Florence couple founds St. Michael hermitage for retreats

Photo provided: Bill Bennett (left) prays while Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blesses the St. Michael Catholic Hermitage in Effingham in Florence County.

Editor’s note: The Miscellany published this story in its recent print edition. We are sad to report that Mr. Bennett died after we went to press April 22. Please remember his wife and family in your prayers.

EFFINGHAM—People who are seeking a break from daily stress and a chance to renew and strengthen their faith can find both at a new hermitage that has opened in rural Florence County. 

The St. Michael Catholic Hermitage is the result of years of work and discernment by Bill and Lorraine Bennett, who are members of St. Anne Church in nearby Florence. 

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone visited the site in late 2018, blessed it and designated it an official hermitage for the diocese. 

The Bennetts originally lived in downtown Florence and moved to the 13-acre property in the small town of Effingham in 2006. Mrs. Bennett said they renovated a little house on the farm that once served as housing for migrant workers, and lived there for two years. 

“We discerned that God was calling us to live simply and do with less for a period of time,” she said.

They then felt the call to build a chapel on the property, and they constructed what is now the Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, available for retreatants to use for prayer, contemplation or spiritual direction sessions. 

After completing the chapel, the Bennetts built and moved into a farmhouse at the back of their property, and decided to convert the smaller home into a guesthouse. 

“Our guests would tell us they felt a palpable peace in that house, so we felt maybe God was calling us to make it into a true hermitage, and that is what we did,” Mrs. Bennett said. “We wanted to give Catholics a space where they could just be with their faith, and offer a retreat experience that is in line with true Church teaching and tradition.” 

The retreat house has one bedroom that sleeps two people, a full kitchen, full bath, living room with television and a large stock of Catholic-related DVDs, plus a sauna and hot tub located in a gazebo outdoors. 

Retreatants are welcome to walk around the property, which includes a pond. As an added plus for animal lovers, the retreat house is pet-friendly, and dogs are welcome. 

Mrs. Bennett said people can opt for a directed retreat experience or construct their own. She emphasized the hermitage’s quiet, rural location and said it is not for those looking for a high-tech or fast-paced retreat experience. 

“This is a contemplative location where I want people to feel like someone is taking care of them, and to feel that God is there with them,” she said.

Editor’s note: Plans for the future of the Hermitage will be decided at a later date.