Loading Events

« All Events

FIRST Artists & Art Lovers Retreat at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park

June 21 @ 1:30 pm - June 23 @ 2:00 pm

Featuring: Esteemed Composer Frank La Rocca, Philathropist Roberta Ahmanson, Poet Dana Gioia, and more!

First Annual Retreat for Artists and Art-Lovers IN PERSON at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park CA

Dear friends of Archbishop Cordileone and the Benedict XVI Institute:

You may recall our lovely periodic Zoom Retreats for Artists and Art-Lovers, which we launched during Covid as a place where Catholic creatives can gather together to pray, to reflect on their high calling, to find fellowship with other Catholic artists, and to deepen our theological understanding of what art, and especially sacred art, is.

“When are we going to do this in the real world?” so many of you asked.

And now we have the good news: June 21-23 for the first time ever, we will gather at the beautiful, historic, and holy St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park to share the joys and lessen the burden of creating beauty in this world as Catholic artists and art-lovers. If you came to Sacra Liturgia you will remember the beautiful medieval courtyards and the gorgeous chapel, renovated by noted architect Salvatore Caruso (who will be there to share his wisdom).

Attendance will be limited to 50 people in order to facilitate deeper bonds with one another. The $399 cost will include Dana Gioia’s new book “Christianity and Poetry” and six meals. Local hotels and Airbnb are plentiful and relatively inexpensive in Menlo Park. Parking is ample at St. Patrick’s Seminary and Uber and Lyft rides are plentiful. An artists’ and clergy discount is available for $199, if you cannot afford the full price. (If you can afford it, please consider registering at the full price even if an artist or clergy). A limited number of scholarships will be available upon request; if God has blessed you with the means, consider an additional donation to cover the costs for your fellow artists in need and for clergy.

Here is the experience we have planned for you.

Archbishop Cordileone will join us to give a talk and to break bread Friday night and lead us in prayer for Compline.

Frank La Rocca, Billboard chart topping composer of the Mass of the Americas and Requiem for the Forgotten, leads a discussion with the Archbishop about the new Martyrs of Communism Project and gives a speech contrasting composing secular music and sacred music.

Dana Gioia will lead a reading from his new monograph “Christianity and Poetry” (Wiseblood Books, March 2024) followed by a discussion with poet Laura Hogan. Participants will be invited to a salon-style discussion of whether and why poetry is essential for Christians because God Himself speaks in poetry and only poetry can convey adequately the sacred mysteries of faith.

Father Dwight Longenecker will speak about the Hero’s Quest and its influence on popular fiction and film with examples from his book, The Way of the Wilderness Warrior. Bonus: we will read together (in a world premiere) from Fr. Longenecker’s new play Arsenic and Church Lace: A (Not Very) Divine Comedy a hilarious sendoff of progressive Catholic ideology. He will be available for confessions as well.

Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka will share her deep knowledge of the Liturgy of the Hours and lead us with the Archbishop’s Schola, to chant Compline together.

Noted Bay-area architect Salvatore Caruso will share on “What the Architect Needs from the Artist: Reclaiming the Beautiful Church and Chapel”.

Roberta Ahmanson leads a panel discussion on becoming a patron of the Arts and Berni Neal discusses “Classical Liberal Education and the Catholic Artist.”

Dr. Anthony Lilles, professor at St Patrick’s Seminary, will speak to us about St. Hildegaard Von Bingen, Doctor of Beauty (Pope Benedict XVI named her Doctor of the Church).

This is a salon, not a conference with a speaker and audience. You will be invited to participate equally as Catholic artists. Come prepared to share your work (bring samples) and your deepest longings for what would serve your calling. Patrons of the arts come and hear from the artists and share what you need to help develop a deeper, richer Catholic culture of the arts.

NOTE ON ACCOMMODATIONS: There are no hotels within a short walk of the Seminary. These three hotels are reasonably priced (as of 4/16 well under $200 a night) and within 2 miles of the Seminary. Ubers are plentiful and there is ample parking at the Seminary. The closest airport is SFO but Oakland is also doable.

Hotel Lucent

Menlo Park Inn

Park James

Schedule of Events

Friday June 21

Ongoing: Exhibit of Artists Work/Books in the St. Patrick Seminary Hall.

10:30 am-12 pm: Registration

Coffee and Snacks in the courtyard. Signups for Confessions.

12:00 PM to 1:45 pm: Chapel Opening Prayer led by Father Dwight Longenecker

Group Reading: Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Artists.

