Aging Retreat Center bridge in need of replacement

Staff Report

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure to visit Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center (OLPH) in Venice for a retreat, conference, Mass or to reflect along the peaceful shores of the Myakka River, either saw or crossed a simple bridge which spans the large lake at the middle of the Retreat Center.

The bridge is a lifeline at the heart of the 54-acre OLPH which was built in 1995, nearly 25 years ago. During those 25 years the bridge has carried thousands of people back and forth from the conference and dining area to the St. Joseph Chapel and Villa side of the grounds. It has endured several floods and still stands as a testament to the resilience of itself.

In preparation for the 25th Anniversary, OLPH is undergoing a campaign to raise the funds to build a new bridge, explained Denise Riley, OLPH Business Manager.

“We are asking our benefactors, friends and family of OLPH to help rebuild it,” Riley said. “In recognition of the upcoming 25th Anniversary of the Retreat Center, a $25 donation would enable us to rebuild the bridge, plank by plank and replace the railings.”

Remembering the words of Father Charles (Charlie) Mallen, C.Ss.R., the founder of OLPH, “if you build it, they will come.” The rebuilding, continues the vision, so all can come to this place of grace and encounter God… and bridge the outside world to our faith.

OLPH brings in more than 8,000 visitors each year, not only from throughout the Diocese, but around the U.S. and world. They are the laity, priests, religious and even Bishops using the facilities. Those visitors come to OLPH for a variety of reasons, either for individual or group retreats, perhaps a conference, youth gatherings or even the monthly Luncheons 4 Life meetings. Each guest adds to the use of the bridge and other facilities.

Riley stressed that the bridge is safe, but instead of waiting for emergency repairs, now is the time for a replacement bridge with a structure that will last the next quarter century and beyond.

“Without this bridge, the walk around to each area, while beautiful, would however prove to be a hardship for some of our guests,” Riley added.

There are also plans to update the villas with new furniture and other cosmetic improvements and eventually upgrade the aging septic system.

OLPH Director Father Sean Morris, OMV, said the facilities are being booked/reserved non-stop throughout the year, a priest retreat and Parish Spanish Emaus group retreat were both held within the past two weeks, OLPH is starting to show its age.

“OLPH is a treasure which belongs to the people of the Diocese of Venice,” Father Morris said. “It is for all. Therefore, we are asking for everyone who has encountered the Lord here at a retreat or during a quiet visit, to prayerfully consider giving their support.”

While not everyone can provide financial support, Father Morris noted that OLPH is always seeking those who not only wish to offer their treasure but also their time and talent in support of the Retreat Center.

“We are always seeking volunteers to assist our guests,” Father added. “Perhaps someone has a talent they want to share, or time that they want to give in support of our work. We need support of all types.”

Volunteer opportunities run a wide range, such as assisting at annual events, groundskeeping/gardening, set-up and service in the kitchen and dining areas, clerical help that might include answering phones or helping with paperwork or mail, assisting with the gift shop or even someone who can assist with maintenance projects.

“All of this support helps us live up to our mission as a Diocesan Retreat Center, helping people of Faith grow closer in their relationship with the Lord,” Father Morris said.

The groundbreaking ceremony for OLPH took place in January 1995, and eight months later the Retreat Center became a reality. A conference center and two villas were the first buildings completed. In a short span of five years the two villas increased to four, a dining center and chapel were added to complete phase one of the master plan.

In addition to the seven buildings on site, retreatants have the opportunity to spend time enjoying the beautiful grounds which include the Way of the Cross, the Rosary Walk and the prayer decks located along the river bank.

Events Commemorating the 25th Anniversary OLPH are in the planning stages and will be announced before the end of the year.

To help support the OLPH bridge building campaign or to learn more about other giving or volunteer opportunities, please visit, or contact Denise Riley at or call 941-486-0233.

Religious women recognized for service to Church

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

In gratitude and recognition for the contributions of men and women religious within the Universal Church, but more precisely in the Diocese of Venice, a jubilee celebration was held Feb. 17 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

Appropriately, the day began with the celebration of the Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. During the Mass, there was a renewal of the vows for the jubilarians, the same ones they took when professing a commitment to a religious life, that of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The Bishop thanked the religious for answering a specific call of the Lord to live a life of holiness, and then taking that commitment a step farther by reaching out and serving others. Bishop Dewane added that the celebration of consecrated life is a celebration of goodness, a blessing to the Church as a whole.

Four religious women celebrating significant anniversaries were specifically recognized during the Mass and at a following reception. The religious honored were: 75 years, Sister Mary Paschal Sadlier, Poor Clare Nun (Order of St. Clare); 60 years, Sister Liliette Ouellette and Sister Mary Josine Perez, School Sisters of Notre Dame; and 25 years, Sister Maria Pilar Alindogan, Poor Clare Nun (Order of St. Clare).

