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Our History

The call to create Branches came from God.  He planted the inspiration through this stewardship prayer:

Stewardship: A Faith Journey

Dear Lord
I pray that You give me the wisdom to guide me on this faith journey of stewardship.
Help me to understand that everything I have is a gift from You.
Open up my heart and my mind so that I may use these marvelous gifts to give back to You here on earth.
I pray Lord that You welcome me into Your kingdom at the end of my life and that You are pleased with what I have done with all Your gifts.

As I would frequently paddle my kayak to a private cove on Seneca Lake, this small seed of inspiration grew and grew over several years.  I spent much time in my kayak, in contemplative prayer, pondering this Stewardship prayer.  During this time, God clarified that our beautiful piece of waterfront property was a gift from Him.  This property belongs to Him and we are only stewards of it for a short period of time.  We have been given this gift for the purpose of bringing others closer to Him.

Our purpose of living on earth is to share God’s love with others. This understanding became anchored in my heart after reading “Pope John Paul II and The New Evangelization”.  By now the desire to create Branches was deeply rooted, but how can this ministry become a reality?   Well God knew I was ready to act on His call, so He gave me a much needed a push.


On Divine Mercy Sunday, 2010, the weather was unseasonably warm and the lake was as smooth as glass.  I was most excited to be able to go for a paddle so early in the season.  I carried my kayak to the same shoreline location that I typically launch at.  As usual before I launch, I scan the area looking for interesting shells and driftwood. Nothing of interest to be had, so I hopped in my kayak and began my happy travel.  As I paddled to my favorite cove I began to share with God my concerns about building the retreat center.  For almost every concern, the phrase “Be not afraid.” echoed in my mind.  While paddling in my return to my usual entry and exit location, I found myself singing the hymn, “Be not afraid. I go before you always…”  I was about 10' off shore and my breath was taken away at what I saw. There leaning against the shoreline rocks was a worn piece of lattice in the shape of a cross.  I was in awe!  With excitement, I got my kayak out of the water, then I ran to get my husband and my camera.  I told my husband that I did not see the cross when launching my kayak and there it was upon my return.  He was astonished too.

shore cross.JPG

This is the photo I took before I picked-up the cross.  After picking-up the cross, Jim and I went for a walk.  We both felt the cross was a sign and decided to start the ministry.

We looked to our pastor, Fr. Eugene Ulrich, for direction.  He suggested that we speak to Sr. Donna Marie Paolini, foundress of Center of Solitude; Fr. Dan Riley, founder of Mount Irenaeus; and Ms. Susan Fowler foundress of Our Lady of Grace Guest House. 


These individuals had similar callings and Fr. Ulrich felt we could learn from them.  He was right.  Sr. Donna Marie, Fr. Dan and Sue were most generous with their time as they shared with us their encouragement and guidance.  Their mentorship will always be greatly appreciated.

In 2011, we held our first retreat. created our Board of Directors, wrote our by-laws, and incorporated, which established  Branches Christian Rest and Renewal Centers, Inc.   We developed our first website in 2012.   In 2013, Branches Christian Rest and Renewal Centers, Inc. received the IRS 501c3 non-profit status.  Branches was accepted into the Official Catholic Directory in 2022.

Today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we continue to conduct retreats and progress forward with our goals.  Please look at our Goals and Gifts tab.  We are truly grateful for all who support Branches and we welcome individuals who want to learn more and join our joyful journey of stewardship.  Truly, God continues to provide.  

God wants to you to be closer to Him.  He encourages you to pray.  Whether you frequent our Prayer tab and/or join us on Seneca Lake for a restful retreat, it is most important to take time to give thanks and glory to the One who gives us everything.

“Open up my heart and mind that I may use my gifts to give back to You here on earth.”  Amen.


With a happy heart,
Donna Wieand, Foundress and President

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