Artists introduce themselves and react to Pope Benedict’s letter.
Reflection question: What does it mean to be a Catholic artists? What is the relationship between imagination and reason (truth)? What are your challenges and opportunities as a Catholic artist?

1:45 pm-2:15 pm: Box Lunch in the courtyard

2:30 pm-4 pm: Artist and Saint: Hildegard Von Bingen, Doctor of Beauty (Dr. Anthony Lilles)

Lead Discussant: Robert Royal

Roundtable discussion among conference participants.
Reflection question: Beauty and virtue: How are they connected? How do they lead us astray? The Artist’s Experience. Some great Catholic artists are saints, like St. Hildegard and Fra Angelico. Other appear to have been good men and women (Flannery O’ Connor and Michelangelo). But many great Catholic artists led deeply sinful lives. Did sorrow at their sins serve their calling? Did they simply compartmentalize their personal defects to use their craft for the glory of God? Is there in your personal experience a relationship between virtue and artistic excellence? How? Why?

4-5 pm: Afternoon Tea Break in the Courtyard


5 pm-6:30 pm: Archbishop Cordileone “Honoring God, Remembering Our Heroes, and Preserving the Soul of Our Culture”: The Requiem for the Forgotten and the Martyrs of Communism Project (Refectory Lounge)

Lead Discussant: Frank La Rocca

Roundtable Discussion

6:30 pm: Dinner at the Refectory

7:15 pm: Dinner talk Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka “The Liturgy of the Hours: Compline”

7:45 pm: Compline, Archbishop Cordileone celebrant, featuring the Archbishop’s Schola.
Sing and Pray together the Church’s ancient prayers. St. Patrick Seminary Chapel.

8:30 pm-10:30 pm: Cognac and Cigars under the stars with Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading: Poets encouraged to come and read a sample of their work.

11:00 pm: Holy Hour, Church of the Nativity (Optional)

Saturday June 22

7:00 am-8:00 am Continental Breakfast

8:30 am-9:30 am: Salvatore Caruso “What the Architect Needs from the Artist: Reclaiming the Beautiful Church and Chapel.” St. Patrick’s Seminary Chapel

Lead Discussant TBA
Painter, sculptors, vestment makers, stained glass artists, come prepared to discuss your work with churches and chapels with the Bay Area’s leading Catholic architect.

9:30 am-10:45 am: “Composing for the Altar of God versus the Concert Stage: the Composer’s Experience” Frank La Rocca

Lead Discussant: Dana Gioia – Writing Poetry for Music: Sacred and Secular

11 am: Mass, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, celebrant featuring sacred music by the Archbishop’s Schola.

12:00 pm-1:00 pm: Box lunch, featuring a talk by Fr. Dwight Longenecker: “The Hero’s Quest and the Christian Artist’s.” Santa Maria Hall.

1:15 pm-2:30 pm On Becoming a Patron of the Arts: Challenges and Opportunities

Lead discussant: Roberta Ahmanson
Other Participants: Frank Hanna, Moira Conzelman, Lynette and Scott Turicci
Reflection questions: Paying attention to artists is necessary to becoming a creative minority culture in an increasingly ugly secular world. A true Catholic renaissance in the arts is a real possibility. Given our numbers in the educated class alone, America today has both far more talent and far more wealth than say Florence in its golden age of artistic creation. What are the barriers to connecting artists, patron and audiences? What advice can we offer other patrons and artists about making this connection?

2:30 pm–3:00 pm: Coffee Break in the Courtyard.

3:00 pm-5:00 pm: Poetry as the Truest Medium for the Sacred: A Roundtable Discussion led by Dana Gioia

Lead Discussant: Peggy Ellsberg
Please prepare by reading the copy of “Christianity and Poetry” we have gifted you. Participants will be invited to a salon-style discussion of whether and why poetry is essential for Christians. Questions for reflection: Can only poetry can convey adequately the sacred mysteries of faith and if so why? Do the same consideration apply for music and the liturgy? What does this tell us about the relationship between imagination and truth?

Read together aloud excerpts: “Christianity and Poetry”
Discussants, Poet Laura Hogan, Father Dwight Longenecker

5 pm-6:00 pm: Book Signing in the Courtyard with wine, cheese and pizza

6 pm-7:00 pm “Classical Liberal Education and the Catholic Artist”

Discussants: Berni Neal and others tba.

Reflection questions: how can Classically Liberal Catholic schools help renew Catholic culture in general and our artistic output in particular: What kind of education creates Catholics capable of being salt and light in other words a creative minority in a hostile public culture?

