Summer — traditionally a time of slower pace, longer days and fewer commitments — can be an ideal time to attend a weekday or weekend retreat or simply get away for a day or evening of recollection, especially if there has been little time to do so during the rest of the year. In the Santa Barbara Region, both large and small retreat centers offer a wealth of opportunities for spiritual renewal in various styles and for varying needs.One of the best-kept secrets in the region is the Siena Prayer Center at St. Catherine by the Sea in Ventura. Located on a hillside overlooking the city and the ocean, Siena Prayer Center — a spiritual outreach of the Sisters of the Holy Cross — offers retreats, programs and spiritual direction. The center opened in early 2007 and is staffed by the sisters, who participate in the programs and provide spiritual direction, both in English and in Spanish.Siena Prayer Center’s mission statement summarizes the spirit with which the sisters carry out their ministry: “Our mission is to provide a place where individuals and groups come together to nourish their spiritual lives in a serene and peaceful environment conducive to deepening one’s prayer life and the awareness of the presence of God.”“We focus on contemplative prayer experiences in our programs and mini-retreats,” says Holy Cross Sister Gloria Valdovinos, Siena Prayer Center director. “In addition to weekly centering prayer and twice monthly mini-retreats, we will be offering a twilight retreat experience twice monthly that will include a presentation, a time of silent reflection, a contemplative walk and sharing.” Holy Cross Sister Eileen Dewsnup, coordinator and assistant to Sister Valdovinos, says individuals and groups are welcome at the Siena Prayer Center, and that many have heard about the programs offered through word of mouth. Participants have come from as far away as Lompoc to attend Saturday mini-retreats. Siena Prayer Center has accommodations for five overnight guests, and can host up to 30 persons for its day and evening programs. A labyrinth walk, gardens and chapel are available for prayer and reflection.Another facility that both hosts and sponsors prayer and retreat experiences is the Mission Renewal Center at Old Mission Santa Barbara. Franciscan Sister Susan Blomstad, director, says attendees have many opportunities this summer to experience Franciscan hospitality and spirituality through sponsored events and programs. The events include a day of reflection on the topic of trust, given by David Richo, local author and psychotherapist. “This is a timely topic in the church where the level of trust between people and church leaders has been badly damaged,” says Sister Blomstad. “People have many questions about building or rebuilding trust in relationships, and this presentation will address how these issues affect our lives.”The Mission Renewal Center will also present a Meditation and Writing weekend retreat in July presented by Barry Spacks and Kimberely Snow. Also offered this summer is “Retreat Lite” for Senior Citizens — a five-day combination vacation/retreat mixing spirituality, recreation and relaxation. Days of recollection are presented weekly at the center, given by Franciscan Father Kenan Osborne.Also located in Santa Barbara is St. Mary’s Seminary, operated by members of the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians). The facility — overlooking the city and ocean from its semi-rural location in the hills of Santa Barbara — primarily hosts larger group retreats. A guest house with seven private rooms is open for individuals or small groups wishing to make a private retreat. And in Montecito are the Immaculate Heart Community Center for Spiritual Renewal, staffed by the Immaculate Heart Community, and La Casa de Maria, conducted by the IHM Community. Both offer a variety of retreat experiences.Santa Barbara Region retreat centersAmong the offerings these centers offer are days and evenings of recollection (including Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina), mini-retreats, “Weekday Special” Retreats and Weekend Retreats. All retreat facilities request that reservations be made for programs, events and retreats.Siena Prayer Center: Sister Gloria Valdovinos, CSC, (805) 652-1700, ext. 500; [email protected]; Renewal Center: Sister Susan Blomstad, OSF, (805) 682-4713, ext. 133; [email protected]; Mary’s Seminary: Karen Froelicher, office manager, (805) 966-4829; [email protected]; Casa de Maria Retreat Center: Stephanie Glatt, IHM, director, (805) 969-5031; Heart Community Center for Spiritual Renewal: Michelle de Beixedon, IHM, director, (805) 969-2474;{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0603/sbretreat/{/gallery}