Quiet prayer on the Platte River
Walking through a hilly grove of oak trees near the Platte River, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts shared his vision for 930 acres of land he bought in 2014.
That vision, Ricketts said, is more than halfway finished, taking shape in those woods, dotted with slabs of concrete where 14 Stations of the Cross will be located, and up the hill, where a white-stone chapel is largely complete.
The woods where he talked and strolled on a sunny June morning provided a glimpse of what is in store for the area: a quiet place for prayer and reflection called The Cloisters on the Platte, an Ignatian retreat center he plans to make available to Catholics and others.
The retreat center is 60 percent complete and scheduled to open in July 2018, Ricketts said. The buildings are in place, but interior and landscaping work remain.
Scores of construction workers have been busy for months raising about 10 buildings, including a chapel and a gatehouse with underground parking, seven lodges that together will house up to 80 retreatants, and a main building where participants will gather and listen to talks.
From Thursday evenings to Sunday afternoons, the Cloisters will host separate men’s and women’s silent retreats based on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
The retreats will include daily Mass, Benediction, confessions and talks – and if desired, one-on-one discussions with a priest.
The property south of Gretna, at Nebraska Highway 31 and Fishery Road near Schramm Park State Recreation Area, also is being prepared for outdoor reflection, with walking trails, two manmade lakes and an outdoor Stations of the Cross, featuring 7-foot-tall bronze figures along a path measured to be the same distance that Jesus walked to his crucifixion.
Believed to be the largest in the world for size, number of figures and artistic detail, the stations will be open to the public Mondays through Thursdays when retreats are not in session, Ricketts said. Headsets will be available so people can hear descriptions of the stations to aid their prayer.
To support the retreat center, Ricketts and his family created The Cloisters on the Platte Foundation. Retreatants will not be asked to pay anything, but free will offerings will be encouraged to help cover expenses.
Ricketts said he hopes retreatants will return year after year. Many might find it hard to get away for three days, but "if you give yourself the luxury (of a retreat), you’ll come back," he said.
About 6,500 people have asked for more information through mailings and online resources, and The Cloisters is enlisting parish ambassadors to give people someone to talk to in person.
Ricketts already is offering retreats at places such as the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler and Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa. Registration and information is available on The Cloisters on the Platte website at cloistersontheplatte.com or by calling 402-672-1551.
When The Cloisters is open, many of the priests leading the retreats will be Jesuits from Creighton University in Omaha. Ricketts said he also hopes to invite retired archdiocesan priests to live in a home on the property to help administer the sacraments.
Getting away for quiet prayer is important, Ricketts said.
"You have to have the silence to contemplate and meditate," he said, in which a person can ask: "Who am I, why am I here, what is most important in my life, and what is least important in my life?"