As a high school senior at Sacred Heart, Ray Nann ’51 attended a retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center (JRC)—then known as El Retiro—in Los Altos Hills. In fact, you can find a wonderful black and white photograph of that Sacred Heart retreat class on the bookshelf in the JRC Rotunda.

In the mid-1970s, many years after his high school retreat experience, Ray started attending the Men’s Palm Sunday Retreats at JRC and has served as retreat captain for his parish—St. Patrick’s of Larkspur. Many men have enjoyed the grace of a quiet, contemplative silent Palm Sunday retreat thanks to Ray’s encouragement as a captain.

In the late 1980s, he encouraged his son, Tom, to attend a Palm Sunday weekend which Tom graciously declined until he finally attended his first retreat in 1990. Tom has never missed one retreat since, and he has joined Ray for the past 25 years at JRC on Palm Sunday weekend.

In 2014 Tom decided to give a surprise gift to his dad for his 80th birthday. With help from JRC’s Executive Director Thomas Powers and dedicated volunteers, Tom planned, fundraised and built a labyrinth sanctuary on the beautiful grounds of the retreat center Ray’s honor. The labyrinth was unveiled to Ray at last year’s Palm Sunday retreat, which included an unexpected dedication and blessing from the pastoral staff at the JRC. The feedback from this labyrinth has overwhelmed Tom and Ray. This gift from a son to his dad has turned out to be a gift to the JRC, as people share their personal spiritual experiences using the labyrinth.

We spent some time talking with Ray about his days as a student and how important the Jesuit Retreat Center is to him and his family.

How was your experience as a student at Sacred Heart?

As a student, I was an altar boy, I played three years of basketball and senior year I was on the football team. I loved every minute of it. The Christian Brothers were very good to me. I will never forget Br. Columban ’32. He was tough, but fair and truly an amazing teacher and role model for us.

Even to this day, SHC is so meaningful to me as I have many friends from high school. We have a luncheon every five years and have already talked about planning 2017!

Following high school, I was stationed in Germany for two years during the Korean War, and became the chaplain’s assistant for a year and a half.

In 1955, I came back to the United States and started working for the Robert Dollar Company. I managed office buildings in downtown San Francisco and served on the Board of Directors for the Building Owners & Managers Association for 14 years. In 1959, I moved to Marin and became a parishioner at St. Patrick’s in San Larkspur. I have been fortunate enough to raise three children, three grand children and see them all grow up to be wonderful people within our community.

What does the Jesuit Retreat Center, El Retiro, mean to you?

In 1970, I went on my second retreat at El Retiro. my first being during my senior year of high school in 1951. Many of us from St. Patrick’s would go down as a group and participate in men’s silent retreat as it gives us an opportunity to reflect. I was once told that "If you are talking you cannot hear God," and I have never forgotten that. It is more meaningful to me to be silent.

L to R- Tom Powers, Executive Director of JRH Ray Nann L to R- Tom Powers, Executive Director of JRH Ray Nann

My son, Tom declined to attend for some years and finally attended twenty-five years ago for the first time. My son was blessed with many good fortunes after going down the first year including the birth of his only child, a baby boy. For more than two decades, we both have gone to Los Altos on Palm Sunday.

In March, 2014, I got phone call from JRC’s Executive Director, Thomas Powers, to arrive a little early for the retreat.

Labriyth Labriyth

I thought they were going to ask me to donate and much to my surprise that was not the case. We all walked down the lower center and I see this Labyrinth. As I got closer and closer, I saw the plaque, and that it was dedicated to me. My son Tom laid 3,600 rocks on two consecutive weekends driving from Sacramento to Los Altos. He knows how much El Retiro meant to me and how appreciative I was. As inscribed on the plaque, the labyrinth came to represent the soul’s journey to Christ. I truly believed that to be the case and am very grateful for the work he put in to space.

Ray Nann

Stop by some time on your way past the El Monte exit in Los Alto Hills off highway 280 and walk the peaceful paths of the labyrinth—or better yet, take in a quiet weekend retreat there to recharge your spiritual batteries.

Located in the

Heart of the city