This retreat community is perched on a forested hilltop about forty miles west of Freedom City, overlooking the nearby Maurice River. Visitors stay in single hermitages that cling to the sides of the hill, cozy and small with a toilet, heater, and air conditioning. The only way to reach the hermitage is by holding onto ropes which are slung between the trees. Each cabin as its own special place a short distance from the next. The ground slopes down like a barn roof, rendering the hill often impassable in muddy or icy weather.
A community of Franciscan Catholic sisters, primarily from Nigeria, lives on the hilltop, each in her own hermitage in a cloistered area of the grounds. They convene in the chapel for community prayer four times a day, followed by mass. Visitors are welcome at all services. Meals may be collected in baskets from the dining room and taken to one's hermitage. The nuns make very good bread, but their jollof rice isn't bad either.
Visitors never mingle with the community, but spiritual advisers are available upon request. Individuals generally plan their own programs of solitude and silence. The head of the community is Sister Mary Veronica, an even-tempered administrator who speaks with a definitive accent, and who at 47 is relatively young for a nun in the United States.
There is a library with books and tapes for use while here. There are three separate shrines to Mary on the property. Visitors should bring sturdy walking shoes to hike the 100 acres of monastery land, seasonal clothing, alarm clock, immersion heater for hot drinks, and flashlight. Sheets are provided. Visitors are advised that St. Perpetua is at the heart of the largest digital dead zone in southwestern New Jersey, and indeed their most common visitors in the 21st century are those in search of a digital detox.
"We do not look upon the hermitage as a place simply for privacy or space to breathe, but a place which exemplifies and nourishes the starkness of the desert: not its harshness, but its uncompromising refusal to provide distractions."
Visitors are expected to donate as their means allow. Lacking means, they can work on the Retreat's property if they like.