Our History

Sunset at Branches

Sunset at Branches

The call to create Branches came from God.  He planted the inspiration through this stewardship prayer:
Stewardship: A Faith Journey
Dear Lord
I pray that You give me the wisdom to guide me on this faith journey of stewardship.
Help me to understand that everything I have is a gift from You.
Open up my heart and my mind so that I may use these marvelous gifts to give back to You here on earth.
I pray Lord that You welcome me into Your kingdom at the end of my life and that You are pleased with what I have done with all Your gifts.


Solitude on Seneca

As I would frequently paddle my kayak to a private cove on Seneca Lake, this small seed of inspiration grew and grew over a four-year period.  There I spent much time in contemplative prayer.  Through prayer, God clarified that our beautiful piece of waterfront property was a gift from Him.  This property belongs to Him and we are only stewards of it for a short period of time.  We have been given this gift for the purpose of bringing others closer to Him.


Lake view from Branches

Our purpose of living on earth is to share God’s love with others. This understanding became anchored in my heart after reading “Pope John Paul II and The New Evangelization”.  By now the desire to create Branches was deeply rooted, but how can this ministry become a reality?  We looked to our pastor, Fr. Ulrich, for direction.  He suggested that we speak to Sr. Donna Marie Paolini, founder and President of Center of Solitude; Fr. Dan Riley, founder and President of Mount Irenaeus; and Ms. Susan Fowler founder of Our Lady of Grace Guest House.  These individuals had similar callings and Fr. Ulrich felt we could learn from them.  He was right.  Sr. Donna Marie, Fr. Dan and Sue have been most generous with their time as they shared with us their encouragement and guidance.  Their mentorship is greatly appreciated.


Early summer at Branches

In 2011, Branches Christian Rest and Renewal Centers established the Board of Directors, wrote the by-laws, incorporated, and held our first retreat.

Divine Mercy001On Divine Mercy Sunday, 2012 the weather was unseasonably warm and the lake was as smooth as glass.  I was most excited to be able to go for a paddle so early in the season.  I carried my kayak to the same shoreline location that I typically launch at.  As usual before I launch, I scan the area looking for interesting shells and driftwood. Nothing of interest to be had, so I hopped in my kayak and began my happy travel.  As I paddled to my favorite cove I began to share with God my concerns about building the retreat center.  For almost every concern, the phrase “Be not afraid.” echoed in my mind.  While paddling in my return to my usual entry and exit location, I found myself singing the hymn, “Be not afraid. I go before you always…”  As I was pulling my kayak out of the water, my breath was taken away at what I saw. There leaning against the shoreline rocks was a worn piece of lattice in the shape of a cross.  I was in awe!  With excitement, I ran to get my husband and my camera.  I told my husband that I did not see the cross when launching the kayak and there it was upon my return.  He was astonished too.

Our cross we found on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Our cross we found on Divine Mercy Sunday.

This is the photo I took before I picked-up the cross.  After picking-up the cross we went for a walk and we both decided that the cross was a sign to give us confidence that we are doing the right thing with our property, which is using it to bring others closer to His love.

In 2012 we developed our business plan, applied for the 501c3 non-profit status and continued to conduct retreats at Seneca Lake.

In 2013 Branches Christian Rest and Renewal Centers, Inc. received the IRS 501c3 non-profit status and developed its website.

Today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we continue to conduct retreats and progress forward with our goals.  We are truly grateful for all who support this mission and we welcome individuals who want to learn more and join our joyful journey of stewardship.


Rainbow over Branches

God wants to you to be closer to Him.  He encourages you to pray.  Whether you frequent our Prayer tab and/or join us on Seneca Lake for a restful retreat, it is most important to take time to give thanks and glory to the One who gives us everything.

“Open up my heart and mind that I may use my gifts to give back to You here on earth.”  Amen.

With a happy heart,
Donna Wieand, Founder and President

2 thoughts on “Our History

  1. What a lovely idea for a Company Donna! I never knew this is what you and Jim do! After reading your mono, I wish I lived closer! I would love to come to one of your retreats! You are an Angel on Earth! Thank you for all that you do to bring Gods word to others:)

  2. Hi Donna, Just realized you have been busy founding, and developing this wonderful ministry. Tonight I was unable to sleep and followed your posts on Facebook. May God continue to bless you on your courageous and faithful journey. You continue to surprise and inspire all of us who know you, Jim and your beautiful family. I am praying for pilgrims lately. All of us, including our retiring Pastor at St. Gabriel’s Fr. Dan Palys and now – reading up on your journey – prompted me to meditate on a favorite passage- Jeremiah 29:11-14. May He continue to reveal His plan to you and give you His abiding peace.

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