Mr. Samir Azer, Operations & Hospitality Director
TIPTON- Samir Azer, Operations and Hospitality Director of the Saint Joseph Retreat and Conference Center, is a man of faith, a hotelier who has traveled the world, an immigrant from Egypt, a former seminarian, and a married father of three.
“I’m privileged to be Christian and more fortunate to be Catholic,” he says. “There is no other denomination where God invites you every day at his table…giving us the opportunity to be united with him and in him.”
Azer’s reverence has facilitated the revival of the St. Joseph retreat into a spiritual epicenter. It is currently under renovation but soon will be a welcoming and “targeted place for everyone seeking to find himself, looking to discover the will of God.”
He seeks to make service and hospitality from the heart the touchstone of the St. Joseph retreat. He welcomes visitors to contemplate God’s works, explaining that “those who are tired and have heavy burdens, they will have rest.”
He says wherever he goes, Azer takes three minutes of prayer and focuses on Luke 6:31: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“How many times I was confronted with situations that I had to make a crucial decision and what Jesus would do in that situation made me choose the right decision!” Azer exclaims. He relies heavily on prayer and personal encounters with Jesus to reach solutions for guests’ concerns.
Azer has an educational and managerial background in the hospitality field and has received several awards in recognition of satisfying hotel guests. He was the general manager of a hotel chain in Indianapolis for the past 12 years.
“I can attribute my years of success to the eight years I spent in the seminary to become a priest,” he says. “Those years shaped a person for the future.”
That future, to move from Egypt to attend Cornell and Miami International University and eventually to bring his family to Indiana, was not what he had planned but what he discerned God willed for him.
“God of the impossible, he always gives us more than we ask or even deserve,” says Azer. “When I sit with myself to contemplate the plan of God and how he saved my family, I do not know how to thank him for all the blessing he gave us!”
Azer will receive guests at the facilities and grounds of the St. Joseph Retreat and Conference Center. It will be open for reservations starting Sept. 26 and he says the grand opening for the center is still being planned.
Until then, he invites all to visit, and to rest, contemplate, and listen for the presence of God at this quiet haven that offers a chapel, meeting rooms of different sizes, individual rooms for overnight guests, and a dining room in the main building.
There are also houses of prayer on the property for smaller retreats, and the grounds provide numerous gardens, paths, religious statuary, and a grotto. More information can be found on the center’s website at https://stjosephretreat.org/.
Azer aims to present a pleasant yet moving place for disciples looking to discover the will of God. He hopes to facilitate guests’ meaningful encounters on this “secluded oasis…no interruption, very peaceful, tranquility all around that creates joy and happiness in one’s soul.”
A focal point of this oasis is the chapel that “has a special Spirit that moves the deeps,” he says, hoping others will feel the same serenity he has experienced here.
“I can’t wait to finish the renovation, to tour the center with my family,” says Azer.
He describes his home life where he sits with his wife, two daughters, and one son to chat each evening; he says they are excited to know what phases are complete at the St. Joseph center and what comes next.
It was understood when the Lafayette diocese purchased the center from the Sisters of St. Joseph that it would be a major project to renovate the buildings and prepare for conferences and retreats.
Completed work includes a new HV/AC system allowing individual rooms to be climate controlled, keeping with one of Bishop Timothy L. Doherty’s desires for the St. Joseph retreat to be a warm and hospitable place to encounter God.
Upon entering the main building, guests will eventually discover a new reception and gift shop area. The restrooms have been enlarged, the kitchen is being updated, and there are many rooms that have been expanded to allow space for small group discussions or mini conferences.
“I am a person with a versatile skill set, a lot of integrity and a willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy the needs of a guest,” says Azer. Part of his daily work will be to assist visitors with reservations and provide what they need during their stay at the renovated center.
The diocesan goal was to open the retreat center with a majority of the interior repairs completed. There will be more renovation phases in the future, and it is Azer’s prayer that as these changes are made, more “disciples will go out to spread the Good News of our Lord, there will be new creation, healing miracles.”
He says he wants everyone to contemplate God’s works in their lives and to experience the St. Joseph center as “a place where people come and never leave the same.”