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New Contemplative Center in Blue Ridge Mountains Gets Blessing, Dedication

October 3, 2013 – Georgetown blessed and dedicated today its new Calcagnini Contemplative Center, which will host the many spiritual retreat programs sponsored by the university’s Office of Campus Ministry.

The center, nestled away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Bluemont, Va., sits on a 55-acre plot and was built with a $17 million gift from Arthur Calcagnini (C’54) and his wife, Nancy.

“I wanted to give our students something that they could take with them after they graduate in addition to the technical knowledge and the academic knowledge that they receive at the university,” Calcagnini told an audience of more than 100 students, alumni, university leaders and neighbors.  

Growth and Development

The alumnus noted that Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition instills in its students the importance of cura personalis, or caring for the whole person. He said he hopes the contemplative center will encourage students' growth and development.

“Students know what to do when they get out [of college],” he said. “They have all the tools to make it, but how to use those tools is a very, very important part of life.”

The grounds of the new space include a Catholic chapel, a community hall, common green spaces, a dining hall, a caretaker’s house and 28 cabins that together house up to 78 visitors.

A Second Home

Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president of mission and ministry, said the center will offer the university’s Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Orthodox and Hindu students and other members of the community a second home away from the main campus.

“Today we dedicate this land … this beautiful mountain in Clarke County facing the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge [mountains],” he said. “In the biblical tradition, mountains are places where the human meets the divine. Moses had his mountain and Elijah had his mountain and Jesus went up the mountain. …There, God met them revealing God’s dream for them and the world. Surely, the Lord will meet us, too.”

In addition to religious retreats, Georgetown offers ESCAPE, an overnight, nondenominational reflective experience for the university’s first-year and transfer students that the Calcagninis fully endowed in 1991.

The retreat has since served more than 8,000 students.


Magdalena Buczek (C’13) attended ESCAPE as a first-year student.

“It is on retreats at Georgetown that I learned the most important lesson of all – how to listen to those movements deep within my soul,” said Buczek, who also worked as an ESCAPE coordinator at Georgetown. “It is only by listening to the shifting spirits within me that those encounters and connections can manifest themselves on the outside in my words and actions.”

Sydney Winkler (C’16), a transfer student from Chicago, participated in one of the first ESCAPE retreats at the new center earlier this semester.

“The Calcagnini Contemplative Center is gorgeous,” she said. “It created an environment that was welcoming and open. I was able to reflect on my life as well as how I fit in as a student at Georgetown. I really learned what it means to be a Hoya through hearing other people’s stories and struggles and how they dealt with them.”