History of Bishop Lane Retreat Center
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 23, 2021

In 1964, an anonymous donor gave 80 wooded acres to the Diocese of Rockford, located about seven miles southwest of Rockford. It was given to the diocese with the express purpose that the land be used for a diocesan retreat center. Over time, additional land was acquired and now totals more than 200 acres.

By 1966, the center’s first retreat building was a reality. It included 50 rooms with private baths, a chapel, dining room, conference room and library. Bishop Loras T. Lane dedicated the new building on Oct. 22, 1966. The first retreats were held that same month.

A few months after Bishop Lane’s death in 1968, the Priests’ Senate of the diocese passed a resolution to change the name to the Bishop Lane Retreat Center as a tribute to the man who worked so diligently to see the project through to its fruition. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill officially renamed the retreat center in honor of his predecessor.

A statue of Bishop Lane was donated in 2011 and is located near the front door of the original building.

The School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family staffed the retreat center in its early days. The first director was Father (later Msgr.) Thomas Monahan, who served there from 1966-1968. Father (Msgr.) Alphonsus Harte succeeded him and remained until June of 1971, when Father Lawrence Urbaniak was appointed director. In June of 1984, Father (Msgr.) Thomas Brady became the new director. In June of 1988, Father Brady turned the reins over to the center’s first lay directors, Donald and Lorrie Gramer, who served in this capacity until 2010. They were followed by other lay directors and now current director Kristen Sapoznik.

In the fall of 1992, an additional retreat building was opened. Known as the “Family-Youth Center,” it housed 60 individuals in 10 sleeping rooms. That building caught fire and burned down in 1999 due to an unfortunate accident.

The “Holy Family of Nazareth Center for Youth and Family” later was built up the hill from the original retreat house and the center that was destroyed. It has a large main conference area that can be divided into three separate meeting rooms, multiple shower and bath facilities, and it sleeps up to 142 people in a combination of bunk style and individual sleeping rooms. Fully equipped with a serving kitchen, offices and built-in multi-media capabilities, it has accommodated many large retreats and events including annual vocations summer camps and retreats.

There have been a wide variety of retreats and programs focused on topics to benefit clergy, laity, and families; those married, divorced, remarried, widowed or engaged; those seeking respite and healing, or simply a stronger relationship with their Creator.

Bishop Lane Retreat Center has well fulfilled the sixth Bishop of Rockford’s vision as a place to “…withdraw from the world and its secular spirit…” and “…ponder over one’s proper relationship with God and to his fellow man…”

— Amanda Hudson, news editor


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