Six months after the mud and debris flow

Enlarged photos of two of the nine the buildings swept away on January 9 help visitors orient themselves on the re-contoured property and remind them of the great loss La Casa de Maria has suffered. All photos by Sarah Kidwell


In a normal year, July would be a busy time at La Casa de Maria, with programs, groups, and retreatants all making use of our facilities, land, and unique offerings. But, due to the December fires and January’s massive mud and debris flow, sadly, we are still closed while we plan for our renewal and rebirth.

We have, however, much progress to report. The debris has been cleared from the property and the soil that remains has been saved until we determine how it might be best used in rebuilding and recontouring. Fencing now cordons off the most damaged parts of our property. Our guest rooms are being repaired and we are awaiting a determination on the rebuilding of dining room and kitchen before we move forward with repairs to the lounge and the chapel.

Santa Barbara County recently released new flood control maps and we have been reviewing them with experts to determine our next steps for the safe and wise renewal of our physical campus. Part of this process will include an architect and master planning team for which we plan to release a public request for proposals later this month. In addition, we will soon begin a visioning process guided by an expert team. In doing so, we hope to discern the best future use of La Casa de Maria in serving its many constituents. As part of the process, we may be reaching out with a survey in which you can help with your input and ideas. The information that we gather through this visioning process will be used to both determine our future path and inform the design of our built environment. We are looking forward to a rich and engaged process.

The Lovelace Lounge awaits rebuilding and renewal.

For now, we are focusing our interim re-opening efforts on Center for Spiritual Renewal and the dormitory and meeting space at Casa San Ysidro, as they sit on the undamaged part of the property. Our staff has been at work on creative ways to use these resources, so we can be available to groups and individual retreatants during our recovery and revisioning time. By September, we should have more information about what will be available, as well as information for those who want to tour the property. We’ve had several volunteer work party opportunities this spring and hope to provide more over the summer and fall.

Volunteers being briefed before a fruit glean. All produce is donated to the Santa Barbara Foodbank.

Our Board of Trustees and our small remaining staff are committed to the work of re-opening in whatever form and timing are dictated by our circumstances. Meanwhile, our circumstances continue to change. Steve Jacobsen recently stepped down and Anne Price, our Deputy Director, has stepped up and has taken on the role of Acting Director to help lead us through this transition. Stephanie Glatt, IHM, continues to provide her wisdom and support.

Though progress on the cleanup is substantial, there are still a few reminders of the devastating events of January 9, 2018.

Without income and facing enormous rebuilding costs, we are also preparing to launch a major fundraising campaign. Our insurance settlement will be of some aid, but we’re estimating at upwards of $30 million will be needed for a new, improved La Casa to again be fully operational.

On our most philosophical days, we like to say that Mother Nature has given La Casa de Maria an unexpected pause. We are using the time to make certain that our renewal and rebirth proceeds as the best expression of our mission. And after such an enormous tragedy in our little village, we hope to be a resource for healing.

The Labyrinth was untouched by the mud and debris flow and remains a symbol of hope and peace.

We remain grateful for your unwavering support, generosity, and spirit. We will need it to continue in the coming weeks, months, and years. Please stay tuned to our website, where you can follow our progress, contribute to our effort, and sign up to volunteer.

Anne Price, Acting Director

Karol Schulkin IHM, President, Immaculate Heart Community

Jean Scott IHM, Chair, Board of Trustees