7:15 pm-9:30 pm: Play Reading Aconite and Church Lace, Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Ruth Pe Palileo will lead us in a staged reading of the world premiere of Fr. Longenecker’s new comedy about Bad Catholics.

9:30 pm: Compline in the Chapel

10:00 pm: Holy Hour at Church of the Nativity (optional)

Sunday June 23

8:00 am: Mass in St. Patrick’s Seminary chapel, Fr. Dwight Longenecker Celebrant featuring the Archbishop’s Schola.

9:00 am-11:00 am: Continental Breakfast Working Group: On Creating a Catholic Renaissance: Practical Next Steps?

Lead discussant: Maggie Gallagher: “What I learned Losing Gay Marriage Wars About Creating Culture”

Lunch to follow in the Courtyard for those who wish to stay.

Brief Bios of Some Featured Speakers

Roberta Green Ahmanson is a writer and philanthropist whose public activities are focused on deepening awareness and understanding of the role of religion in public life, the importance of knowing history to understand the present, and the vital role the arts play in shaping human experience.

Since 1986, Ahmanson has worked with her husband, Howard, in shaping the granting priorities of his private philanthropy, Fieldstead and Company. In that time, the Ahmansons have sponsored a number of art exhibitions atmuseums in the U.K. and the United States, including several at their gallery in Irvine, California. A frequent lecturer, Ahmanson is also the co-author of Islam at the Crossroads, 2002, and a contributor and co-editor of Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion. Ahmanson worked as a sixth grade teacher in Toronto, Canada, then as a religion reporter and editor for the San Bernardino Sun and the Orange County Register. Ahmanson was born in 1949, grew up in Iowa, and was educated in Michigan and Missouri.

Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed poet and writer. His latest book “Christianity and Poetry” makes the case that “The Incarnation deserves an ode not an email.” God spoke to us in the Bible in poetry; The liturgy is meant to speak to us of deep mysteries and spiritual truths that prose words alone cannot convey. Two previous essays “Can Poetry Matter?” and launched new literary movements and propelled Dana Gioia from poet and scholar to major public intellectual. He has used his high profile as an artist and a thinker to help renew Catholics as an artistic and cultural force. His latest achievement is to write the libretto for Sir James MacMillan’s artistically acclaimed Fiat Lux.

Former California Poet Laureate and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia was born in Los Angeles of Italian and Mexican descent. The first person in his family to attend college, he received a B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford and an M.A. from Harvard in Comparative Literature. For fifteen years he worked as a businessman before quitting at forty-one to become a full-time writer.

Under Gioia’s leadership, the NEA started several new initiatives, which are still active today, including Shakespeare in American Communities, to bring theatrical productions to schools nationwide; Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation competition for high school students; NEA Big Read, a community reading program; and Operation Homecoming, a writing workshop for active-duty military (which later morphed into the Creative Forces initiative). In addition, the Shakespeare in American Communities initiative funded a tour of military bases, and the Great American Voices initiative brought opera and musical theater performances there as well.

Gioia has published five books of poetry and three volumes of literary criticism as well as opera libretti, song cycles, translations, and over two dozen literary anthologies. Gioia’s poetry has been anthologized in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, The Oxford Book of American Poetry, and several other anthologies. His poetry has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Chinese, and Arabic. Gioia published translations of poets such as Eugenio Montale and a new translation of “The Madness of Hercules” by Seneca, re-introducing the great philosopher as a great playwright to the modern world.

Laura Reece Hogan is the author of Butterfly Nebula (Backwaters, University of Nebraska Press, 2023), winner of the Backwaters Prize in Poetry and the Gold Medal in Poetry in the 2024 Illumination Book Awards; Litany of Flights (Paraclete Press, 2020), winner of the Paraclete Poetry Prize; the chapbook O Garden-Dweller (Finishing Line Press), and the nonfiction spiritual theology book I Live, No Longer I (Wipf & Stock). Her poems have appeared in America Magazine, Scientific American, The Christian Century, U.S. Catholic, Sugar House Review, Verse Daily and elsewhere.

Her poetry has received ecstatic reviews for her poetry. Reviewing Butterfly Nebula in The Catholic Herald, Nick Ripatrazone said: “Hogan’s synthesis of the comic and contemplative…is uniquely her own, and Butterfly Nebula is the full arrival of a notable voice in Catholic poetry.” Sally Thomas, author of Motherland said, “Litany of Flights turns its gaze to the natural world and to the heightened sacramental reality with which, as Hopkins puts it, all the created order is charged. At every turn, these mysteries are grounded in the sensory details of the world we apprehend, tree, sun, and star, squirrel and deer, fruit and flower, hawk and dove.”

