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History of Pacem in Terris

The following is a brief history of the beginning years of Pacem in Terris and how it has grown in size and numbers while remaining faithful to God’s original invitation: “Create an environment where my people can come and be alone with me.” Click on a section heading below to read about significant events in the history of Pacem in Terris.

The Invitation from God

1979 Pacem in Terris began with an invitation from God to foundress Shirley Wanchena to “Create an environment where My people can come and be alone with Me.” After careful prayer and discernment of God’s will for her life, Shirley Wanchena accepted God’s invitation.


The 1980s

1982 Eighty acres of forest and prairie were purchased in Isanti County, Minnesota, about an hour north of the Twin Cities. • The Cross was placed on the Prairie.

1984 Pacem in Terris was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit organization.

1987 St. Joseph house was purchased at a silent auction from local St. Francis High School Shop class and moved to Pacem. Shirley Wanchena, along with Jeffrey (her son), his wife Susan, and their 4 children moved into the house. The downstairs was used for the retreat center, greeting area, office, shower facilities, and Shirley’s quarters and office. • Construction of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Anthony hermitages were started along with the first walking trails.

1988 On May 1st the first hermit guests were received.

1989 Two burros were donated to Pacem in Terris. • The boardwalk was constructed allowing guests a lakeside meditation spot.• On September 10th, a Dedication Mass was held on the prairie with Bishop Jerome Hanus and Bishop George Speltz officiating. Eleven priests from surrounding parishes and a few hundred guests participated in the celebration.

The 1990s

1991 The Star Tribune featured an article by Chuck Haga which became the inspiration for hundreds of guests to come to Pacem in Terris, and is still referenced by guests today. Read the article. • Twenty acres of land were purchased along County Road 8 to further preserve the silence and solitude of the hermitage experience. • Pacem in Terris is featured on KSTP TV’s Good Company. Watch the video.

1992 Four additional hermitages were opened—St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, St, Therese of Lisieux and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. • Pacem in Terris received a Papal Blessing from John Paul II when Shirley Wanchena and her son Jeffrey traveled to Rome.

1993 An additional twenty acres of land along County Road 8 were purchased. A house on the property, named San Damiano, is used for staff housing.

1996 August 1 opened St. Margaret Mary, St. John the Beloved and St. Cloud hermitages.

1999 In November, Our Lady of Pacem house, designed by architect Keith Waters was dedicated.

The 2000s

2000 On February 2, six more hermitages were blessed and opened; St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Dominic, St. Clare and St. Francis. • Mark Balma, fresco artist and former hermit, painted the chapel image of Jesus.

2002 Pacem in Terris is featured on KSTP TV’s News Extra. Watch the video.

2003 The Prayer Partner Ministry was established; hundreds of hermit guests promise to continue to pray for Pacem in their daily lives. • The Pacem In Terris ministry has grown to include 240 acres of woods, prairie and wetlands. Approximately 1000 hermit guests are received annually; about half are new to Pacem. Since Shirley accepted that invitation in 1979, hundreds of people have joined in this mission through prayer, time, talent and treasure.

2008 Board President Fr. Tim Nolan is interviewed on Relevant Radio’s City Winds. Listen to the interview.

2009 Pacem in Terris is featured on WCCO TV’s Newscast. Watch the video.

The 2010s

2010 To ensure that Pacem in Terris continues its ministry for future generations, a Legacy Fund was established.

And God continues to call His people to “Come away and be alone with Me”.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build.” 

Psalm 127:1