Sister Liliette explained that her call to a religious life was a path she followed with great joy. As a teacher, she followed the charism of her religious order with passion knowing that she was accompanied by the Lord along the path she had chosen. “It has been a good life,” Sister Liliette said.

Sister Josine spent a lifetime teaching at every level from elementary to college level, but now, in her “retirement,” she remains active at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice assisting with funeral planning and the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. “As a religious sister, I have been called by Christ to serve. That service helps bring others close to His love.”

Sister Mary Paschal and Sister Maria Pilar were unable to attend the celebration. Present at the Mass were religious brothers, priests and or women religious as a sign of support for those celebrating their jubilee in 2019. Following the Mass, the was a luncheon where jubilarians were again recognized for their commitment to a service to others and their continued service within the Diocese of Venice.


75 years of religious life

Sister Mary Paschal Sadlier, OSC

Born Honora Sadlier in Lisheen Cashel Co., Tipperary, Ireland, now nearly 101, Sister Mary Paschal Sadlier, Poor Clare Nun (Order of St. Clare), was born to Martin and Mary Sadlier, and is last surviving of 10 children. Sister entered religious life on Jan. 22, 1936 with the Sisters of St. Anne in Wimbledon, England and she received her habit and the name Sister Paschal Baylon of the Sacred Heart. After working at a hospital in Plymouth helping the victims of the bombing of England in the early years of World War II, she took a rest at a Poor Clare convent and felt called to a contemplative life. In July 1942 she was accepted as a Poor Clare in Cornwall and Sister Mary Paschal made her profession on July 31, 1944. She remained in the convent in Cornwall until becoming Abbess which exhausted her. Sister Mary Paschal then went to Arundel, before moving on the to Poor Clares in Darlington. There she was the Portress – second in charge – which suited her temperament better and later she was named infirmarian, caring for the older sisters in the monastery. At the age of 70, in 1988 she made her final transfer to live with the Poor Clare Sisters at San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach. The religious community joyfully embraces a life of poverty, prayer and contemplation, solitude and seclusion that they might serve the Lord and His Church. In her spare time, she likes to read.

60 years of religious life

Sister Liliette Ouellette, SSND

Sister Liliette Ouellette, School Sister of Notre Dame, was bornin Dracut, Mass. To Arthur and Beatrice Ouellette and has three sisters. The earned a Bachelor’s in French at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisc., a Master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Detroit in Michigan, and a Master’s in Education Administration from Manhattan College in New York. Sister Liliette entered religious life on Aug. 28, 1957 and made her profession on July 14, 1959. She taught elementary school in Michigan for nine years before moving to Long Island, N.Y. to teach junior high from 1970 to her retirement in 2009. Since her move to Port Charlotte in 2014 she serves as a lector and Eucharistic Minister at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. She also volunteers with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The day of Sister Lilliete’s profession was one of her happiest memories, because it was when her family shared in the joy she had in consecrating her life to God in expression of her vows. Another happy memory was becoming cancer-free, something she sees as a sign of God’s love and presence in her life. In her spare time, she loves any form of needlework and even crotchets mats for the homeless using plastic bags.

Sister Mary Josine Perez, SSND

Sister Mary Josine Perez, School Sister of Notre Dame, was born in New York to Joseph and Alice Perez, and has one brother. Sister Maria received a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Md., and then a Master’s in Education from Loyola College in Baltimore and Master’s in Religious Studies from Barry University in Miami and finally a certification in administration/supervision from the University of South Florida in Tampa. She entered religious life on Sept. 8, 1957 and made her profession on July 25, 1959. Sister Maria was an elementary and then junior high school teacher in Baltimore before becoming a principal in Hollywood, Fla. She was then a teacher later dean at a high school in St. Petersburg before becoming Assistant Academic Dean at the College of Notre Dame in Maryland. After leaving the College of Notre Dame, she returned to Catholic Schools as a principal of an elementary school in St. Petersburg. It was 25 years ago that she moved to the Diocese of Venice where she was the Director of Religious Education at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte and then from 1993 to 2017 as DRE and involved in parish ministry at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. She retired in 2017 to Venice where she now assists with funeral planning and with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

25 years of religious life

Sister Maria Pilar Alindogan, OSC

One of 14 children, Sister Maria Pilar Alindogan, Poor Clare Nun (Order of St. Clare), was born in San Fernando Masbate, Philippines, to Effigenio and Elsie Alindogan. She is a graduate from Emilio Aguinaldo College in Manila, Philippines. Sister Maria Pilar entered religious life on June 27, 1991 and made her profession on June 27, 1994. She entered the monastery in Quezon City, Philippines and was there until she came to Florida in 2007. Since that time Sister Maria Pilar has been with the Poor Clare Sisters at San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach. She loves to play the organ and guitar, as well as draw, cut letters for sign boards and to do little things for others to let them know that she loves and cares for them.