Dr. Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He holds both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at www.beginningtopray.com, www.spirtualdirection.com, and podcasts at www.discerninghearts.com.

His books include: Fire from Above: Christian Contemplation and Mystical Wisdom, Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia (2016);30 Days with St. Therese of Lisieux: Living the Mystery of Merciful Love, co-authored with Daniel Burke, Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road (2016); 30 Days with St. Teresa of Avila, co-authored with Daniel Burke, Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road (2015);Hidden Mountain Secret Garden: a theological contemplation on prayer, Omaha, NE: Discerning Hearts (2012, Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat 2013)

He has given talks on St. Hildegard von Bingen for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Benedict XVI Institute.

Father Dwight Longenecker

Father Longenecker will speak to us of wisdom from his book, The Way of the Wilderness Warrior, drawing on the insights of the Hero’s Quest.

Brought up as an Evangelical, Dwight Longenecker graduated from fundamentalist Bob Jones University. While there he became an Anglican and after graduation went to Oxford to train as an Anglican priest. After serving for ten years as an priest in the Church of England, he converted to the Catholic faith with his wife and family. Eventually he returned to the United States to be ordained as a Catholic priest under the special provision from Rome for married former Anglican clergy. Fr Longenecker has written over twenty books and booklets on Catholic spirituality, apologetics and prayer. He has authored hundreds of articles which have been published in newspapers, magazines, websites and journals in the USA and the UK. His popular blog is called Standing on My Head. He is a popular broadcaster, conference speaker and mission speaker. Married with four children, he now lives in Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church.

Among his other prolific projects he is the author of Letters on Liturgy and written an essay on “The Forgotten Language of Liturgy”for CatholicArtsToday.com, and is working on several new contributions to Benedict XVI Institute’s newly launched Christmas/Advent Carols Project. This Retreat will serve as a launchpad for his long-awaited debut as a playwright where he will greatly appreciate audience feedback from fellow artists for this first reading of his new play “Aconite and Church Lace”.

Peggy Ellsberg is a poet and scholar who teaches English at Barnard College. She is the author of Created to Praise: The Language of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford University Press, 1987) and editor of The Gospel in Gerard Manley Hopkins: Selections from His Poems, Letters, Journals, and Spiritual Writings (Plough, 2017).

Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka is an Associate Professor and the Director of Sacred Music at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, where she holds the William P. Mahrt Chair in Sacred Music and serves as the founding Director of the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. She has co-edited Mystic Modern: The Music, Thought, and Legacy of Charles Tournemire, published by the Church Music Association of America (CMAA).

She serves on the board of the CMAA, is the managing editor of the CMAA’s journal Sacred Music, and is a regular member of the faculty for the CMAA’s annual Sacred Music Colloquium. She was a co-organizer of the Sacra Liturgia conferences in New York (2015) and San Francisco (2022). Donelson-Nowicka serves as a Consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship.

An innovative and pioneering educator, Donelson-Nowicka has developed an extensive program of musical formation for the seminarians at St. Patrick’s Seminary. Having founded the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music at St. Patrick’s Seminary in 2022, Donelson-Nowicka serves on the faculty, teaching summer graduate-level courses. Each semester she presents workshops open to the public on helpful topics in sacred music, as well as continuing education seminars for current graduate students in the CISM.

Donelson-Nowicka’s experience is grounded in her daily work as the Director of Sacred Music and organist at St. Patrick’s Seminary. As a choral conductor, Donelson-Nowicka has directed seminary, collegiate, professional, semi-professional, amateur, monastic, and children’s choirs.

Dr. Donelson-Nowicka hosts a podcast entitled “Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast,” now entering its sixth season.

About our Retreats for Artists and Art Lovers in the past Via Zoom

Here’s a few videos of our Zoom version of these Retreats for Artists and Art-Lovers so you can get the feel of the experience we are seeking to create for artists and art-lovers:

Michaelangelo’s Three Pietas: A Lenten Retreat for Artists and Art Lovers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwlKQSxA39g

The Mystery of the Liturgy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-rGW9IgTk4

Dr. Anthony Lilles, Frank La Rocca and more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF0ixY4bHjY&t=8s


St. Patrick’s Seminary & University
320 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025 United States