Jesuit Retreat Center offers a chance to reflect on life’s blessings and challenges

Rick Krivanka is in the business of helping people relax and find peace in their lives. The effort begins when guests pull into Jesuit Retreat Center, located on State Road, south of Interstate 480 in Parma.

“You get off 480 and you drive a mile south and all of a sudden you’re driving through the woods,” says Krivanka, executive director at the nonprofit facility. “It forces you to slow down. If you don’t slow down, you’ll crash into a ravine. I use that as a metaphor for what we do here. It’s a place where people literally need to slow down in order to reflect more deeply on their lives, where they have been and where they are going.”

A spiritual journey

JRC has a historic legacy beginning in 1898 as the first and longest continuing place in the United States providing retreats for the laity, meaning people who are not ordained. Krivanka previously served as director of the Pastoral Planning Office for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for over 32 years. His arrival at JRC was a perfect next step in his spiritual journey to help people find meaning in their lives.

“People wonder, ‘Why do I keep crashing?’” Krivanka says. “It’s because you don’t slow down. We live our lives forward, but we understand our lives backward. There are some things we’ll never understand, never see the connection to, never appreciate, never see the good in unless we stop and reflect.”

JRC was formerly known as Jesuit Retreat House and made the change to Jesuit Retreat Center to better capture its mission and ministry.

“There is no person in the world who doesn’t need peace in their life,” he says.

Open to all people

One thing Krivanka and his team want to make clear to people, however, is that JRC is not just for people who are deeply religious.

“We do have programs that reflect Jesuit spirituality and have a particular Catholic or Christian foundation,” he says. “But we also serve people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. We have a mix of other things that would be much more comfortable for people of other beliefs. It’s a proportionate mix.”

The ability to reflect on one’s life is non-denominational, Krivanka says.

“There’s no book you can pick up that involves positive psychology and authentic happiness that does not have as a most recommended practice to take time to be grateful,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what your belief system is.”

The search for peace

Jesuit Retreat Center serves more than 7,000 people each year, including more than 1,000 youth and young adults. Services are open to people of all faiths, generations and backgrounds. Programs and retreats range from a morning or evening to a full week. Silent retreats for deeper reflection can be anywhere from eight to 30 days.