Stephany Garcia, Carter London and Logan Tredinnick close their eyes. Silence! The wind hits their cheeks, messes their hair. They are sitting outdoors, on a bench in front of the Stations of the Cross, where every single flower in the surrounding garden has a meaning. After a few minutes, they seem to start shutting out the noise around them, and are meditating — which is exactly what this environment is intended to promote.And exactly what the leadership of co-educational college preparatory Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance wants to provide through the new George and Virginia Schneider Retreat Center set to open in September.The new facility — located on the hill of one of the largest campuses in the archdiocese (enrollment is about 1,100), next to the school’s St. Anthony Student Activity Center — was made possible through a donation of $500,000 from the George and Virginia Schneider Family which for generations has provided financial support (many Schneider children attended Bishop Montgomery, and Virginia was a 2009 Cardinal’s Award recipient). The school added $100,000 from its own funds.“I love students and they deserve all I can possibly do for them,” said principal Rosemary Libbon. “They will leave here independent and understanding they have a right place in the world with talents given by God, but the choices are theirs. And I just want them to know they are loved.”“We wanted this [retreat] center to be completely different than any other place on campus,” added Libbon who with campus minister Dorothy Morski conceived the idea. They have been working together for the last 16 years and plan to continue promoting spiritual growth within the school community.The new retreat center will be used for students’ retreats to “help enrich their spiritual lives,” as well as Kairos retreats, for student leadership development, and student body meetings. The facility will also be available for religion classes or presentations and for vocation and ecumenical speakers. The 2,500 square-foot, one-room building can seat about 150 people. It features a state-of-the-art projector with a pull-down screen from the ceiling and a “cool sound system” that connects to computers, iPods or iPads.Music can be played in the background while retreatants walk through a garden in front of the building, especially designed by Gardena’s Sunflower Farms (whose owners Ron and Wendy Akiyama are alumni parents) with Hyssop plants, red roses, rosemary flowers, crown of thorns, lilies, lavenders, and other flowers that reflect Scripture stories. It is all part of the Stations of the Cross pathway that invites students to “meditation, relaxation, prayer and study,” said assistant principal Steve Miller. The Stations were part of the old Franciscan House on top of the same hill, which was torn down years back.An open green space adds to the silent environment and leaves space for future expansion. The entire Bishop Montgomery campus and parts of Torrance can be seen from the hill, and for those wondering, noise is almost non-existent.“The new retreat center is a great addition to Bishop Montgomery High and will provide the campus with another way to enhance the school’s excellent campus ministry program,” said Msgr. Sabato “Sal” Pilato, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic high schools. “The center also provides a time and cost effective way to facilitate annual retreats for students at one of our largest high schools,” he continued. “No time will be spent on a bus and no rental fees will be paid when the retreat is conducted on the campus in a beautiful and peaceful setting. Congratulations to principal Rosemary Libbon for her leadership and vision in this wonderful project.”‘Everybody cares about everybody’Garcia, London and Tredinnick described the school as a “nice, tight-knit” institution, where “everyone knows each other and are nice to each other,” and teachers are “friendly” and “really care” about the person they are teaching to.“Everybody in that school cares about everybody,” said Wendy Akiyama, mother of three alumni, who believes the retreats really help give perspective to the students. “At this age almost all kids have issues with their parents,” she said. “And at the retreats, they learn they have blessings in life, and that they are a blessing as well.”Morski, explaining what has kept her at Bishop Montgomery throughout the years, said school leadership and faculty “are always trying to find the education endeavors that suit our children.” That includes campus enhancement.The administrative offices and the library were recently rebuilt; a computer laboratory was created; the chapel, an important school fixture for daily morning Mass, was redone; and two buildings were built from scratch (the activities center and the new retreat center). A new band program was created last year, as well as a new drama program.And this summer, to the joy of students, the principal announced that the lunch area will be completely redone with new picnic tables, new drainage and new covers.“Dorothy has developed a strong retreat program,” said Libbon of the campus minister who also manages the food bank, an on-site service started three years ago to alleviate the needs of students’ families or their neighbors. “She has really facilitated a rich spiritual life on campus,” continued Libbon. “There are many good schools, but what makes a difference is our commitment to the Gospel, both in our care for each other and our care for others through community service. The whole idea of giving is part of the fabric of the school.”During the 2011-2012 school year, the students alone donated about $20,000 to charities. For the past two years the students at Bishop Montgomery have adopted a child at an orphanage and bought gifts including clothes and shoes for each child at Christmas. At the beginning of this year the students sponsored making bunk beds for St. Jude Orphanage in Mexicali. “This has been a wonderful exchange for everyone,” said Religious Sister of Charity Margaret Farrell, spiritual ministry coordinator at Covenant House in Hollywood and donations coordinator for St. Jude Orphanage. The Concordia Club, under the guidance of teacher Laura Fabbri, “is outstanding at taking on a cause and spreading the word about the needs,” said Sister Farrell.Bishop Montgomery High School currently is offering tours to parents. For information, call (310) 540-2021 or visit{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0720/spmontgomery/{/gallery}