Bethlehem Retreat celebrates 25 years in Nanaimo

Bethlehem Retreat Centre celebrates 25 years in Nanaimo.

Mary Ann Gisler

Mary Ann Gisler

People can contemplate almost anything as they walk the path constructed from 7,000 stones at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre.

The stones were handmade and laid in the exact pattern of the pavement labyrinth on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France.

People come from all over the world to walk the labyrinth constructed on the grounds of the retreat, said Lucia Gamroth, a Bethlehem centre volunteer.

The labyrinth is one attraction people can experience during the retreat’s 25th anniversary open house July 29, from 1-3 p.m. The event will include musical entertainment, guided tours of the centre and a chance to learn its history.

Mary Ann Gisler, retreat director and a Benedictine sister, said people often walk by on the Westwood Lake trails and see the retreat, but some don’t know what the centre is.

“This is going to give everyone the opportunity to see it from the inside,” she said. “It’s a wonderful moment in our history because you have this sense of gratitude, because over these 25 years there have been thousands of people who have come through here.”

The retreat was founded in 1987 under the leadership of Benedictine sister Jill Aigner.

The Benedictine sisters purchased the retreat property from the Catholic diocese of Victoria in 2002. It grew from a single building, which was used to host meetings and spiritual observances, to a centre with a chapel, two accommodation buildings, a garden area and several conference rooms.

Gisler said people come for various reasons. Some are searching for peace or meaning in their lives and others just want a quiet place to connect with nature.

“They always drink in the energy of nature that surrounds this place,” she said. “You can be led by your spirit and heart [here].”

Gisler said the retreat is open to people from all walks of life and all faiths. The retreat often hosts meetings and conferences or hosts people who just want to enjoy the natural setting for a day.

The retreat already started the celebrating its anniversary.

Earlier in July, about 200 people who had been guests, volunteers or worked at the retreat were invited to share stories. Gamroth said it was wonderful to hear the experiences of people involved in the retreat and what the centre meant to them.

“It’s just an amazing experience,” she said.

Bethlehem Retreat Centre is located at 2371 Arbot Rd. For more information please go to, call 250-754-3254 or e-mail

Just Posted

John A. Read, who was inspired to leave his former career to become a professional astronomy by the purchase of a $13 telescope, will give beginning astronomers key pointers on how to set up and get the best performance from their instruments at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s meeting June 24. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Read)
Astrophysicist will talk about getting the most out of a telescope at Nanaimo astronomy meeting

John Read’s purchase of a $13 telescope led to a degree in astrophysics and a career in astronomy

Nanaimo rapper Sirreal plays the Port Theatre on June 25. (Photo courtesy Alanna Morton)
Nanaimo rapper Sirreal and friends play the Port Theatre

Live-streamed concert the second in venue’s Discovery Series highlighting local artists

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement, stating that Nanaimo will see temperatures between five-10 degrees above seasonal the next two days. (News Bulletin file)
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement, stating that Nanaimo will see temperatures between five-10 degrees above normal the next two days. (News Bulletin file)
Heat wave will see Nanaimo temperatures rise 5-10 degrees above normal

Sun with highs of 28 C forecast by Environment Canada for Harbour City on Sunday and Monday

According to a staff report, Regional District of Nanaimo has seen some $13.6 million in grant applications approved between Jan. 1 and May 15. (News Bulletin file)
Close to $14 million in money granted to RDN in first half of year

Successful grants include more than $4 million for transit service in Regional District of Nanaimo

A section of the rail corridor on Vancouver Island. (Black Press file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Put rail trail right overtop of the tracks

Removing tracks would be a horrendous expense, says letter writer

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding partnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read