How to get there:
Leaving from Gare do Oriente. Exit at Palmela Square (Café Retiro Azul), 900m from the Casa de Oração (direction Quinta do Anjo).
From Setúbal: Bus TST to Vila Nogueira de Azeitão – number 767 / 768. (See timetable at www.tsuldotejo.pt). Exit at the third stop after Palmela (wine cellar), 200m from Casa de Oração.
The sisters have always felt the need to make possible the encounter of people with God through prayer. Therefore, when special houses for retreats didn’t existed, the first Handmaids opened up their convents and left their rooms, to allow ladies to make Spiritual Exercises. This was in the 19th century.
In Portugal, after the closure, in 1983, of the Residence for University Students that the Handmaids had in Lisbon, they started looking for the right place to carry out this dream. The Dioceses of Setubal looked like a good place because, then, there wasn’t yet any House for Retreats there. The Bishop of Setubal at the time, the Revd. Manuel Martins, was contacted and rejoiced with this proposal. After a great deal of house searching, the Handmaids decided to purchase the Quinta de Santo António, at Serra do Louro, 1 km from Palmela.
This farm had a small house, which was the summer house of the former owners, a series of buildings, such as a garage, a warehouse for farming tools and agricultural products and the house of the housekeeper, besides a vast piece of land, where the future House of Prayer could be built.
On the 4th September 1984, a small community composed of five sisters and a postulant, started living at the already existing house at the farm. It was in this house that the sisters lived for the first three years. The pastoral work was very diverse: support to three parishes, such as giving religion classes to primary school students, mostly in rural areas; catechesis to children and adults; preparation for the sacraments; formation of Catechists; Eucharistic service; welcome to groups spending the day at the house for meetings; assisting youth groups and scouts;…
This house still exists. It is called Saint Ignatius’ House and has been recently renovated. In the Autumn of 1986, the works for the future House of Prayer started. It opened on the 25th June 1989.
The main role was the organization and promotion of the different activities of the House of Prayer and the support services needed for its operations.
From the beginning, the Handmaids tried to offer more than mere facilities for the different groups and movements to meet.
They also organized activities oriented by the sisters: days of prayer, retreats in the principal liturgical times, Spiritual Exercises,…
House of Saint Raphaela Mary (Casa de Santa Rafaela Maria)
It is the house where the major activities take place and the majority of the groups meet. To promote the encounter with God, besides the spaces the House provides and tries to adapt to the needs of each group, our visitors also have the chance of praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament (as is the case in every house of the Handmaids).
The House of Saint Raphaela provides the following facilities:
- One church and two small chapels.
- An auditorium with 135 seats and internet access.
- Three conference rooms with capacity for 20, 35 and 60 people.
Four small rooms for personal accompaniment and/or team work, with internet access
- A multifunctional room.
- Thirty-eight double bedrooms and three individual ones, all en suite.
- Three dining rooms for 24, 55 and 60 people.
- Several courtyards that separate the different sectors of the House.
House of Saint Ignatius (Casa de Santo Inácio)
It is the original farm house.
This house, given its homelike features is well suited for groups who wish to have more autonomy.
The following facilities are provided:
- a small chapel.
- A big living and dining room with a fireplace.
- Four bedrooms with a total of 14 beds.
- Five shared bathrooms.
- A fully equipped kitchen.
House of Saint John (Casa de São João)
It is the former house of the housekeepers.
- Two bedrooms
- One living room
- A fully equipped kitchen
- One bathroom.
Hermitage of the Silent Christ (Ermida do Cristo do Silêncio)
Created from an inactive power transformation station, this hermitage is located in the farm, outside the house and it is nowadays a space of prayer that invites peacefulness, stillness, to listen to the silent voice of God…
Farm and Garden
The outdoor space surrounding the different buildings is wide and has orange groves, pine woods and walks among the cedar trees, besides the gardens that encompass the Houses of Saint Raphaela and Saint Ignatius.
With benches scattered around the gardens and secluded corners, against the background of Serra do Louro, this space allows to experience peace and stillness through nature.
Casa de Oração Santa Rafaela Maria
Rua Santa Rafaela Maria
Tel: (00 351) 212 351 212