Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center is a monastery and retreat house belonging the Congregation of the Passion (C.P.) The Congregation of the Passion, or Passionists, are a religious congregation of the Catholic Church founded by St Paul of the Cross in 1725. The mission of the Passionists is to preserve and make present the message that Jesus loves us, and his passion, death, and resurrection are the ultimate sign of that love. The Passionists do this by preaching in the community and inviting members of the community to make a retreat at their monasteries and retreat homes.
A Monastery and Retreat Center in North Palm Beach, Florida.
Preserving the Message that Jesus Loves All.
Rev. Melvin A. Shorter, C.P., Associate Director
Rev. Melvin A. Shorter C.P. is the first of two children of the late Edith and Melvin Shorter. He was educated in the public school system of Baltimore Maryland, graduating from Baltimore City College. He attended Coppin State College where he majored in Secondary Education. Upon graduation, he was employed by the Social Security Administration in Baltimore as a Career Development Specialist and later as a Personnel Relations specialist. He worked for the Administration until 1981 when he entered the Passonist Novitiate in Pittsburgh, PA.
In 1982 he took first vows as a Passonist and entered Catholic Theological Union earning a Masters of divinity with an emphasis on Word and Worship. Upon graduation, he was ordained in New York. His first ministry, Pittsburgh, PA, was Itinerate Preaching in Western PA.
After one year in Pittsburgh, he was asked to join four other Passonist to establish a Passonist presence in Greenville, N.C. He ministered in St. Gabriel’s parish. Also, while in North Carolina he continued doing Itinerate Preaching. In 1989, He joined the parish staff of St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Atlanta, GA and became pastor in 1990.
While in Atlanta, Fr. Melvin was elected to the Provincial Council as Consultor. He ministered in both ministries until 2004 at which time he was asked to join two other Passonist in a experimental project in Harlem, New York. In 2008, he joined the Passonist media ministry while continuing with Itinerate Preaching until 2010 when he was asked to join the Parish Staff at St. Joseph Parish in Paris France. St. Joseph’s parish is the only all English-speaking parish in all of France. The parish ministers to over forty different nations.
While in Paris, Fr. Melvin served on a commission that remembered the 9/11 tragedies on the commemoration of its tenth anniversary. He also served on a commission that celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the use of English in worship services in France. He also ministered with an ecumenical commission in Paris. This group met regularly in support of the many faiths that celebrated worship in English.
He served as one of several chefs who weekly provided a three-course, sit down, served lunch for the hungry. While in the Parish, he conducted Bible Study Groups, prepared families for Baptism and was chaplain to a group of Missionary Sisters of Charity.
Fr. Melvin is now assigned to Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach where he will continue his Itinerate Preaching and assisting on the Retreats as needed. He enjoys travelling, reading, films, theater and cooking.
Sandi Lanowich, Retreat Secretary
Sandi has served as retreat secretary since Easter of 2021. She, her husband, and two young daughters are parishioners of St. Patrick Church.
She joins us after leaving fulltime hospitality industry, boutique hotels in particular, to raise her family in the Catholic faith. She brings to OLOF over 13 years of hospitality experience.
While new to the retreat center she is familiar with our retreats as chaperone and retreatant for several youth and young adult events with St. Patrick.
She looks forward to working with all the retreatants and visitors for the upcoming retreat season.
Brother Augustine Paul Lowe, C.P. “ Brother Gus”
The third time is a charm! Being back at Our Lady of Florida for the third time brings back many memories of the early 70’s and late 80’s of the Retreat Center in North Palm Beach when I was previously assigned here. First of all, the area has grown so much since I was last assigned here and you can’t stop progress. Secondly, the grounds and buildings have never looked more beautiful than they do now.
The programs that are offered to people are varied with present day themes. The wonderful staff of the Passionists and lay staff are visual signs of the Church and that it is fully alive. I am very proud of the senior fathers in how they give and serve the retreatants for each of the programs. Being a Passionist is to pray, serve and help those in need. It is a joy to be here again.
I pray that if I met you when I was previously assigned here and you are still making retreats that you make an effort to find me and say hello when you are here.
Even the geographical and cultural roots of Our Lady of Florida are unusual. The Spanish conquistadors traveled a road in this area as they headed north and west. The Celestial Railway that connected Lake Worth with Lake Loxahatchee, Jupiter terminated only 100 feet away.
At the beginnings of Our Lady of Florida in 1961-62, an attempt was made to discover if the Spanish explorer, Ferdinand DeSoto had passed along this way en route to what is now North Carolina. History tells us that he piously named some of his campsites after various titles in the Litany of Our Lady. The quest to find out if he had named a camp in this area was not successful. Eventually, the foundation was named Our Lady of Florida and its titular feast became the Immaculate Heart of Mary (at that time on August 22).
The land was a section of a large piece of territory (including what is now North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and parts of Lake Park) owned by Sir Harry Oakes, the Canadian gold entrepreneur. Later it was purchased from Oakes’ widow by the late John D. McArthur, the local insurance businessman, who developed much of the area. He told his people in 1959 to sell the property to the Passionists. The Passionists cleared the property, adding seven more acres by dredging, and shortly after put up the sea wall.
Dedicated in June, 1962 as a Passionist Monastery and Retreat House, Our Lady of Florida was closed in 1989 as the Passionists tried to cope with dwindling personnel and funds. On February 23, 1992 in cooperation with the Diocese of Palm Beach, Our Lady of Florida re-opened. It marked the beginning of a new phase of the then 30-year-old foundation: the first cooperative venture between the Passionists and a diocese in retreat house ministry. Under this new arrangement, the Passionists still own the property and will operate it as a Spiritual Center in collaboration with the Diocese of Palm Beach.
At one time, Passionist Retreat Houses in the U.S. served over 50,000 retreatants each year. Like the other Passionist Spiritual Centers in the country, Our Lady of Florida has had a great variety of spiritual exercises in its 50 plus years of service.
There are private retreats and group retreats for men and women of various parishes, for married couples and different singles groups, for Third Orders and Secular Institutes, for Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and other ecumenical groups, for Brothers and Sisters of many religious orders, for Marriage Encounters and Cursillos, as well as a series of Institutes, specialized programs, conferences, seminars, meetings and days of prayer.
Over the years, Our Lady of Florida has hosted a large number of clergy retreats, while being at the same time a favorite renewal and refreshment spot for many priests on private retreat. At various times the following dioceses have held spiritual exercises for their clergy at Our Lady of Florida: Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg/Tampa, etc. The first Protestant clergy retreat in the southeast U.S. was held here and it has become a favorite of the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplains. It is also a frequent oasis of spiritual renewal for many American bishops.
Between 2004 and 2012 the Passionist Order has re-invested the proceeds of the sale of a small parcel of their property which was sold in 2004. To date, the Passionists have reinvested over $12 million of those proceeds to complete the re-construction of the facilities. This will insure that Our Lady of Florida will continue its presence in serving the community for another fifty years!!