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The Priory Retreat House
135 Priory Rd
Chestertown, NY 12817

About us

Why a Retreat House?


With a shared focus on restoring the monastic traditions of the original community here on the mount, we seek to revitalize the house and property as a refuge for all individuals who desire a stronger connection with God and Creation. We embody simple living, communal prayer, and practice internal spiritual work as the monks and nuns did walking these grounds since the 1970’s. In light of the “universal call to holiness” and recognizing the call to “interior monasticism”, the Priory stands to be “A Monastic Way For All.”

Many of us are not called to take religious vows or join a monastery. However, like monastics, we are all called to become the best versions of ourselves while serving others in this world, all the while not being of the world.  It is in the world, working our professions, going to school, and living in a family or community where we get burnt out and it is we who are in most need of a RETREAT.  People of all ways of life fall into this category, because we all know what it is like to walk a path in the world — we all have this in common.


“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” 

(Rom 12:2)


We feel that many people do not know how to retreat. We hope that this message will acquaint those people with a notion of how to unplug, make time, and renounce oneself of everyday distractions. We seek to serve those who are longtime friends of the Priory while also bringing new faces here, especially those who are in deep need of simplifying their life through prayer and a sense of community — and to introduce that feeling that countless people have had on their first retreat at The Priory.

At The Priory, we seek to lead people to an interior spiritual door. Once freely entered, we encourage them to “Stand still, and allow the strange, deadly restlessness of our tragic age to fall away like the worn-out, dusty cloak that it is” (C.Doherty).  There is a peace – a peace the world cannot offer – in order for us to find it, we must make time. And when we do, that is enough for us to be seen and heard.  But if we don’t make the time and push past all of our excuses (and there will be many right up until the day we leave for retreat) we continue down the path of being physically and spiritually drained – and this is how it will be year after year until we pass away.

Retreating at The Priory gives one the opportunity to learn the monastic tradition of detaching from the world but unique in that one is taught the spiritual tools to go back and live in freedom from all that possesses them.  For ALL of life is our “practice” and a prayer, if we but allow ourselves to see the sacred in everything, we will experience all in reverent awe.  This is a truly unique offering at a truly important time.  In short, the reason we go on retreat is to internalize it.

“God will fight for you, you need only to be still.” | Ex 14:14


Dustin and Lanni’s Story

…from our guests


“This weekend I lived with the company of friends I did not know; ate food I did not prepare; walked trails I did not groom; slept in a bed I did not make with sheets I will not wash. For all the people past, present, and future of the Priory, I am in gratitude.”  (Catherine C.)

“Dustin and Lanni’s guidance and mentorship were especially helpful. Being in tune with nature and eating healthy meals were very spiritually uplifting. This retreat was like a ‘spa for the soul.’”  (Danielle D.)

“There is a quiet stillness here.. not just silence.”  (Jim B.)

“I found to immerse myself in the stillness of both the beautiful retreat house and surrounding nature was spiritually very powerful. Dustin and Lanni made me feel so welcomed, they were knowledgeable, gifted and outstandingly welcoming!  The atmosphere was very serene. I felt the presence of holiness the minute I walked through the door. My favorite parts of the day were going back into my room and looking at the view of the garden, the birds at the feeder & and the little red squirrels along with the turkeys and deer at dusk.”  (Anne W.)

“We heard God call when we retreated from the world.”


    Dustin and Lanni grew up taking the many “self-serving” paths the world offers.  A common theme amidst all of the academic degrees, times of employment, and international travel was their desire to start helping others and not just their own ambitions in life.  The couple met when they both returned home to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in need of a break from the pace of academia and traveling abroad.  In finding each other and realizing the possibility that God was calling them to work together was exciting and new.  This was because when they were younger, they were intent on moving forward and cultivating their talents and skills alone.  Dustin and Lanni left their “rugged individualism” behind and embarked on the journey ahead, sent out as a pair.  Like many before them, they began to walk what they call “The Royal Way”, serving each other, seeking to love more.

    Dustin and Lanni responded to the call to be stewards of The Priory and to focus on helping people take breaks because they know exactly what it is like to need to retreat.  They have many stories from different chapters in their lives where they had to reevaluate the path they were taking by seeking to retreat from the world.  Their inner dialogue with God during those times may have sounded something like this:

Come. Stop what you are doing this instant and find a place to go and take a break from the cares of your everyday life. Be Still. In that place of stillness, I will calm your mind and you will see your life with clarity.  Listen.  In the renewal of your spirit will come the renewal of your body and you will more easily hear where I am calling you.”

    Amidst a person’s efforts to retreat, is a desire to change.  For Lanni and Dustin, in hearing and responding to God’s call, change was inevitable.  How else does one muster up the courage to go into a career of designing sustainable fashion after they have just finished an international law degree?  How does one accept that a chronic illness is an opportunity and not a debilitation for one’s life?  When is it time to follow your heart and let go of the supposed blueprint of your life you’ve held onto for years? These were some of the crossroads that Lanni navigated through that would require immense leaps of faith – which would only come about when she took the time to get away, retreat, and discern what to do next.

     Ever since Dustin was a boy, he had found refuge in the forests that border the Great Lake Superior.  Through intentional time spent in the wilderness in a cabin, tent, or under the stars, he had life changing experiences that taught him the way of watchfulness and prayer of the heart.  To this day, it is Dustin’s practice to take one full day per week to retreat with God in a solitary place.  This effort to unplug and reconnect with The Spirit allows his spiritual life to grow and his relationship with Christ to not be a mere intellectual exercise, but a personal encounter.  Prior to making any major decisions in life, Dustin has sought counsel from God on retreat and encourages all to do the same.

