This page is under construction. 

We are working to complete the history of WVIS.
Much of the information for the history of WVIS was taken from:  “Our First Ten Years”, compiled by Virginia H. “Ginny” Masters.  Copies of the complete publication are available at WVIS.


The beginning …

1977 – 1999

The Cenacle Retreat House (1114 Virginia Street, East) came to be when The Most Reverend Joseph H. Hodges, Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston requested the Religious Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle to develop a retreat house in downtown Charleston. 

Initially, three volunteers came to staff the Cenacle:  Sister Dorothy O’Brien, Sister Anna Carulli, and Sister Mary Pellicane from the Sisters of Eastern Province.  Sister Carole Riley, a Sister of Divine Providence, offered to be an adjunct member.

The Cenacle was:  a living prayer, in the heart of the city; a sacred space, in constant ministry, training disciples, among the faiths.

For twenty-two years many activities were provided, including:  directed retreats, seminars, spiritual direction, training of spiritual directors,  contemplative prayer, retreats for youth, programs and workshops, 30 day retreats, women retreats, community and international programs.


WVIS development  and growth …

The West Virginia Institute for Spirituality is committed to the formation of competent spiritual directors.  In our history, WVIS has trained both  lay ministers and clergy representing the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and Baptist faith traditions.

The on-going associates program provides “hands-on” experience of praying with the Scriptures, a holistic approach to spirituality and the tools and skills to qualify them for the ministry.


In 1998 an ecumenical group gathered to provide continuity to the spiritual ministry begun in Southern West Virginia by the Cenacle sisters.  The West Virginia Institute for Spirituality was formed to provide space and opportunities for deepening mindfulness, prayer practice, interior peace, and for integrating moral and ethical values.


A Certificate of Incorporation in the State of West Virginia, as a non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status was issued on December 23, 1999 to the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality.


Linda Cooper served as President of the Board of Directors of WVIS from 1999-2002.

Property leased at 1414 Virginia Street, East in Charleston, WV.

Sister Carole Riley was appointed Executive Director of WVIS.
Sister Mary Pellicane was appointed Retreat Director Emeritus
Sister Dorothy O’Brien was appointed Administrative Assistant and Spiritual Director
Sister Laurensia Riumanu was appointed hospitality Coordinator

The WVIS Spiritual Direction Formation Program had begun with participants from a number of churches, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Christ, Baptist Temple and others.


The Board set the vision and mission of WVIS:
WVIS VISION is: “To provide an ecumenical center for prayer and spirituality that is located in the heart of the city.  This ministry encourages and promotes spiritual life through silence, prayer, retreats, and interfaith dialogue.”
WVIS MISSION is: “Dedication to providing space and opportunities for deepening mindfulness, prayer practice, interior peace and integrating moral and ethical values.”

Sister Carole Riley receives the 2001 Mary Emil Penet Award from the national Religious Formation Conference for her outstanding leadership in the work of mentoring in spiritual formation throughout the world.

The program to train Spiritual Directors is ongoing.

Contemplative prayer groups, prayer groups of professional women, journal-writing workshops, etc. were offered.

Development Committee established to design a 5-Year Plan.

The WVIS Logo came to be.  (Picture to be inserted)


LaRee D. Naviaux, Ph.D. served as  WVIS Board President.

Search for a permanent property continued.  1601 Virginia Street, East became the permanent home of The West Virginia Institute for Spirituality Retreat House on October 21, 2002.

The house was named ‘Ville Marie Therese Couderc’ per the request of a benefactor who wanted to honor the
Saint who is called:  A “Great and Humble Soul” co-patron of retreats.

 Joining the WVIS staff were:  Sister Molly Maloney, OSF ;  Reverend Virginia Derr;  Father William J. Petro; Sister Rose Ann Hefner.


July – A Rite of Blessing & Open House was held for the retreat house.

WVIS Satellites began with locations in  Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania;  Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Sister Carole Riley received the Mary Emil Penet National Award.

Retreats and community activities continued.


Ardath S. Francke was elected to serve as Board President.


Robert J. McAteer was elected to serve as Board President.  Using his skills he set up a database and webpage for WVIS.

The second and third floors renovation was discussed as well as renovation/rebuilding of the carriage house into a hermitage which would be handicap accessible .

Passionist volunteers in July began work on the 2nd and 3rd floors to make rooms usable for retreatants or those staying at WVIS.

Working with limited funds and fundraising was a challenge.


Margaret B. Llamas was elected President of the Board.

Sister Ritamary Schultz, ASCJ joined the staff as an intern.

Sister Carole Riley initiated the Certificate Program for Supervisors.

Progress continued on the Hermitage Project.  In April the Ardath Francke Hermitage became a reality.  Ground breaking occurred in July.  On November 25, 2006 a ribbon cutting ceremony was held and the doors to the Ardath Francke Hermitage opened.

President Margaret organized a Board workshop.


Reverent Diane D. Shoaf was elected Board president.

Southern, WV Satellite (Princeton-Bluefield) begun.

Two new programs were initiated by Sister Carole:  Spiritual Direction Internship and Sabbatical Program.

Open House was held in December.


Inclusion of Board members who live outside the Charleston area.  Board meetings were scheduled and the dates published in advance.  Some meetings were held through teleconferencing.

A new program was initiated:  Certificate in Advanced Studies.

Sister Carole celebrated 50 Years as a Sister of  Divine Providence.


Rick Steelhammer was elected President of the Board.




Christmas Day 2012 Father Paul Wharton was celebrant at the first Mass in the Nazareth Prayer Space.

Father Paul Wharton Iphone 167 SAMSUNG





The second and third floors were remodeled to provide retreatants  a private  room.

“Almost Heaven Retreat” was held at WVIS in June and at John XXIII Pastoral Center in July.

The greenhouse was torn down and Nazareth (a beautiful, spiritual prayer space) was built and dedicated.Nazareth




The grounds received a renewal with space for walking and enjoying the beauty of the grounds, space for individual prayer, space for enjoying the outdoors.  Flowers, shrub and trees were planted; the fence and gates were repaired/replaced/repainted; fountains and statues were added; a garden was planted and the fruitfulness enjoyed by many.

Garden Gateimage

New website launched: wvis.org



New Facebook page launched in February.

Sr. Carole Riley presenting at the Grief Seminar.

Sr. Carole Riley presenting at the Grief Seminar.

CPD 2014



Presentation to Faculty:  Watsu and Massage within a Retreat Setting.

Presentation to Faculty: Watsu and Massage within a Retreat Setting.



Dr. Bob Harrison was elected President of the Board of Directors








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