Presentation Center is rooted in the history
and mission of two very different entities: the Sisters
of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the work of Ernest Rogers who founded
the Montezuma Mountain School for Boys in the Santa Cruz Mountains
outside of Los Gatos, California.
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed
Sisters of the Presentation trace their roots to an extraordinary Irish
women of the mid-eighteenth century. Nano
Nagle lived in the period
of Irish history when Catholics were persecuted under English penal laws,
when they could not hold property, worship, or be educated. The resultant
squalor and ignorance along with the accompanying social ills drove Nano
to action. Grounded in her life of prayer and worship, and with indomitable
courage and perseverance, she established schools and supported other
works of charity. Wherever need called, she was committed not only to
charity but to works of justice and human development. To give
stability to her work and with the approval of the Catholic Church she
established the Sisters of the Presentation in 1776. By the middle of
the nineteenth century, the community had spread throughout all of Ireland
and even extended to England, Newfoundland, and India.
Aware of the serious need for sisters to serve the growing population
that flooded California in the wake of the Gold Rush in 1849, Archbishop
Alemany recruited, among others, the Sisters of the Presentation for
the spiritual and educational needs of San Franciscans. In 1854, four
Presentation Sisters arrived in San Francisco to establish a religious
presence and educational and pastoral services that last to this day,
not only in San Francisco, but throughout the state of California and
elsewhere in the United States.
As membership grew in the 1950’s the sisters recognized the need
for a new center outside of San Francisco for their spiritual and educational
formation. Their search led them to the site outside of Los Gatos in
the Santa Cruz Mountains, the former Montezuma Mountain School
Montezuma Mountain School for Boys
What characterized the Montezuma Mountain School was
commitment to a family spirit, which expanded into a little democracy
in which the students governed themselves by mutual consent. In a non-sectarian,
non-military school, the authority of the faculty rested upon recognized
sympathy and respect for each person. Students were challenged to develop
responsibility, stand on their own two feet, work hard, learn by doing,
respect the environment, and prepare for their life as American citizens.
In 1934 Professor Rogers expanded his horizons by establishing the Junior
Statesmen of America, an organization designed to help high school students
develop the skills and knowledge necessary for effective civic leadership.
Just when the Presentation
Sisters were seeking a site for their own members, Professor Rogers found
it necessary to close the school. Thus, in 1956 the property was purchased
as a training center and spiritual renewal site for the religious community.
The atmosphere of education, love of nature, and respect for person,
which had characterized the Montezuma years, would continue in a new
and different modality. The Montezuma Mountain Ranch School for Boys
was transformed into Presentation College, an affiliate of the University
of San Francisco.
From 1958 until 1971 Presentation College buzzed with the activity of
young sisters in their formative years preparing through prayer, theological
and other academic studies, and collaboration with other religious communities,
for their lives of witness and service.
Within this same period, in the 1960’s, the Catholic Church experienced
the Second Vatican Council, an intense period of study and renewal. Religious
communities were called to examine their service and their spirituality
in the light of the changing needs of society. The consequent restructuring
led the sisters to move their training site back to San Francisco and
undertake a transformation of Presentation College to Presentation Center,
a retreat and educational center.
For the next twenty-five years, Presentation Center continued the fundamental
purpose for which it was originally purchased:
to be a site for prayer and growth. It also began to reflect in its uses
the purposes for which the Sisters of the Presentation originally came
into being—to meet
an imperative social need of the day. Presentation Retreat Center became
a haven for those who had become frazzled in the fast pace and pressures
in the society around them, especially in Silicon Valley. They sought
a quiet place for prayer and peaceful contemplation. Presentation Center
offered an environment modeling service, support, charity, reverence
for nature and it became a place where faith deepened, wounds were healed,
vision could be shaped and hope could be rekindled.
Although the Center’s sisters remain grounded in their own Roman
Catholic spiritual tradition, they are now open not only to members of
religious communities, but to all who seek this healing, spiritual,
and educational environment. As they sought to heal the wounds caused
by the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 not only to the environment but
to people who were its victims, they were awakened to a new aspect of
their mission. They came to recognize that the natural beauty of the
Center, the plant and animal life which characterized it, was calling
them to awareness of a new obligation to preserve the earth. Thus they
began to think “green” that is, to become environmentally
sensitive in all of their planning and their actions.
The most dramatic response to this realization has been the opening
of a new Welcoming Center and the replacement of their dining and kitchen
area with a totally green building, one which can teach all who come
practical ways to integrate their responsibility to preserve the earth
into their life and actions and spirituality. Destruction of the natural
resources of the earth for economic gain is a principal cause of
continuing of poverty in world. The daughters of Nano Nagle are still
concerned for the poor especially all who are being impacted by destructive
practices against the earth. Presentation Center continues to reach out
to shelter, support, and teach all those who seek true peace and renewal
of life and spirit.