    In the receiving of their child, Satori Rising, into their life, the Katona-Lantto family feels they have just begun to walk the path they are calling YOU to embark on.  That is why they have left loved ones and their home to be here at The Priory – for YOU.  They are here to share their experience with you and to listen to where you are at and where God may be calling you.  They urge YOU to remember, it is in the effort and execution to make time for retreat, where miracles happen, and people’s lives are transformed and renewed.  Their invitation is clear.  Come, be still, and listen.

Our Mission and Our Vision for the Future…

In summary…



Offering a place of refuge from the cares of everyday life.


• We will continue to be known as a place of refuge for all people who seek a deeper connection with God, themselves, and creation.

• Living out a Christ-like hospitality that is radically compassionate, we will host all who come to our doors, especially the most vulnerable.

Living off of the land and preserving the forest, we will provide food for our guests and the community that is sustainable to the earth and future generations.

• We will serve nutritious plant-based meals, practicing non-violence, both of which will help us pray.

• We will be unplugged from technologies and media that hinder true spiritual growth and will teach others to do the same.

• Detached from the comforts & conveniences of the world, we will want nothing, acquiring stillness of heart & offering genuine spiritual direction.

• We will be ever watchful of the times and ourselves, lest we become hypocritically weighed down with the cares and anxieties of this life.

We will pray and serve always, knowing full well where our life comes from, allowing our light to shine before others.

Our Staff and Board

Dustin Katona

Executive Director

Lanni Lantto

Associate Director

Peter Hart


Melissa Wilson

Vice President

Mark Hodge


Pat Mousaw

Retreats & Spiritual Direction

Rev. Nancy Goff

Pastoral Guidance

Lynne Shepherd



``Unum est Necessarium``

Dustin Katona

Executive Director - Abba of the House

Dustin, husband to Lanni and father to Satori Rising, is called to form of an intentional community of prayer, hospitality and active stewardship for God’s creation. With over a decade of experience serving as a parish youth minister, he has led mission trips, wilderness ventures, spiritual directed retreats, and given numerous talks on being Disciples of Christ. He has made several pilgrimages and retreats throughout the world to holy monastic and hermitage sites, but has always found the most refuge in the woods of North America. He is also an independent filmmaker and public speaker and holds a B.A. in Religious Studies, and M.A. in Divinity / Catholic Studies.

You can find out more about Dustin’s film company at


Sophia! Be attentive!

Lanni Lantto

Associate Director - Amma of the House

Lanni, wife to Dustin and mother to Satori Rising, has traveled the world empowering women through the arts. She has spoken publicly on the importance of non-consumption and how to awaken to the reality we can creatively re-use what we already own. She earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies, holds a LLM in International Law, and taught Women’s Studies at Ithaca and Wells College respectfully.

You can find Lanni’s business online at


May the Lord grant you His peace!

Maureen Schultz

Office Manager - Friend of the House

Twelve years ago, Maureen experienced the sacred space of the Priory for the first time. Since then, she has returned many times and in 2014, she was pleased to join the staff as part time office manager. It has been her intention to bring her business and customer service experience to welcoming those who seek time away for quiet refreshment with a spirit of hospitality.


``I came that you might have life!``

Holy Spirit of God

Divine Counselor - Spiritual Director of the House

Our comforter and The Spirit of Truth.  Present everywhere and filling all things, the treasury of all blessings and the giver of life, dwelling within us and savings us… daily.


The Invitation

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
(Mt. 5:14,16)

In 1974, Father Paul Roman received an invitation from his friend, Bill Aiken, to “climb a mountain.” At the top, he saw one hundred acres of virgin Adirondack forest, and hung a medal of St. Benedict on a beam of a sagging barn. Upon coming down the mountain, Fr. Roman shared the news of his recent discovery with his friends, Fathers John Kerwin and Michael Neaton. These two priests had recently been granted permission to establish a Catholic monastic community where they could lead a life of contemplation, hospitality, work, and service. This mountaintop made for an ideal permanent site and the foundation to a community set a part from the world.

“You are not of the world…I chose you out of the world.”
(Mt. 15:19)

Following construction of the house in 1979, Bishop Howard Hubbard dedicated the building, grounds and community as the Priory of St. Benedict. While the community sought contemplation and the living out of their call as monastics, people began to come for common prayer and times of public worship with the monks. As the friends of the monks grew in numbers, the reputation of the Priory also grew. In time, the focus of the community began to shift to establishing a retreat house for all peoples.

In 1984, The Priory’s new chapel was completed and dedicated by Bishop Hubbard and in 1985, the last monk of the original community left to follow a new call. With this, the faithful friends of the community began to discern anew The Priory’s purpose.

Dedicated to helping people cultivate their spirituality, Sister Connie Messitt, CSJ was asked to become Retreat Director of The Priory in 1987. She proposed to the Board of Directors to officially convert the house into a year round center for people of all faiths. Sister Francis Gilchrist, CSJ joined the Priory community in 1989 and became co-director, where she would serve until 2005. Pat Mousaw served as co-director until 2007 after Sr. Fran’s departure from full-time ministry, followed by Sister Karen Lee, CSJ who would assist Sr. Connie as assistant director for a time. After almost 30 years of service, Sr. Connie retired from her role as the Priory’s Director in 2015.

“Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.”

Presently, under the leadership of Executive Director, Dustin Katona, the Priory hosts and listens to all who come to its doors. We offer overnight retreats, weekend workshops, and full and half-day programs. We also host groups who want a place to hold their own retreats and gatherings, and individuals who are seeking a time of solitude and prayer.  The house and grounds are places that cultivate stillness and stability amidst an ever-changing world.