The Diocese of Knoxville has acquired the Priory of St. John the Apostle retreat center in Benton and 52 acres of property to go with it. The previous owners, who wish to remain anonymous, donated the center to the diocese.
Bishop Richard F. Stika signed the papers Aug. 1 to make the transfer official. He announced the same day that the new name of the facility would be Christ Prince of Peace Retreat Center.
“Since day one when I arrived in Knoxville, so many people have said we need a retreat center,” the bishop said. “We need a place where we can come together and learn about the faith and to pray. So often we use other properties. Some have been extremely easy to work with; others are more distant in terms of the route to take, so this will give us the capacity to have a place that’s Catholic, and we can teach the faith—we can come together to pray.
“It can be used for the youth because there’s space there for that all the way to retreats for married couples, for single couples. Rachel’s Vineyard has already used it, so there’s going to be a variety of different activities—quiet retreats for individuals.”
Bishop Stika paid a visit to the center the same day he signed the papers.
“I’m going there today,” he said. “Our first event under the diocesan flag is our seminarians gathering together for three days for retreat before they go back to school.”
The facility is nestled between the Hiwassee River and the Cherokee National Forest.
“It’s a beautiful setting,” the bishop said. “It’s a gift from the [previous owners], but in reality it’s a gift from God.”
The retreat center was built from scratch about 30 years ago.
“There are seven buildings there now, plus two storage buildings,” said one of the previous owners. “When we got it originally there was nothing there—just some scrub pines and farm land, so everything had to be developed.”
The retreat center includes the Church of the Crucifixion, Holy Trinity Chapel, and St. Anthony’s Retreat House. One large building contains a 10,000- to 15,000-book Catholic library. A social room on the property seats about 50 for dinners or lectures, and there is a two-story guest residence, St. John’s Residence. The property also includes a large equipment building with a carpentry shop, a building with two efficiency apartments, the prior’s residence, and a two-story office building.
The previous owner said of the donation that “we’re dedicated Catholics, and we know that whatever we have, we only have custody of it. We’re entrusted with it for a time and then everything belongs to God.”
Photos of Christ Prince of Peace Retreat Center (click any photo for larger image)[nggallery id=1]