When Mary Liuzzi stepped out of her car at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Ronkonkoma, she gasped.
The building she once knew, made of brick and resembling a Mediterranean-style castle, was torn down and has been replaced with a modern, energy-efficient one.
Liuzzi, of Lake Grove, said she used to come to the center about 15 years ago to pick up mass cards, but hadn’t been back since she started receiving them in the mail. When she heard about the new building, she said she had to see it.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, of the red Spanish tiles that had been taken off the original building and reinstalled on the new one.
The Sisters of the Cenacle, who run the retreat center, located at 310 Cenacle Rd., tore down the original building in 2008 and held an open house for the recently completed new structure on Saturday and Sunday.
Sister Barbara Regan said about 200 people attended the first day and other sisters estimated it to be about the same on Sunday.
The 49,000-square-foot building is about half the size of its predecessor and was designed to meet internationally recognized green building standards, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Energy costs are expected to be reduced by at least two thirds, said Sister Margaret Rohde, director of the ministry.
The building, which sits on about 45 wooded acres, is home to 12 nuns and serves as a retreat center for the public. It has two floors, 24 retreat rooms, a chapel, a meeting hall and a dining room.
During the weekend open house, the sisters greeted guests from the community as they came in and out to see the changes. They pointed out favorite design elements and many of the “beloved” elements of the former building that were reused in the new building both for sentimental and practical reasons.
Sister Barbara said the sisters were happy to finally open their doors to the rest of the community.
“It’s tremendously exciting,” she said. “We’ve all been waiting for this for three years.”