsidising the retreat house and were financially able to do so. But they can no longer carry the burden,” he wrote in a statement at the time.
The friars would continue offering day retreats and remained “eager to share and promote Carmelite spirituality” he said.
He acknowledged that the news would come as a blow to “long-term faithful clientele” including individuals, schools, other groups and the Catholic Church at large.
After that announcement, retreat centre general manger John Ransom discovered that YMT were looking for a new national office and conference facility to run.
New partnership will allow friars to focus on spiritual direction
The group has operated The Venue Conference Centre in Wollongong for 15 years, which is now closing.
Mr Ransom said their involvement will bring an injection of new life to Mount Carmel and they will continue to offer the Carmelite Retreat Program, including live-in and day retreats, throughout 2020 and beyond.
YMT Australia is one of the country’s leading Catholic youth ministries and has ministered to hundreds of thousands of students through high school retreat and school holiday camp programs for 34 years.
“We are grateful for the willingness of YMT to keep the ‘Mount Carmel’ name and to continue the annual program of Carmelite retreats in close collaboration with the friars,” said Fr Hancock.
“Thanks to their support, the friars will now be able to focus on what they do best, which is to provide encouragement and spiritual direction to those who are struggling in their lives and faith, and who can benefit from the Carmelite tradition of ‘seeking the face of the living God’.”
Steve Toohey, national director of YMT Australia, said that “YMT is delighted to be working in close partnership with the friars”.
“We look forward to continuing to deliver the wonderful experience that current groups identify with staying at Mount Carmel as well as welcoming many new groups to the Centre,” he said.
With YMT Australia managing the retreat centre, the Mount Carmel Priory at Varroville will continue to be the home of the friars and their headquarters in Australia.