Montserrat at 60

by Matt Ackels

North Texas Catholic

A woman prays the Rosary at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House.A woman prays the Rosary at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House.
A woman prays the Rosary at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat Center. (NTC/Juan Guajardo) More photos of this beautiful lakeside retreat here.


"My wife was going to have a baby.”

When Vic Muse recounts the events that led him to his first Montserrat retreat, he can’t help but smile. Muse had a demanding job, a pregnant wife, a new house, and a spiritual crisis — so he signed up for a quiet weekend at the Lake Dallas sanctuary called Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House. But the day before the retreat, he was suddenly booked for an important business trip to Washington. Worn and disappointed, Muse offered up a simple prayer: “Lord, if You want me to make a retreat, You’ve got to get me out of this trip.”

This October, Montserrat will celebrate its 60th year of service to the faithful in North Texas. Founded in 1959 by the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province, now the UCS Province, Montserrat has been a place for silent reflection, restorative peace, and spiritual renewal. A small stone building, the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises, and a ‘50s retreat movement provided the humble beginnings. The first retreat hosted 25 men for a weekend of prayer and reflection.

During the past six decades, the lakeside campus, located in the Diocese of Fort Worth, has expanded to host more than 150,000 retreatants. Women and men have come to pray, to listen, to learn. What they have found is peace and innovative encouragement in their faith through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, according to Montserrat Director Father Anthony Borrow, SJ. “When I think of Montserrat, the word that comes to mind is ‘transforming.’ Our space allows people to encounter Jesus, and that encounter transforms them in many ways.”

Supported by the center’s stated mission to “bring the transforming Good News of Jesus Christ to individuals and society,” people who visit the retreat center discover a dynamic approach to spirituality, one that encourages change and freedom.

From left, Father Roy Joseph, Father Anthony Borrow, and Father Ron Gonzales, lead retreats. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
From left, Father Roy Joseph, Father Anthony Borrow, and Father Ron Gonzales, lead retreats. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Fr. Borrow said that when reviewing the center’s 60 years of work, it is impossible to overlook the final word in that mission statement: society. Throughout its history, Montserrat has created change in both individuals and in the wider culture. In the 1970s, Montserrat was among the first Jesuit retreat houses to welcome women. Even during its early days, cultural outreach to the Hispanic community was a priority, resulting in a steady slate of Spanish-language retreats at the center. Over the years, Montserrat has consistently challenged established norms that excluded under-served populations. Montserrat also offers retreats for married couples. 

Ever focused on growth, Montserrat constructed Campion Hall at the turn of the century as a space for diocesan, parish, and religious organizations to host gatherings. In 2013, the Ignatius Spirituality Institute (ISI) was founded at Montserrat to train future Church leaders in the reflective traditions of St. Ignatius. These efforts — undertaken in a spirit of inclusivity — establish Montserrat as healthy, vibrant, and impactful on this 60th anniversary, Fr. Borrow said.

After celebrating more than a half century of service this October, the retreat center has no intention of retiring any time soon. Last year, more than 6,000 people visited the campus for retreats, lectures, classes, and meetings.

The future is bright at Montserrat, led by a Jesuit community of three: Fr. Borrow, Father Ron Gonzales, and Father Roy Joseph. Montserrat relies heavily on several lay collaborators now working to expand its gifts of peaceful transformation beyond the lakeside campus. 

“St. Ignatius tells us to ‘Go, set the world on fire,’” Fr. Borrow said. “The goal of the Jesuits and our lay collaborators is to enflame hearts to love and follow Jesus. Our mission field isn’t necessarily the world, but it does include North Texas, Oklahoma, northern Louisiana, and beyond.

“We know from experience that persons who experience Montserrat will animate their parishes, reach out to those on the margins, and be spiritual leaders in their daily lives. Blessed are those who hear His call and generously respond,” the priest continued.

Recently, ISI launched a program that invites individuals to make the Spiritual Exercises in their daily life. This experience allows participants to integrate regular prayer into their busy schedules, an option Vic Muse might have enjoyed during his years as a business man.

Today, that new baby of Muse’s is 55 years old, almost as old as Montserrat itself. After Muse’s trip to Washington was miraculously cancelled at the last minute, he made his first retreat in that small stone building. Since then, he has made 55 retreats at the center — one every year, like clockwork — and his children and grandchildren often accompany him in prayer. And while Montserrat can’t guarantee a miracle to get retreatants out of every business trip, they continue to be a conduit for God’s presence in the lives of local Catholics. 

For information about attending a retreat at Montserrat, visit MontserratRetreat.org.

A woman prays the Rosary at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House.

"My wife was going to have a baby.”

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