A day in the life at Mt. Claret Retreat Center


Courtesy of Mt Claret Retreat Center

Every day Tom McGuire wakes up in one of the most beautiful places in Arizona. He is greeted by birdsong, lizards scurrying through the gardens and the unique ambiance of the desert. Fueled by his three cups of coffee a day, he walks a few yards to the Mt. Claret business offices.

As the on-site administrator for Mt. Claret Retreat Center, a sacred site at the base of Camelback Mountain, McGuire oversees everything from lost room keys in the middle of the night to fundraising and building the new chapel.

From 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., the natural swirl of the garden is replaced by the sounds of engines and laughter from nearly 80 high school students on campus. McGuire can manage up to 150 people at a time. But he effortlessly solves problems and answers questions – an experience he likens to that of a concierge.

He manages the logistics until the retreat begins and the ministries take over, then he respectfully fades into the background.

He then turns his attention to a project envisioned more than a decade ago and fueled by the passion of the community. A newly conceived chapel that blends more seamlessly with the territorial architecture of the original buildings. Donations have made the $1.5 million project a reality, but as with any 52-year-old building, there have been surprises that have complicated the timeline. Despite the stream of contractors, architects, project managers and experts working on the project, the completion date is pushed back slightly to mid-summer this year.

Meanwhile, McGuire is shifting his focus to the interior space, where 13 years ago he created a wish list that included custom pews to accommodate the growing crowds for Sunday mass. Between walking the grounds and interacting with the project manager, he continues to develop ideas for naming options within the chapel; from liturgical accessories to sacred artworks, candlesticks and the monstrance used for worship.

McGuire masterfully juggles overseeing the construction work while assisting with the day-to-day activities of Mt. Claret. As the sun sets in the west, he finds his way back home, where he may be able to work a few more hours or catch up with family and friends over a fish sandwich.

Transporters and buses will soon replace the belt and construction trucks again. The adults and children will greet McGuire ready to immerse themselves in the serenity of the chapel grounds and the upgraded Mt Claret will add even more life to the historic land on which it rests.

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