THE PRAIRIE: A DREAM COMES TRUE
Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat is the fulfillment of a dream for a place of spiritual renewal in the Iowa heartland by a prayerful monk, a forward-thinking pastoral team and a visionary religious community with a commitment to spiritual growth and care of Earth.
RESPONDING TO THE NEED
In the late 1970s, when the Sisters of Humility were negotiating the sale of Ottumwa Heights College in Ottumwa, Iowa, concern was expressed by the school’s president, Sr. Bernadine Pieper, about how to continue the religious mission of the college. A survey of parishes in the area indicated a great need for adult religious education and in 1979, New Horizons of Faith was chartered with an active board of directors meeting regularly to evaluate the parish educational needs of the Diocese of Davenport.
Throughout the 1980s, under the auspices of New Horizons of Faith, Fr. Vincent Fabula, a monk of New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, and Sr. Joann Kuebrich conducted adult religious education programs in the rural parishes of eastern Iowa. Over and over they heard requests from the laity for more opportunities for spiritual renewal. It soon became clear that what was needed was an accessible place for prayer; a retreat center devoted to spiritual growth and renewal for God’s people in the Davenport diocese.
Driven by a dream for a place of spiritual stillness, Fr. Vincent and Sr. Joann toured the countryside looking at properties. They finally found the 200-acre Dierickx farm near Wheatland. With support from several state and federal conservation programs, a wild life pond was built and 90 acres of native prairie grasses and a variety of trees were planted. The Victorian farmhouse was restored and the property was named Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat.
TRANSFERRING THE DREAM
Sadly in July, 1998, only months after the first guests were hosted at The Prairie, Father Vincent died of cancer. The ownership of The Prairie property reverted back to the Abbey but there was no one available to take over its operation.
In a letter to Humility of Mary president, Sr. Jude Fitzpatrick, The Prairie was offered to the Sisters of Humility. The community became intrigued not only with the idea of a spiritual reflection center but the wooded location and native prairie grasses complemented the Sisters’ priority of “care of Earth.” In 1999, the Congregation purchased the property with the goal of expanding the facility into a place of solitude and spiritual reflection for the CHM community as well as spiritual seekers of all faiths.
ADDITIONS COMPLETE THE DREAM
In order to accommodate larger groups, the Sisters launched a capital campaign to build “Prairie Heights,” an all-purpose conference facility. As it was being completed, Marycrest College, founded in Davenport by the Sisters of Humility, closed its doors and two religious landmarks from the campus found new homes at the Prairie:
- The statue of Mary, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, which had stood for over 60 years on the campus bluff overlooking the Mississippi, now guards the wildlife pond near the contemplative sitting area where guests are invited to spend time alone, reflecting on the beauty of God’s creation.
- The Stations of the Cross from Our Lady’s Chapel were converted to outdoor Stations and now surround the labyrinth.
- Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat was officially blessed on October 4, 2003. Since then thousands of guests have come to relax, reflect and rediscover God’s voice in “the stillness” of the Prairie.
Support the healing and renewal ministry of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat with a tax-deductible donation to the Sisters of Humility.
- Prairie Retreat Guest Handbook - with history and more