Retreat Center Celebrates Quarter Century

For more than a quarter century Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice has been bringing visitors closer to the Lord in its majestic setting along the banks of the Myakka River.

To celebrate its years of service as the main Retreat Center for the Diocese of Venice, a “Butterfly Ball” was held Feb. 19, 2022, at the St. Thomas More Parish Chelsea Center in Sarasota. The elegant evening included a live and silent auction as well as a “Gift from the Heart” appeal.

Irene Bauer, who was there when the idea of OLPH was being developed, said the Retreat Center “is like a portal to heaven, an open heavenly gate that brings souls closer to Jesus.”

Established by Bishop John J. Nevins, the groundbreaking for OLPH was in 1995 and buildings were added through the years. During its early years, OLPH was run by Redemptorist Father Charlie Mallen and Sister Carmella DeCosty, Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The Retreat Center continues to flourish under the leadership of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the succeeding religious orders who have taken the helm of leading the center including the Carmelites and now the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

Bishop Dewane said OLPH was the second location he visited in the Diocese upon his appointment as Bishop. “I realized immediately; it is holy ground.” He credited Bishop Nevins, Father Mallen and Sister Carmella with having the vision and the determination to bring an idea to life with its expansive grounds, many places for contemplation, and beautiful St. Joseph Chapel, allowing visitors the opportunity to encounter the Holy Spirit.

The Bishop also thanked everyone present for their support of OLPH that evening and through the years. “Your assistance will allow OLPH to remain the sacred and spiritual haven that it is today and will continue to be for many years to come.”

Father Mark Yavarone, OVM, current OLPH Director, reflected upon how blessed he is to see the transformation of retreatants who spend time on the grounds. Whether as part of a large group retreat or an individual directed retreat, the transition from the noises of the outside world to the peaceful retreat center grounds help them get rid of the clutter, opening them up to hear the Lord.

With the exception of the founding Director, Father Mallen, all past and present Directors and Administrators were in attendance at the “Butterfly Ball.” The past Directors included Redemptorist Father Peter Sousa, Carmelite Father J.J. McCarthy, Oblates of the Virgin Mary Fathers Sean Morris and Shawn Monahan. Currently serving is Father Yavarone and assisting is Father Lino Estadilla, OVM. Sister Carmella was Administrator of OLPH for 18 years, and Denise Riley has held that position since 2013.

Today, in addition to the seven buildings on site, retreatants can spend time enjoying the beautiful grounds, which include a Rosary Walk, Way of the Cross, prayer decks and an outdoor Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help which was dedicated to Father Mallen by Bishop Dewane in June 2021.

OLPH offers a variety of individual and group and retreats as well as Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. For more information about OLPH, please visit or call 941-486-0233.