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Joe Ricketts building a spiritual retreat in Sarpy County people can use to answer big questions

KETV - June 11, 2017

SARPY COUNTY, Neb. — Among the trees and rolling hills along the Platte River, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts is building a special place for anyone to enjoy.

"Once I saw the land, I knew really what we had," he said in an interview with KETV NewsWatch 7.

He bought 930 wooded acres in Sarpy County, and he's returning them to God.

"I find that I have better prayer when I'm walking through the woods," he said.

The woods -- off Highway 31 and west of Schramm state park -- are now the site of a new spiritual retreat called Cloisters on the Platte. It's a sprawling compound with guest rooms for 80 people each weekend and a church inspired by Ricketts' favorite parish in the heart of Omaha: St. Margaret Mary.

But you won't have to be Catholic to enjoy what the billionaire is building.

"I like to think of this as really something that is available to all Christians," Ricketts said, adding, "I like to say I'm a Christian, in particular a Catholic."

Cloisters on the Platte will start hosting retreats in the summer of 2018. They will be in the St. Ignacious tradition -- stressing solitude and silence. It's an exercise in centering yourself.

"When the people come here, they need to have the opportunity to contemplate, meditate and pray," Ricketts said of the retreat. "They set themselves apart from the rest of the world."

One of the world's richest people, Ricketts knows first-hand the power of the experience. He says his faith was drifting as he started building TD Ameritrade decades ago.

A priest recommended a retreat.

"I went with a great deal of anxiety," he said, noting a previous poor experience with a Catholic retreat. "But [years later] I found it was exactly the thing I was looking for."

There are only 27 other Ingancian retreats in the country, and they book up fast. When Ricketts couldn't get into a retreat several years ago, he thought 'why not build one myself?'

He's using his personal fortune to finance construction of Cloisters on the Platte and -- when finished -- it will be unlike any other. Ricketts hopes people will use this spiritual oasis to find the answers they seek.

"Who am I, what am I, what's the most important thing in my life?" Ricketts says are some of the questions people should ask themselves on retreats. "Take time to think through these deeply and it does change your life."

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