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Retreat Center Helps People Unplug, Reconnect

August 10, 2012, 10:05 PM by Brady Mallory

Retreat Center Helps People Unplug, Reconnect

Some of us wonder what we would do without technology. Thanks to the Internet, email, text message and cell phones, we always know where to go to dial ourselves into the world. The question remains: How do we unplug?  Perhaps more accurately phrased: Can we unplug?

Located in the rolling hills of Missouri Valley near Irene, SD, 300 acres offer a place of spiritual refuge for all kids, teens and adults.  With that many people, you can imagine the place is anything but quiet.  However, Broom Tree is where thousands go to find peace.

"We live in such a saturated culture.  Everywhere you look kids are on their cell phones.  Myself, I'm guilty of sitting on Facebook all day.  We're just constantly plugged in," Broom Tree participant Kyle Klipfel said.

Still, Klipfel says not many of us are truly connected.

"Because, really God is speaking to us all the time, but are we quiet enough?  Are we still enough to hear God's voice?" President of the Catholic Foundation for Eastern South Dakota Mark Conzemius said.

Conzemius calls Broom Tree a jewel of Eastern South Dakota, but in truth, it did not always shine so bright.

About ten years ago a Lutheran couple owned a much smaller and much different version of Broom Tree.  They asked if the Catholic Diocese was interested in buying the retreat center.  At the time, it was a nice idea, but a pricey concept.  The Diocese was approached two more times.  Conzemius remembers seeing the property and feeling hope. 

However, money does not grow on trees, but you could say the means to turn this idea into a reality was growing inside of hearts.

"Broom Tree's roots really are with the people," Conzemius said.

Rightfully so.  Thanks to a generous and anonymous donation, the Diocese was able to get the spot of land.  That donation led to more donations of money, time, labor, construction and even more land.  Everyone collaborating with each other helped create $8 million worth of facilities.  Klipfel calls it a miracle.

"Nothing about Broom Tree should work.  But, it absolutely does," Klipfel said.

Like its origins, the center itself is unique.  Its current incarnation has come to fruition in phases.  A retreat and conference center opened its doors eight years ago and a youth and family camp debuted six years ago.  Within walking distance of Lake Marindahl, Broom Tree has everything a typical summer camp would hold. 

However, where it is located and the rich and robust nature surrounding it allows people leave concrete jungles behind and find a sense of community within isolation.

"It's a place where I know I am loved.  It's the place where I truly experience God's love for me.  I experience it everywhere.  The people, the counselors and the beauty of this place," Broom Tree participant Bethany Claussen said.

Klipfel and Claussen agree it gives them something more meaningful.

"Instead of just being focused on what's going on or the next Facebook status or whatever," Klipfel said.

There are many types of retreats offered at Broom Tree.  Conzemius himself has participated in many silent retreats here.

"First I thought, how in the world, and my wife was really wondering how am I going to be silence for three days.  But it's a beautiful experience," Conzemius said.

Nobody is turned away because of religion or financial limitations.  This center and these campers rely on donations. 

In an age when Conzemius admits church attendance is down, he said even just a little faith can create a lot.

"There is a spiritual element to life that's very, very important.  We're all on a journey in life and we're all in need of healing," Conzemius said.

On August 26 and 27 The Bishop's Charity Golf Classic & Broom Tree Banquet will help raise money to maintain Broom Tree Retreat Center, a place many people go seeking a spiritual re-charge.

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