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Tampa's Quiet Space to Search Out Your Center

By David Boegaard

The world has become increasingly hectic, scattered, and ungrounded. We seek satisfaction, and find none. We seek rest, but our minds continue to race as we lay in bed. The Franciscan Center in Tampa, Florida was created in a simpler time, formed from the cloth of the ancient value of reflection and contemplation. They carry those values forward into today, and visitors will find an unworldly place of peace, beauty, and charity. Open to people of all faiths, the Franciscan Center lives in the spirit of its namesake.

Formed out of a 1958 gift, from local attorney Joseph Miyarnes to the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, the Franciscan Center was officially established as an ecumenical retreat center open to all people of different faith traditions in 1970. With eight acres along the water, the space exudes a sense of peace with walking paths, benches and trees.

The first thing that stands out to any visitor to the Franciscan Center is the beauty of the location. "Our center has been described an 'oasis for your soul,'" says the Franciscan Center's Marketing and Communications Director, Sharon Joller. "You really feel connected to nature and removed from the hustle and busyness of traffic, noise and distractions."

The Franciscan Center's central purpose is to serve as a private, non-profit interfaith retreat center. The Center opens for variety of uses for people of many faiths, and even for business meetings and other functions. The Center is frequently rented by Jewish-Muslim programs, mindfulness meditation retreats, church groups, businesses for board meetings and many others.

The Center team also leads programs within the Catholic tradition, says Joller. These can include "Ash Wednesday Service, Holy Week retreats such as Lenten Services, programs on Contemplative Living / Aging, and programs on St. Francis."

The Center offers everything that a retreat group might need, including meeting spaces ranging from a spacious conference room with a dining hall to smaller meeting rooms. Sabbath House is a private bungalow meant for small meetings. The main building has more than 40 rooms suitable for single and double occupancy.

Throughout the year, the Franciscan Center hosts a number of annual programs. These include the Annual Women's Interfaith Prayer Service for Peace, the Daughters of Abraham, and a variety of Special Annual Events that are open to the public. The Daughters of Abraham, explains Joller, provides an opportunity for women from the three primary Bible-based religions -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- to gather and explore religious beliefs through books, films and poetry. "The Daughters of Abraham," notes Joller, "reaches into the community to model their experiences of working together in peace and harmony.

Many of the day to day activities held in the Franciscan Center are the sorts of services that seek to improve the community. These include programs like 12-step recovery and Operation Restore which meets throughout the year. "Operation Restore," says Joller, is "a post-trauma training program that offers support and education for first responders and veterans". This program is lead by the Center's CEO and director, Sister Anne Dougherty, OSF."

This place of reflection is a jewel for the Tampa community. "The Franciscan Center has a history of providing a center through its mission of healing, community, peace, and joy." Says Joller. They have worked hard "for over 45 years in the Tampa Bay area, committing to a deeper relationship to spirituality."

If you are looking to know more about the Franciscan Center or donate to one of their campaigns, visit www.franciscancentertampa.org.

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