Vincentian Retreats draw five thousand per weekend

by | May 16, 2015 | News | 4 comments

Toronto Retreats

Vincentian retreat work opens in Toronto. The Vincentian Congregation retreats are so popular that the one located in Kerala, India offers retreats in seven languages, including English, and  these Vincentian retreats draw about 5,000 people per weekend.

In 1985, the Vincentian Congregation, not to be confused with the Congregation of the Mission,  opened its first retreat centre in Potta, India. The Divine Retreat Centre was so successful that these Vincentians expanded the retreat ministry across Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, the United States and now, finally, into Canada.

So, in one sense, Toronto’s newest retreat centre was 29 years in the making. Located near the heart of the city, the new prayer house is a by-product of the 46 Divine Retreat Centres previously opened around the world by the Vincentians.

“This is an important event for us,” said Fr. Paul Puthuva, provincial superior of the Mary Matha province of the Vincentian Congregation.

“This (retreats) is one of the most important ministries for our congregation.”

The Toronto facility was opened with a full-day ceremony on Nov. 29. Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore blessed the centre. Special guests at the event, which drew about 1,000 people, included Msgr. Thomas Kalarathili, director of priests personnel of the Archdiocese of Toronto, and Fr. Joby Kachappilly, the centre’s recently appointed director, along with Puthuva, who came from India for the occasion.

Kachappilly, who had been travelling back and forth from India to Canada since 2009 to facilitate retreats,  predicts a significant revitalization of faith will occur as a result of the new Toronto centre.

“I’ve seen people of different nationalities join together with a hunger for the word of God … and with Toronto being a hub of international presence we can cater to all the people who come to our centre to experience God,” he said.

“This retreat centre is going to bring everyone together in focusing on the Bible. We’ve seen a tremendous transformation in the young people.”

He said local religious can benefit from retreats offered specifically for them. He also hopes to foster involvement of parishioners in the diocese.

“It is basically to make disciples and that happens through the retreat centre.”

Kachappilly said that those who attend will encounter “miracles” and “healing” during the weekend-long retreats, when those retreats eventually start running. For now, there will be daily prayer services, as well as additional prayer services on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

“It is a blessing to welcome another space for reflection, personal and group retreat in the Archdiocese of Toronto,” said Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications for the archdiocese. “In the midst of our very busy city of Toronto it is most appropriate to have a dedicated space to step away and retreat in prayer.”

Shiju Thomas, a key figure in establishing the centre, knows the power of the Vincentian retreats first hand. His conversion to Catholicism began after he attended a retreat before immigrating to Canada from India 15 years ago.

“When I came with my young kids one of the challenges that I found was that … we rarely get to teach about Church teachings or the moral values and principles,” he said.

“So my initial interest was to get a group where these children can think that there are people like me, that it is not weird to be religious or it is not something to be ashamed of to show your faith publicly.”

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Vincentian Congregation


The Vincentian Congregation, a clerical society of priests and brothers in the Syro-Malabar Church, comes under the category of “Societies of Common Life” ad instar religiosorum. It was established in 1904 in Kerala by Very Rev. Fr. Varkey Kattarath, who led a group of diocesan priests to found a congregation on the model of the Congregation of the Mission (C.M.), founded by St. Vincent de Paul in France. After an unstable beginning, the group was officially called the Vincentian Congregation in 1938, and raised to diocesan status in 1977.
Purpose and Charism
The Congregation draws its spirit and distinctive character from the life, works, and Common Rules of St. Vincent de Paul. The Congregation in Kerala has taken as its motto “He has sent me to proclaim the Good News to the poor” (Luke. 4:18). The two main aims of the Vincentian Congregation are:

1.Preaching the Good News to the poor.
 All retreats held in Divine Retreat Centre are aimed at renewing the lives of the people in a deep and living experience of the Sacraments of the Church. The seven Sacraments are holy means of supernatural life instituted by Christ through which the saving power of God is bestowed upon everyone. It is through the power of anointing of the Holy Spirit that the Sacraments become effective signs of salvation.
2. Caring for the welfare of the poor and afflicted.
In the different Homes attached to the Divine Retreat Centre, the Vincentians share their love and resources with more than 3,000 permanent residents. The St. Vincent’s Home cares for AIDS patients.The Divine Care Centre is home to the mentally ill. The Divine De-Addiction Centre looks after those addicted to alcohol and drugs. The Divine Mercy Home has elderly men and women abandoned by their families. The Maria Santhi Bhavan Home for the Aged cares for elderly women. St. Mary’s Home cares for destitute mothers and children.
The specific purpose of the Congregation to preach the Gospel to the poor is accomplished through popular mission retreats, charismatic retreats, and retreats for priests and religious. Almost 25% of the Vincentian community is engaged in full-time preaching, and a number of retreat centres have been established. It has been found that about 15% of those who attend the retreats are non-Christian.

Source: Popular retreat centre makes its way to Canada   December 2, 2014


  1. Sr. Kathryn Bechtold, D.C.

    In Kenya the same Congregation has a retreat center and are doing a wonderful pastoral work.

  2. Sr. Teresa Parakel

    congratulations for doing God’s work in the same spirit of st. Vincent

  3. Sr. Bena DC

    God truly present in these retreats and wants His children to come back to Him Continue the good work and all the best.

  4. Sr. Teresa Parakel

    i am glad to read and reflect on the vincentian message.