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A Space for Contemplation and Renewal

exterior of the contemplative center building looking into the chapel window

Sited atop a glacial drumlin overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir to the east, there is a brand new building where people are engaging in age-old spiritual practices inspired by the techniques of St Ignatius of Loyola. This past September, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester began offering retreats at the Joyce Contemplative Center in West Boylston after many years of planning, fundraising, discussion, design, and construction. LPA served as architect on the project, in collaboration with William J. Masiello Architect, Inc.

In just the first six months in operation, 322 students and nearly 100 alumni have attended retreats at the Center, and interest from academic departments, trustees, staff, and faculty is growing because, as Megan Fox-Kelly, Associate Chaplain and Director of Retreats points out, “Once you go to the Center you want to go back. This is a space to step away from the busyness of life where you can take a break and breathe.”

Holy Cross called upon LPA to design a retreat center that would include 60 beds, meeting space for 60 to 70 people, break out space for smaller meetings, a chapel, kitchen and dining area, and other support spaces. But beyond the particulars of the building program, a key objective was to create a space for spiritual renewal and growth that would be conducive to thoughtful introspection and prayer. Given the natural beauty of the site and expansive views from that vantage, it was important that the design complement and accentuate the landscape.

The 33,800 square foot building was constructed using materials with the look and feel of the natural landscape. Wood and stone materials that mirror the aesthetic of the 50-acre site contribute to a facility that doesn’t distract from the natural beauty of the region, and oversized windows ensure that the natural world becomes a feature of the indoor experience. The goal was to create interior spaces that were simple, comfortable and modestly appointed to best support the retreat experience.

“Ignatian spirituality emphasizes experiencing God in all things,” said Megan Fox-Kelly. “By bringing the natural world into the center you can’t help but pause and pay attention. And details like the lights in the chapel, which evoke the stars, connect people to the story of St. Ignatius who would look at the stars as part of his spiritual practice. We felt really heard and understood by the team of architects as to what our hopes, dreams and desires for the space could be, and the space has exceeded our expectations.”

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