Retreat Center

History of the Creighton University Retreat Center

The history of CURC stands on two legs; that of the O'Donnell Center in North Omaha and that of the Wakonda House of Prayer in Griswold, IA.  Whereas the citizens of Griswold are familiar with Camp Wakonda, the folks at Creighton know of the O'Donnell Center.  CURC continues the spiritual tradition, forged at the O'Donnell Center, in the more spacious facilities in the woods at Wakonda.
Father Lavern Wingert, (1927-1999), a parish priest of the Des Moines Diocese, purchased Camp Wakonda in 1978 from the Boy Scouts to establish what he envisioned as a spiritual hospital for those who needed inner healing.  Although the property came with the original scout lodge (built in 1948), and the caretakers residence, Fr. Wingert built the log-sided buildings over a period of 10 years, to house his ever expanding program.  Fr. Wingert rented these facilities to various groups to support the place financially.  In 1994, Fr. Wingert decided the center was too large for him to handle in his declining years, and was interested in having Creighton University purchase the property, assured that Creighton would continue to operate it as a retreat center.  Fr. Wingert retained 57 acres for himself, on the far western quarter of the property, selling to Creighton the remaining 154 acres, and buildings. (Fr. Wingert's land is now owned in private hands.)

Creighton University modernized and remodeled most of the buildings to suit our needs.  The center now can sleep 103 people comfortably in beds, and the lodge can accommodate an additional 70 people in sleeping bags.  Our dining room and kitchen staff offer delicious meals to our guests, and as many can attest, the food here is a main reason groups want to come back year after year.  The wooded acres, natures trails, and prayer gardens offer our guests a quiet environment in which to pray, surrounded by the beauty of God's creation.  Few places so close to Omaha or Des Moines are as beautiful, peaceful, and accommodating as CURC.

For those interested in reading more history you may want to refer to a couple acticles: the first on the founding of the O'Donnell Center in North Omaha, and the second on the establishment of Camp Wakonda in Griswold by the Boy Scouts of America.  We invite anyone who would have photos of the O'Donnell Center and/or of the old Camp Wakonda to share them to complement this historical web page and would appreciate alerting us to the existence of any photos that may be use.  Contact the Director of CURC