Norbertine Center for Spirituality

Inside 1016: Radical Hospitality, Growing Numbers Drive Significant Renovation

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 8-9)

By Katrina Marshall, Gina Sanders Larsen, and Judy Turba

Ever Ancient, Ever New

From the outside looking in, St. Norbert Abbey seems timeless: the stone exterior, slate roof, 160 acres of natural and landscaped beauty, and the shining cross atop the iconic bell towerever ancient.

Yet within the walls of the abbey considerable activity is taking place: a massive renovation to meet the growing number entering the doors of the abbey and Norbertine Center for Spirituality; an unused space transformed into a state-of-the-art communication center; and a recently launched podcastever new.

Take a look inside 1016.

Like Norbertines who moved in during the abbey construction of the 1950s (left), Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem. (right), and Fr. James Baraniak, O. Praem., survey the current renovation site.

In 1959 the abbey was built as a home for professed members of the Norbertine Order and as a seminary for educating new Norbertines. The place was built for male religious; the laity were restricted to the abbey church and refectory (dining room) on special occasions. The average age of death at that time was 59, and as Abbot Sylvester Killeen, O. Praem., once remarked, “There’s no need for elevators for men that age.”

With changes in the Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and a decline in religious vocations, the rooms in the juniorate wing (northeast wing of the abbey complex) were no longer needed. In 1979, from these rooms the Norbertine Center for Spirituality (NCS)—originally known as the Ministry and Life Center—was created, thus opening the building to the laity for retreats and religious conferences. But little thought was given to what changes would be necessary as these programs grew.

Today the NCS hosts hundreds of events per year, including large multi-day retreats and popular programming that regularly fills the gathering spaces. Further, as the building is at capacity with the number of Norbertine residents, and given the frequency of Norbertine vestitions, professions, and ordinations, it became apparent that improvements to the abbey’s physical space were needed. In keeping with the Norbertine charism of radical hospitality, easier accessibility to the abbey for people of all abilities, an elevator to the second floor for retreatants, more restrooms for women, and a large gathering space for special functions were high on the list.

After careful planning and the offer of generous support from an anonymous donor, the Norbertines broke ground on a massive renovation project in summer 2017. Visitors will see the northeast corner of the abbey has been demolished, beginning the year-long process of converting it into a new entrance for the NCS and north side of the abbey, along with a reception hall, gallery, and easy elevator accessibility. The former sun deck will be converted into a conference room with offices, restrooms, and a small kitchen. The former swimming pool area will be converted into a large conference room.

These changes to the abbey will assure better spaces for the NCS, greater security for Norbertines and staff, more privacy as required for a religious house, and better stewardship of abbey complex usage … and all of this without changing the basic footprint of the building. As the Norbertine mission remains ancient and rooted in faith and tradition, their space is renewed.

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Meet the NCS Staff

Exciting times, reorganization, at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality (NCS)

Tony Pichler

Tony Pichler

Tony Pichler


“I first served on the NCS Advisory Board. After a meeting, one day, Judy Turba and I discussed the possibility of a co-directorship for the center. I felt if this was God’s plan for me, it would all fall into place. The process was as smooth as glass, and two years later, I could not be happier. I absolutely love the variety of what we offer at the center. From book discussions to Bible studies to more involved retreats—I love it all.”

More About Tony:

He has co-authored eight books: a service manual for youth ministry leaders, three Advent journals for teens, three Lenten journals for teens, and a series of binders on discipline in a religious education curriculum. Another book, a confirmation journal for teens, is currently at the publisher. He also loves to watch and play sports, from golfing and kayaking to biking and tennis.

Contact information »

Kathie Tilot

Kathie Tilot

Kathie Tilot

Spiritual Direction and Public Relations Coordinator

“The first time I visited the NCS, I was overcome by the peacefulness and the rhythm of life here; by the classes that stretched me and helped me grow; and by the natural setting—right in the heart of town. I graduated from St. Norbert College and the Norbertine community played an important role in my life. As my ministry evolved to include retreats and spiritual direction, the NCS seemed to be a perfect fit.”

More About Kathie:

She loves watching people be empowered, whether it is sharing their sacred stories, learning a new spiritual practice, or finding rest under the shade of the trees. “Every day, as I drive up the long driveway, I thank God for the opportunity to serve here.”

Contact information »

Ann Herlache

Ann Herlache

Ann Herlache

Program Coordinator

“My biggest joy in being a part of the NCS is all the good that we aim to bring into people’s lives. The center truly strives to be an oasis for everyone who enters its doors.”

More About Ann:

Ann worked in a manufacturing plant for seven years before she began her work at the NCS. She loves to garden and see the results of her planning and cultivating, ultimately using her herbs and vegetables when she cooks for her family.

Contact information »

Paula Rieder

Paula Rieder

Paula Rieder

Hospitality Coordinator, Spiritual Director

“The first time I visited the NCS, I was overwhelmed with the kindness, consideration, and authenticity of the people. I was first introduced to the NCS while I was taking classes through the Emmaus Program at the Diocese of Green Bay. I later experienced prayer with the community and felt as if this was a beautiful place for my spirit to develop.”

More About Paula:

Paula has co-authored a book entitled Confirmed in the Joy of the Spirit published by 23rd Publications. She was the recipient of the Wisconsin Heroes Award, presented by Tonette Walker, in 2017. She was the runner-up for the Brown County Volunteer Award in 2017.

Contact information »

Life’s Journey

As seen in the Summer/Fall 2017 Norbertine Center for Spirituality program guide

Dear Friends,

BridgeRemember the Nissan® car commercials several years ago? The company’s slogan was: “Life is a journey, enjoy the ride!” Isn’t that true? Life truly is a journey with many ups and downs, twists and turns. Life here at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality is much the same way. As most of you know, we are continuing a journey that began in 1979 with the creation of the then-Ministry and Life Center. And, like it has in other eras, the center is undergoing a shift in leadership and a makeover in its physical structure.

  • Judy Turba has recently been named director of external relations and media advancement for St. Norbert Abbey, in which she is involved with strategic abbey initiatives, along with public relations, communications, and vocations. She continues her role as executive editor of Abbey Magazine. The center is grateful beyond words for the countless lives that she has touched throughout this past decade under her leadership.
  • With this transition of Judy has come other shifts in our center leadership structure. I have assumed full directorship of the center, having shared the role with Judy for the past two years as co-directors.
  • Kathie Tilot, having completed her spiritual direction formation program at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, will serve as spiritual direction coordinator, as well as public relations coordinator for the center.
  • Ann Herlache has taken on the role of program coordinator, overseeing the production of the program guide, as well as the various and numerous programs and retreats that we host here at the center.
  • Sr. Lisa Alexander, SSJ-TOSF, has been hired as the new administrative assistant. Sr. Lisa is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis (I challenge you to say that fast three times!) based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She has a background in healthcare administration work, as well as leadership with her community. We are delighted to have her on board!
  • Finally, Lori McKeough continues in her role as weekend assistant, providing hospitality for the retreatants who grace this place Friday through Sunday.

Not only does this journey include a bridge from our past to the future as described by our staff transitions, the construction of an elevator and a large meeting room to provide for our growing needs will present other “ups and downs.” We are thrilled that handicapped accessibility will be a reality in the near future! But in the meantime, please pardon the dust on this long and winding road of construction.

Life truly is a journey. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

Tony Pichler

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