Whether you’re a Catholic health care provider, an Italian American, a Catholic educator, or just a fan of intrepid holy women, you might know and love St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.
An Italian immigrant to the U.S., this fearless and wise woman left a staggering legacy of schools and hospitals to serve those in need all across her adopted nation.
Today her tradition of service and welcoming immigrants lives on in a new and inspiring way at Casa Iskali.
Cabrini’s sisters founded the retreat center decades ago, and today it is the only Hispanic-owned Catholic retreat center in the U.S.
What is Casa Iskali?
Maybe you’ve heard of Iskali, the dynamic organization that builds up the faith of young Hispanic Catholics. (We’ve written about them here and here—you’ll be in awe of the lives they’ve changed for the better!)
Since 2021, Iskali has operated its own retreat center, Casa Iskali, nestled on six acres near Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
Casa Iskali encompasses nearly 2.5 hectares, with beautiful facilities intended to serve as a space for devotion. These include a chapel, various meeting rooms, single rooms equipped for overnight accommodation, and a heated indoor swimming pool.
Outdoor areas offer a space for visitors to enjoy reflection and time in nature, as well as community activities. Casa Iskali can house 74 individuals in single rooms, complemented by a conference space capable of accommodating up to 200 people.
A sense of purpose animates the team at Casa Iskali in operating the facility.
“Offering this space for the vitality and gathering of faith communities is an honor. Fulfilling this purpose within the Church is even more significant, especially being the first Catholic retreat house directed and operated by young Hispanics,” said Vicente Del Real, Founder of Iskali.
Irene Gonzalez, Team Lead at Casa Iskali, agreed, saying, “Working for Casa Iskali means witnessing God’s love through service to others and truly making a difference in the lives of those who come here seeking an encounter with God. I feel blessed that God has chosen me to be part of this mission.”
Casa Iskali has hosted a range of institutions for retreats and events, including Loyola Academy, Mother of The Americas Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago and many more.
And it seems these visitors have loved their time there. “Casa Iskali was an excellent place for our young adult retreat. The space was perfect for coming together as a community and in prayer,” said Maria De Leon-Sanchez, an Iskali community member.
A new generation of Catholic immigrants
The beautiful six-acre campus has a history stretching back to the 1950s, when the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart founded it under the name “Cabrini Retreat Center.”
They hosted over 250,000 guests over the decades, but eventually the time came to leave the property. It felt providential when the sisters connected with Iskali, which carries on Mother Cabrini’s mission of caring for those most in need.
Sister Barbara Staley, MSC, Mother Superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus said, “Faithful to the call of the Holy Spirit to be ‘missionary’ in new forms, the Missionary Sisters transferred Cabrini Retreat Center and its ministry to Iskali. We are grateful to Iskali for their willingness and enthusiasm to assume the ministry of Cabrini Retreat Center. The mission of Iskali is aligned with the mission of St. Frances Cabrini, Patroness of Immigrants, and her desire to share the Love of Christ with the people of Chicagoland.”
Since Iskali acquired the retreat center, they have worked to continue Mother Cabrini’s work, welcoming all and especially young adults and immigrants. Casa Iskali is a space of prayer, formation, and community where young people can strengthen their relationships with God.
In Mother Cabrini’s day, Italian Catholics were newcomers to America, seeking ways to support the faith of their children while building up their communities in a new land. Today, Hispanic Catholics often find themselves in the same role. Iskali steps into the gap to empower young Latinos with high-quality faith formation that enables them to become leaders.
Casa Iskali is a welcoming space where everyone can feel embraced and uplifted. It’s a place dedicated to faith and hospitality, and we can only imagine that Mother Cabrini is delighted to see her legacy live on there today.