Interview with Heidi Chew Osborne, Executive Director of Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center, Fremont, Ohio
Heidi Chew Osborne grew up in Warren, Pennsylvania. She obtained an undergraduate in journalism from the University of Dayton with a certificate in retreat ministry. She also has a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry/Theology from Gannon University and a certification in Church Management from Villanova University. Heidi worked as a high school theology teacher for 10 years in Madison, Wisconsin; Chardon, Ohio; and Sandusky, Ohio. She also worked as an administrative assistant for four years at St. Joseph Church, Marblehead, Ohio. Heidi also worked as an enrollment coordinator at Immaculate Conception School, Port Clinton, Ohio for four years. Since August 2019, she has worked as the Executive Director at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center. Heidi is married, has four children (ages 6-12), one dog, and two cats.
Thank you so much for joining us in this conversation. We would love to know your backstory. When you were younger, did you attend retreats with your family? Also, how did you spend your quiet time as a child?
Growing up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, I had no idea what a ‘retreat’ was until college. My family attended church every week, and I was involved with the youth program and attended diocesan, state, and national youth rallies/weekends, but I do not know if I would say they were true ‘retreats.’ But those experiences – of fellowship with other people my age who took time away to know God better – certainly shaped my spiritual and religious journey. During my undergraduate years at the University of Dayton, I was extremely involved in the Campus Ministry retreat program, both as a participant and as a retreat leader. I was also part of a certification program aimed at training lay people in spiritual leadership. My focus was retreat ministry.
When did you begin to realize the importance of getting away to spend time in solitude?
It is not something I truly became aware of until I had kids. Before I was married, I lived alone and had the opportunity every day to come home to quiet and stillness. I was a high school teacher and needed that ‘down-time’ at the end of every day. Once I became a mom, I stopped working outside the home for a couple of years, but then went back two days a week after my second child was born. I found that stepping away from my ‘norm’ (my kids & family life) for a few hours each week re-invigorated me. I needed the opportunity to figure out who I was apart from being someone’s Mom. The drive to and from work, only 20-30 minutes at each end of the day, was crucial to my mental well-being. I could plan or reflect on my day, pray, or just enjoy the quiet.
I love where I work, and I love what I do. Our Lady of the Pines is holy ground; there is a peace that pervades the sixty-three acres here and is noticeable as soon as one starts the journey up the driveway. If I need a mini retreat during my day, I head to the chapel or take a walk to the meditation deck or labyrinth. We have also implemented a new meditation garden that is a fabulous place to relax for a bit. I am so fortunate to work at one of the most peaceful places I have ever been.
What happens at a retreat at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center? Also, what are some of the offerings available at your center?
Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center hosts various retreat groups throughout the year. The pandemic had dire consequences for many retreat centers throughout the country, and a lot of them had to close their doors permanently. As a result, our business has increased. People are so hungry for a break from news of the pandemic, politics, climate-related events, etc.; they are looking for a place and an opportunity to make sense of the chaos. That is what we offer . . . a chance to leave the everyday commitments and worries at the bottom of the driveway and to seek clarity. We also have two fully furnished hermitages (single-use cabins) on the property that can be rented by individuals who wish to make a self-directed retreat.
We offer evening programming, lunch & learns, weekend overnights, and week-long silent directed retreats. SoulCollage ® is a popular draw. In 2021, we had guests from fifteen different states, including both US coasts. A new offering in 2022 that we are extremely excited about is Rooted - A Women’s Wellness Weekend: Outdoor Yoga and Reflection Retreat. We also have self-directed Day-Away retreat opportunities where people can schedule a day for themselves with use of all the amenities during business hours. These have been especially beneficial to essential workers who just need a break from the constantly changing landscape of the pandemic.
How is Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center making a meaningful impact in the lives of people in need of a quiet getaway?
Our Lady of the Pines is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, whose charism is hospitality. By extension, we welcome all who come to our holy grounds, no matter the creed, gender, race, etc. Our mission is to offer a space for all who are seeking a deeper relationship with God, self, others, and creation. One of our repeat guests told us that not only is life better at the Pines, but life is better because of the Pines. Retreatants tell us they can feel the Holy Spirit at work here. The Sisters of Mercy used this building as a novitiate and motherhouse for a good part of the 20th century; these walls hold all the prayers of the Sisters who lived here, as well as the prayers of all who have stayed here since.
We host quilters’ retreats, writers’ retreats, youth retreats, church retreats. How one experiences the Creator is unique to everyone; whatever we can do to make someone’s time here more meaningful, we try to do it.
What is your favorite quote? How do you apply this quote to your life?
I love quotes and when I hear a good one, I write it on a scrap of paper and stick it in a desk drawer, my nightstand, the glovebox of my car. But my all-time favorite – whether it is considered a quote or a prayer or a poem – is Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway. It reminds me to be the best version of myself no matter what I encounter.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the best you've got anyway.
in the final analysis it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.
How can people contact Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center or learn more?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
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