Pacem in Terris retreat center adds three hermitages

Nearly a year after ground was broken, Pacem in Terris Hermitage Retreat Center — a faith-based center for individuals seeking silence, solitude, and peace — is opening three new individual prayer cabins for guests, bringing the total number of hermitage spaces to 22.

Pictured above is the St. Juan Diego hermitage. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

An increase in hermitage demand following the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the center’s board of directors to move forward with a previously planned expansion to add three hermitages. Each one is named for a saint — St. Juan Diego of Mexico, St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan and St. Maximilian Kolbe of Poland.

“The new saints represent not only the rich diversity of saints in the Christian tradition but also reflect the diversity of hermit guests whom God continues to call to Pacem,” said Tim Drake, executive director of the center, located in Isanti.

A generous benefactor donated a matching grant toward the construction of the new hermitages, and the donation was matched by individual donors, he said.

“Aside from a few building-material changes, the new hermitages are similar in size and shape to the existing ones,” Drake said. “They are constructed with ICF (insulated concrete forms), they have a larger picture window, a pitched stoop roof, and maintenance-free siding, roofing, and flooring.”

The three new hermitages have the same layout as the existing ones, but have bigger picture windows. Each one has a small altar with a New Jerusalem Bible, a handmade wooden cross and icons on the wall. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“It’s beautiful, it’s simple, there’s no electricity so I don’t have any contact with the outside world,” said Deacon Jim Saumweber, who was just the second person to stay in the new St. Maximilian Kolbe hermitage.

Deacon Saumweber, who serves as a pastoral minister and BeFriender ministry coordinator at St. Odilia Parish in Shoreview, Minnesota, is a frequent guest at Pacem in Terris.

“It’s quiet and it gives an opportunity, not for me to talk to God as much as for me to try to listen to what God has in store for me so that I can share that in my ministry,” he said Nov. 1.

Pacem in Terris — which is Latin for “Peace on Earth” — welcomed its first guests on May 1, 1988. The retreat center and chapel sit on 240 acres of woodlands and native prairie along Lake Tamarack. Since its opening, the center has received more than 21,000 guests of all faiths, and no faith, welcoming approximately 1,100 annually.

Deacon Jim Saumweber, a deacon of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, relaxes on the porch of the St. Maximilian Kolbe hermitage Nov. 1. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

All 22 hermitages are simply furnished with a bed, chair, table, Bible and general supplies. There is no electricity or plumbing, but each hermitage has gas heat and a gas burner. An outdoor “biffy” is nearby.

“Our mission is very much the same as when Pacem was started,” Drake said. “We have created an environment where people can come be alone with God. Given the state of the world and people’s lives, that mission is more important today than ever.”

For more information about Pacem in Terris, or to make a reservation, call 763-444-6408 or visit

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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