Archbishop Cordileone blesses a Marian stained glass window during the rededication Mass of the chapel at Vallombrosa Retreat Center.

New chapel rededicated at Vallombrosa Retreat Center

By Mary Powers

On May 10, Archbishop Cordileone rededicated a chapel in the mansion on the property of Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park. The new chapel brings together history from different parts of the Archdiocese.

The old mansion at the Vallombrosa Retreat Center was originally owned by E.W. Hopkins, nephew of railroad tycoon Mark Hopkins J.R., and was built in the civil war era.  In 1947, the then ten-acre property was  used as a women’s retreat house. The original chapel for the retreat house was just off the main entrance, toward the back of the main floor.

Over time, the chapel was decommissioned and the room became another meeting room for retreats with a main chapel being built in the main retreat building.

Deacon Dominick Peloso, the director of operations for Vallombrosa Retreat Center, worked over the past several years to rebuild the chapel in the old mansion, creating a second sacred space for retreatants to pray before the blessed sacrament—especially helpful for those using the old mansion for school retreats or other gatherings.

Much of the décor for the new chapel came from another part of the Archdiocese—the now closed Mercy High School chapel in San Francisco. Mercy High School in San Francisco closed in 2020 and was recently sold to the Chinese American International School. Items in their chapel were saved and repurposed for the Vallombrosa chapel. Included in the historical pieces were stained glass windows of our Lady, wood panels with intricate designs, the wooden canopy over the altar, and a wooden image of the Holy Spirit, which now hangs on top of the altar.

Monsignor Steven Otellini and Church of the Nativity also donated two large statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, as well as a tabernacle that was the original tabernacle to the church. The pews were also donated by the parish.

Archbishop Cordileone blessed the new chapel, and thanked those who were involved with the project. In his homily, he spoke on the importance of beauty in teaching the faith to others, touching those who would not be moved otherwise because of beauty’s transcendent value.

“Beauty is a way to reach people in an age in which the mind is closed to knowledge, truth, and anyone’s point of view, said Archbishop Cordileone. “Because beauty circumvents that. It can reach the soul in a different way…I thank those who invested such great resources in this place so that those who come to this retreat house, to this place of prayer and reflection, of communion in Christ, might be touched through the transcendental beauty displayed, a beauty to make their souls more malleable to know Christ, to understand and appreciate His truth, and to live it out in their lives.”

Following the Mass, there was a ceremony to thank those involved with the project. Deacon Peloso thanked Clyde King and Claude for their woodworking expertise, Lisa Andrews who helped design the space and locate items for the chapel, and general contractor Mike Smith, who had passed away just after the chapel was completed, whom Deacon Peloso said “put his heart and soul” into the chapel.

 For more information on the Vallombrosa Retreat Center, visit