Finding ‘Renewal’ in Florissant
Pallottine Renewal Center offers retreat space for the mind, the body and the spirit
By Charlotte Beard
St. Louis is rich in history as is its towns. However, a lot of the city’s treasures are tucked away in areas where many of its residents are unaware. One such treasure is found in Florissant close to Old Jamestown – Pallottine Renewal Center. This retreat space sits on an 85-acre tract of land at 15270 Old Halls Ferry Road.
“Here, you’re in the country, but there’s Walmart and Walgreen’s right down the street,” spoke Marillyn Webb, Executive Director, of the center’s location.
The property which when seen from sky view resembles an angel with the chapel forming its head, has hosted various events not limited to retreats. Not to be confused with a hotel or conference center, Pallottine houses a self-serve business center, main conference room that can hold up to 100 people, a variety of smaller conference rooms, 15 break-out rooms for private discussions and a board room. The center is equipped with audio/visual equipment for meeting needs. Additionally, this elevator-equipped center has 55 single occupancy bedrooms, 48 double occupancy bedrooms, a fireplace equipped solarium, an in-door heated swimming pool, gymnasium, small fitness room, staffed kitchen and large dining area, and a host of other amenities that can be discovered on a scheduled tour.
“We tell people that you can pray in a chapel, play in a gym, meet in the meeting rooms,” stated Webb. “We’re Catholic in identity but we’re open to all faiths…our tag line is, ‘Hospitality is our mission.’ We’re open to corporate retreats, strategic planning.”
The center is run by seven full-time and four part-time staff consisting of housekeeping, cooks, and administration. It is important to note that though Pallottine has Wi-Fi, it does not have televisions in any of its rooms. This standard follows one of the renewal center’s original purposes to – refresh your spirit, reflect with God and renew your faith.
The balance of mind, body, and spirit in a person’s life is a very important component to the functioning of the renewal center. The ‘body’ component is manifested in the center’s offering of aquacise and group Zumba and fitness classes. Currently the center makes the heated pool available during specific hours to people who want to come on site for aquacise, but the hope is to further the benefits of the pool.
“I’ve met with the president of Christian Hospital,” shared Webb, “to take the pool to the next level, by really incorporating aquacise for Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia…all of those joint mobility [issues] that the heated pool would benefit. Some women, or men, start exercising on land and it’s too hard on them. We don’t [want to] compete with the YMCA…this is heated, so it’s more [about] the kinds of literature [we could offer] about the benefits of heated pools.”
Webb went on to explain that the hope is to connect with Christian Hospital or another viable source that would partner in developing a program and take ownership of that program. Pallottine would serve as the resource since they have the heated pool that could be more beneficial to those with physical needs.
The idea of having Zumba classes at the retreat center began 2.5 years ago when April Isaac, a cook at the center, introduced an instructor to Webb. After finding that the instructor’s mission for physical activity aligned with Pallottine’s mission, Zumba and boot camp became an additional offering of the renewal center.
“On Thursday, she would do introduction to boot camp, because boot camp scares people,” stated Webb. “So, [we encourage people to] come, experience a little bit to see if you [can] do it. That’s how we got it started.”
A bonus for retreaters, is that that participation in a fitness class is at no additional cost.
“Some of them will miss their breakfast,” stated Isaac. “I had a group that was staying here… [a woman] asked, ‘Can you save my breakfast?’ [I told her] it [wouldn’t] be as fresh, but it’ll be fine. So, I saved breakfast because this lady wanted to do Zumba. It’s fun, it’s all in fun.”
Zumba and Kettlebell classes are currently taking place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Thursdays consist of cardio, toning, and flexibility. Participants can enjoy a whole month of classes for $30, $5 per session during the week or $1 per Saturday session.
The history of how Pallottine Renewal Center started began in 1912 when the Pallottine Missionary Sisters voyaged to the United States from Rome. Fortunately for these sisters, they were not permitted to board the Titanic on which they were scheduled to travel due to incorrect information on their travel documents. Subsequently, they were forced to travel on the next available ocean liner – the Von Bremen. It is stated that their ocean liner travelled the same route as the Titanic and they witnessed the bodies and wreckage of the sinking ship.
The order of Pallottine sisters, which was originally created by and named after Saint Vincent Pallotti, continued and moved from Huntington, West Virginia to St. Louis in 1966. Here they purchased the land on which the renewal center currently sits and broke ground for the property in 1968. The center was originally constructed for new incoming sisters to the order as well as a residence for the retired sisters. Today under lay staff, the renewal center carries on the mission of body, mind and spirit renewal for all who visit. The staff welcomes and continues to share the more in-depth history with those who desire to visit for a tour.
“Hopefully, when you walk through these doors,” Webb stated, “you feel embraced, you feel the sacredness. We are hospitality. We don’t put on retreats…our whole focus is, you come in, we allow you to refresh your spirit, renew your faith. And [we] allow what God does, through us. That’s our primary focus.”
For more information about Pallottine Renewal Center visit www.pallottinerenewal.org or call 314-837-7100.
CUTLINE: Photos by Charlotte Beard