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Bidding a Fond Farewell to Presentation Center

By Rachel Foote, Archivist

On July 9, 2017 Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco, their Associates, former sisters, friends, and family gathered in Los Gatos, California to bid a fond farewell to and celebrate the legacy of Presentation Center. As the crowds assembled first for the mass and later for the tour and reception, memories rushed in and stories flowed out as guests caught up with each other and introduced new friends and family to the beloved ministry that has played an integral role in their lives over the past 60 years. As they made their way from the parking areas to the main Pueblo Building, which had originally been the Novitiate and now served as the main hub for the conference and retreat center, accounts of the Centerís well-known history filled the walkways.

The accounts began with the purchase of the property from the renowned Montezuma Mountain School for Boys in 1956 and the many months of renovations required to transform it into the novitiate and retreat/vacation destination for professed sisters that the congregation had so badly needed. They continued through the Open Houses, which drew more than ten thousand curious visitors, and the dedication officiated by the Most Reverend Hugh A. Donohoe, V.G. in 1957. Then they recounted the eventual return of the novitiate to San Francisco following the changes wrought by Vatican II and the resulting shift in the ministryís focus to a spiritual retreat and conference center open to anyone seeking a quiet place to learn and grow in the early 1970s. The accounts then moved to the founding and success of the Montezuma Ecology Center which strove to educate children and adults alike about the local flora and fauna and their personal responsibility toward conservation throughout the 1970s and 1980s. They concluded with the construction of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified Welcome Center in 2005.

As guests entered the Pueblo Building, the rote historical accounts shifted into more colorful stories when familiar rooms, objects and images triggered more personal memories. The well-used books in the library brought back remembrances of novitiate life including the requisite meal-time readings from The Roman Martyrology from which each novice had the dubious pleasure of being both reader and listener. Old photographs in the hallways produced stories of much loved retreats and vacations enriched by the Centerís many amenities which included: a scenic lake complete with ducks to feed; a winding nature trail and labyrinth ready-made for contemplation and adorned with handcrafted Stations of the Cross, lovingly purchased and donated by the Good Council Auxiliary from Presentation High School, San Francisco; a swimming pool perfect for pleasurably whiling away a sunny afternoon and jeep rides which allowed the sisters and other visitors to explore the full two hundred and seventy two acre property in an exciting, albeit dusty, fashion that concluded with breathtaking views of Monterey Bay.

The guest rooms (formerly the novitiate cells) evoked images of hurried wedding dress and habit fittings, chores both arduous and joyous, and the right and wrong ways to ring the bells. The chapel brought whispers of reception ceremonies, days spent in silence and prayer, special Masses, spiritual retreats and annual meetings, past jubilees, and even the occasional wedding or two. Finally, the hosted reception evoked memories of other shared meals and filled the Center for one last time with the spirit of hospitality and community that has always defined this ministry. Although Presentation Center is now closed and may soon be welcoming new owners, it is clear that it will always be an important part of the history and legacy of the Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco, and will forever hold fond memories and cherished stories for all who were fortunate enough to experience it.

For the complete Presentation Roots article log onto http://www.presentationsisterssf.org/archives.htm
Then click on Summer 2017.
 

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