Oblate Finds What He Needed at Oblate La Parra Center

Sarita, TX

By Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI

Fr. Sal Gonzalez

With the business of the summer retreats behind me at King’s House Retreat Center and before the business of the 79th annual Novena at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, I spent a week on a personal retreat with the Oblates at Oblate La Parra Center in Sarita, Texas. I knew I had to go on a retreat, I was tired, stressed, and just needed time away. I could have gone on a vacation but that would have been stressful too. In prayer I asked the Lord where I needed to be, I heard the Lord say: “Come be with me.”

I was looking for a place where I could pray, rest, and read without many distractions. La Parra came to my mind, and I called Fr. Jim Chambers to see if there was room for me. I got a very quick yes to my request and Fr. Jim made the arrangements happen.

The hospitality from the Oblate Community was evident from the very beginning. Fr. Jim Taggart, OMI picked me up at the airport, gave me a room, and a guided tour of the house. I was delighted to reconnect at dinner with the other members of the community and I immediately felt at home.

A statue of St. Peter, from the days when this was St. Peter’s Oblate Novitiate still stands in front of the main house

I experienced two different movements during my time at La Parra. Outwardly, the community went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable, that I was eating well, and that I had everything that I needed. Fr. Roger and Fr. Bob took me to the beach so I could learn my way there and go when ever I wanted. So, outwardly I was being cared for by the Oblate Community.

Deer and other wildlife roam freely around La Parra

Inwardly, the place did its job of helping me find a quiet place to pray and read. I went in the middle of summer, and it was extremely hot, the sun was powerful and there was nowhere to go. I allowed the desert-ranch to do what it had to do to me, and I found myself just surrendering to it. I did not fight the heat, the sun, nor the time that I had, I embraced it. I found myself embracing the surroundings and recognizing how small I was compared to everything around me.

Interior of one of the chapels
La Parra’s property extends to this beach on the Gulf of Mexico

I found two wonderful chapels where I could sit comfortably and pray. The desert helped me let go of the worries that I had and by the end of the week I was able to read three books by Henri Nouwen that enriched my retreat time and helped me name what I was living in my daily life.

I owe a big thank you to La Parra for giving me the same experience it has given to many people who have come before me. A big thank you to the Oblate Community for their hospitality and facilitating the space I needed to find renewal. I look forward to returning to La Parra and I recommend La Parra to any Oblate who needs a retreat, a vacation, or just time away.

 Oblate La Parra Center welcomes groups and individuals to have their own retreats. Groups and individuals are welcome to bring and cook their own food at the centers large kitchen. La Parra has various dinning spaces for groups or individuals who would like quiet or private space to eat.

For Oblates, La Parra offers hospitality, room and board,  at no charge for individual oblates. Oblates are welcome to eat, pray and relax with the Oblate community.

A Brief History of the Oblate La Parra Center in Sarita, Texas:

Sarita Kenedy East

Oblates have been ministering at  La Parra Ranch since the mid-nineteenth century when they would ride up from the Rio Grande Valley on horseback to provide pastoral care for the many vaqueros on the 400,000 acre ranch owned by the Kenedy family. In 1962, Sarita Kenedy East, one of the last heirs of the family, generously left what had been the family home, along with a relatively small portion of the acreage, to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Over the years it served many purposes, until 2021, when the venerable property received a new mission.

Six Oblates have come together to form an Oblate community at La Parra with the mission of offering hospitality and renewal to fellow Oblates. The community will provide spiritual guidance to retreatants who call this their spiritual home, and, do prison ministry in the  surrounding area.

In addition, La Parra welcomes groups and individuals to have their own retreats. They are welcome to bring and cook their own food at the center’s large kitchen. La Parra has various dinning spaces for groups or individuals who would like quiet or private space to eat.

Some retreatants stay in these small cabins

People are free to set their schedule as the Spirit moves them.  However, all are welcome to participate in the Oblate community’s daily Celebration of the Eucharist.  Also, we are available to anyone seeking spiritual direction or the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance). We welcome groups who have a particular spirituality or history that binds them together and we are usually able to adjust to their particular needs.

The Kenedy family cemetery on the grounds

While the focus and direction of Lebh Shomea has changed, Oblate La Parra Center will continue the warm hospitality, welcoming spirit, reflective quiet, and spiritual guidance that has been the hallmark of the Oblate presence here for over 60 years.