A day in the life at Mt. Claret Retreat Center

Courtesy Mt. Claret Retreat Center

Every day, Tom McGuire wakes up at one of the most beautiful places in Arizona. A chorus of birds chirping, lizards scampering through the gardens, and the unique ambiance of the desert greets him. Energized by his three daily cups of coffee, he walks a few yards away to the Mt. Claret business offices.

As the on-site administrator for the Mt. Claret Retreat Center, a sacred place nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, McGuire oversees everything from lost room keys in the middle of the night to fundraising and the construction of the new Chapel.

By 9:00 a.m. the natural whirl of the garden is replaced with the sounds of engines and laughter of nearly 80 high school students on the campus until 9:00 p.m. On Fridays, when the student presence coincides with a multitude of overnight retreat visitors, McGuire may manage up to 150 people at a time. But he effortlessly solves problems and answers questions – an experience he likens to that of a concierge.

He manages the logistics until the retreat begins and the ministries take over, then he respectfully fades into the background.

He then turns his attention to a project envisioned more than a decade ago and fueled by the passion of the community.  A re-envisioned chapel that more seamlessly fits into the Territorial architecture of the original buildings. Donations have made the $1.5 million project a reality, but like any 52-year-old building there have been surprises that have complicated the timeframe.  Despite the stream of contractors, architects, project managers and experts working on the project, the completion date is pushed back slightly to mid-summer of this year.

In the meantime, McGuire is shifting his focus to the interior, where 13 years ago he made a wish list that included custom pews to accommodate the growing crowd for Sunday Mass. In between walking the site and touching base with the project manager, he’s developing ideas for naming opportunities inside the Chapel; from liturgical accessories to sacred artwork, candlesticks and the monstrance used for Adoration.

McGuire masterfully juggles overseeing the construction efforts while supporting the daily activities of Mt. Claret.  As the sun sets to the west, he finds his way back home where he may still put in a few hours of work or catch up with his family and friends over a fish fry.

Soon, vans and buses will replace the tape and construction trucks again. The adults and children will greet McGuire, ready to sink into the peace the chapel grounds offer, and the upgraded Mt. Claret will breathe even more life into the historic land on which it rests.