About Us

Since 1961, the Franciscan Friars, of the Province of St. Barbara, have welcomed to San Damiano Retreat those who thirst for a greater connection to God. We are a sanctuary of transformation for people of different faiths and backgrounds. The peace and beauty of our gardens and spacious grounds offer a serene place where individuals, groups, and organizations (both religious and secular) may reflect on new insights…new choices…new decisions. Through innovative and relevant retreats and spiritual direction, individuals can discover Gospel answers to today’s challenging questions. San Damiano is truly a spiritual oasis.


May 19 Golf Tournament – Big Success

May 19 Golf Tournament – Big Success

We just finished our spring fundraiser – a golf tournament, auction and dinner at the Diablo Country Club. It was very well attended and we thank everyone who participated! For additional ways to support San Damiano visit the Capital Campaign/Giving page. You might also call our Director, Fr. Ray Bucher, OFM at 925-837-9141, ext. 309.


The original San Damiano, a little church located outside the town of Assisi, Italy, has great significance in the life and vocation of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. It was while in prayer before a 12th Century crucifix in the dilapidated church of San Damiano that Francis heard a voice. The Christ of the crucifix spoke to Francis, “Francis, go repair my church which is falling into ruins.” Literally Francis began to gather stones and started building up the edifice only to realize that the larger community of the whole church was meant, not merely a material building. St. Clare of Assisi, the first female follower of St. Francis, was given San Damiano as the first convent for her community, the Poor Ladies. The Poor Clares took the original San Damiano cross with them to the Santa Chiara Basilica where it hangs in a chapel. It is our hope that San Damiano Retreat will be a place of listening, vision, and rebuilding for you and a place of encounter with Christ. Find out more on the Franciscana page.


Volunteers gather for a group picture, February 3, 2014

Volunteers gather for a group picture, February 3, 2014

The Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon was held on Monday, Feb. 3rd. Fr. Evan gave a presentation on the value of their work and how it supports the mission of the Franciscan Friars here at San Damiano. If you would like to know more about volunteering here, contact Dorothy Charbonneau at 925-837-9141. Opportunities are abundant in the areas of Gift Shop and Receptionist, Gardening and Maintenance, and Bulk Mailing.

Vol Lunch 2 (cr&rs)Vol Lunch 3 (cr&rs)


“I experienced the mind, body, and Spirit connection in a new and exciting way. I thoroughly enjoyed the message given and the presenters’ expertise.

“The presenters were well prepared. They gave an overview of the day and preface to each session and how the segments relate and build.

“I came away from the weekend with a feeling of trust in the Spirit of God.

“I appreciate the warm, comforting spirit of the staff.

Spring Visitors

Deer visit (cr&rs)As you may know, we share the natural setting on this hill with many animals. Often we get visitors who regard this as their home, which it actually is! We are most happy when they grace our setting with their presence.


San Damiano is home to nine Friars. Some are retired and some are active in the retreat ministry. Here are a few of them:

Fr. Ray Bucher, OFM, a native of Oakland, is the director of San Damiano. Fr. Ray holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University. He was Vicar Provincial of the Province from 1988 to 1994 and served as director of the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ.

If you have come to San Damiano for a retreat, you most likely have encountered Fr. Evan Howard, our resident hospitality friar. You can find him welcoming people in the lobby and supporting the food service staff in the dining room. He pours tea, blesses animals, and presides over the Easter Sunday morning liturgy. These are only a few of the many tasks he performs during a weekend. We wouldn’t be a Franciscan center without Fr. Evan and we thank him for all his presence here!

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STAFF Spotlight





Our spotlight shines this time on our Finance and Human Resources staff members: Barbara Bucher and Estrella Rusk. Barbara has been with us for 8 years. Retreatants normally don’t encounter Barbara because she works behind the scenes. But, her job is very important because she pays the bills and deposits the money. Her talent for handling money efficiently is well known to the staff. Estrella Rusk has been with us for 5 years and is in charge of payroll and Human Resources. She has gifted us with volunteers and shares food from her native Philippines frequently with the staff. A big “thank you” goes out to Barbara and Estrella for all they give to San Damiano.

Groups that come to San Damiano for conferences and retreats are familiar with the Hosted Department Coordinator, Lisa Briones. Dorothy Charbonneau is her able assistant part time. Deborah Carson, our new food service manager, serves up a wonderfully prepared menu of new foods and old favorites. Kateri has many jobs here. One of them is scheduling private retreatants. These members of our staff were recently mentioned in an email from a very grateful retreatant. Here is what he said:

“I want to tell Lisa, Fr. Bucher, and all of the staff what a joy it was to be at San Damiano last weekend. I was a participant in the Awakening Center’s Silent Retreat and it was my first visit to San Damiano. I arranged to come a day early because of a meeting I had in Danville, coincidentally that Thursday. Had I known how effective it was to have that extra day, I would have done so anyway. I appreciate the friendly arrangements Lisa made for me and it was a nice surprise to find that I have my own table for my first three meals. Of course, Deborah’s cooking was sumptuous. I really got spoiled for a few days! Thanks especially for the eggplant and yummy cheesecake. I’m sure you get many comments on the serenity and spiritual nourishment provided by the natural setting as well as your comfortable facilities. San Damiano must be a wonderful place to work.”

Paul Seaman
Awakening Center


The labyrinth is a walking meditation, a path of prayer. Walking the labyrinth reduces stress, quiets the mind, and opens the heart. There is an outdoor labyrinth at San Damiano located in the Canticle Garden. There are also chairs for those who want to linger while enjoying God’s creation.

Laby Ret (rs)

Our staff person, Dorothy Charbonneau, directs a day retreat using the labyrinth for meditation and prayer. It takes place in the spring. Here are attendees at the April 1st labyrinth day enjoying peaceful prayer time walking the labyrinth. This retreat had a Lenten theme and the retreatants enjoyed a walk on our outdoor labyrinth also.

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