sa·cred  adjective  \ˈsā-krəd\  dedicated or set apart for God

sacred. was born out of our conviction and God’s promptings that, while there is much to learn about God from seminars, sermons and classes, there is just no comparison to actually creating space in our lives to engage directly with Him. Over the past few years, we have experienced personally and witnessed directly, the amazing work of transformation that can happen when you create a healthy rhythm of going away to meet with God for an extended time.

We are committed to creating spaces which are “set apart” for intentionally meeting with God. Jesus modeled this lifestyle of routinely withdrawing from the demands of life to spend extended time with His Father. Our hope is that, you too, will create a rhythm of going away to meet with the One who knows you better than you know yourself. God longs to remind you who you are and what he intends for you to do. Your life does not need to feel “insane.” We want you to walk away from this time with God saying, “My life, all of it, is sacred……period.”

Gail and Joan are looking forward to meeting you. Here’s a bit about their own story.

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Gail Donahue

It is Gail’s passion to see people discover and live out a vibrant, power-filled and intimate walk with Christ in the midst of our very complex world. She finds deep satisfaction and joy in guiding and walking alongside people of all ages and backgrounds in their spiritual journey.

Gail has served in ministry in many capacities over the years. As a member of Willow Creek Community Church, she has mentored women and men, led small groups and coached leaders. She has taught classes on parenting, leadership, prayer and spiritual formation; as well as served on various ministry advisory boards, including ten years as an elder at Willow Creek. Gail has also spoken frequently at conferences and retreats on small group leadership, solitude, prayer, and spiritual formation. Presently she teaches a spiritual formation class and provides personal spiritual direction. She has received her Spiritual Direction certification from The School of Spiritual Direction through Sustainable Faith. She is also a facilitator for oneLife Maps.

Gail has travelled broadly, growing up in Central and South America. She’s a graduate of Baylor University and holds a Master’s Degree from SMU in Dallas. Prior to moving to Illinois, she worked in the Dallas area as a speech pathologist and as a systems engineer for IBM. For enjoyment Gail likes long walks in creation, traveling abroad, experiencing new cultures, reading, and deep conversations with friends and family over a good meal. She and her husband reside in Dundee, Illinois and have two grown children.

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Joan Kelley

Joan’s mission is to create spaces to help people “connect the dots” on their spiritual journey and find God’s story in the midst of their everyday lives. She loves walking along side others as they grow in Christ. Joan has been a member of Willow Creek Community Church for over 20 years. She has been involved in leading and teaching in several ministries around topics including parenting, grief, gratitude, joy, life story, marriage, mentoring and stewardship.  Joan currently serves as Director of Facilitator Development for a ministry called oneLife Maps ( She also currently teaches a weekly spiritual formation class at her church. Joan listens to men and women as a Spiritual Director and received her certificate from Sustainable Faith led by David Nixon.

Joan is a farm girl at heart and grew up in central Illinois. Joan is a graduate of University of Illinois in General Engineering. She worked as a consultant in the manufacturing/food industry for a large consulting practice and then started her own consulting business. Joan and her husband John have four children and live in Palatine. She loves reading a good book, flying down a hill on her bike, a walk in God’s creation or a lively conversation around the dinner table with her kids and husband.


An article written by a Sacred Retreat attendee…

The time my psychiatrist sent me on retreat

He leaned back and sighed. “I think what you need is a spiritual experience.”

Katherine Willis Pershey


A podcast with Joan and Gail

Making space for God to Restore Your soul

“Listen to My Life: Recognizing and Responding to God in My Story” by Sharon Swing and Sibyl Towner.

A podcast with Joan and Gail

Rhythms of Grace - Solitude, Community, ministry

“Listen to My Life: Recognizing and Responding to God in My Story” by Sharon Swing and Sibyl Towner.

A video by a retreat attendee…

Sacred Retreat Recommendation

Brian Booth - Executive Director, St. Peter Lutheran Church and School


A teaching and practice by Gail and Joan

Invitation to Retreat

Talk and Practice created for The Practice Community at Willow Creek Community Church

Our retreat with Sacred was the perfect way to start the new year of ministry for our church and school team. Gail and Joan expertly guided us through the day, creating space for time with God, and the campus at St. Mary’s was a beautiful setting to escape from the day-to-day grind. I can’t think of a better way to invest in our team than to give the gift of solitude and creating space to be filled with Jesus. The timing seemed counterintuitive at first, with it being the week before our new school year and everyone having plenty on their to-do lists, but it has now set the tone for the rest of our year, and we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from our team. I’d highly recommend hosting a Sacred retreat for your ministry team. It’s an investment you won’t regret!
— Brian Booth - Executive Director, St. Peter Lutheran Church and School

Most guys I know feel secretly intimidated by the thought of a day of solitude. “What will I do? Will it be worth it? Will they make me talk to strangers about my life?” Joan and Gail provide participants with just enough guidance to make the time productive and as much – or as little – interaction as you need. If you feel like you’d benefit from some recalibration but you need a guide, a retreat like this is just what the doctor ordered.
— Ted Harro – Founder and President of Noonday Ventures

I have known Joan and Gail for many years. We have had the deep privilege of sharpening one another in Christ. This step in inviting people to regular times of retreat is consistent with their own lives and reflects the kinds of space where God has met each of them deeply. They are good listeners to God and to others. You will meet God in the silence of a community gathered and in the ways they set the day up for those who gather together. It is a privilege to endorse this fresh work to encourage our companioning with Christ.
— Sibyl Towner - Spiritual Director and CoFounder oneLife Maps, CoDirector of The Springs Indiana

I was hesitant to sign up for a “Sacred” retreat – where could that possibly fit in my crazy life of serving others? In hindsight, attending one of the day-long silent retreats was exactly what I needed to recharge my spirit and adjust my attitude to better serve God through helping others. This was a day, beautifully and gently guided by God’s anointed daughters Gail and Joan, in which I was able to listen to God’s whispers and encouragement. I highly recommend this retreat for anyone who may be experiencing exhaustion or burnout due to being in a caretaking or helping role. When we are consumed by our efforts to help others it is all too easy to forget to recharge in a quiet and sacred space with the holy One who gives us guidance and strength.
This day blessed me immeasurably.
— Lynne P. Murphy, LCPC ( Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor)

These leaders are two of the most Christ centered shepherds I have ever been blessed enough to know. They are skilled and called for this sacred ministry of holding space for others. It is a divine place in which the Holy Spirit dwells and moves. Give yourself or someone you love this gift of quality time in the arms of the One who see you, woos you, and calls you Beloved. It just might change the course of your story.
— Jean Masukevich – Owner SOAR for Kids

Statement of Faith

Click here to read our Statement of Faith.