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Diocese closes on location for retreat center

The 200-acre parcel north of the Veterans Expressway and about 3/4-mile west of Dale Mabry Highway is perfectly located, said Bishop Robert Lynch.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


ODESSA -- Since Bishop Robert Lynch took over the Diocese of St. Petersburg five years ago, one of his top priorities has been finding a suitable spot for a retreat center.

The search is over. The 500,000-member diocese last week closed on a 200-acre parcel north of the Veterans Expressway and about 3/4-mile west of Dale Mabry Highway, Diocesan Spokesman Bill Urbanski said.

The Diocese, which is in the midst of a $60-million fundraising drive, is delighted with the $2.2-million purchase, Urbanski said. The tract is one of the best locations possible for members from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando and Citrus Counties.

"God was with us in finding a parcel of land so conveniently located, so isolated from its neighbors, so peaceful and conducive to prayer and reflection," Lynch said in a news release.

Work should start early next year with the construction of a conference center and cafeteria, Urbanski said. Future plans call for chapel, one- and two-bedroom weekend homes and, perhaps, a living area for retired priests.

Urbanski said the final design would accentuate the two lakes on the property with walking trails and, possibly, gazebos for reflection and prayer.

Without a central retreat, the diocese has had to use various parish sites, including the Franciscan Center in Tampa, for special events.

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