It’s 2017, and after fifty years in the retreat business, it’s a wonderful achievement and truly a blessing… but what about the next 50 years? The Board of Directors and the MRCC staff have been discerning this question for the past year and our vision for the future looks something like this:
Our highest priority is to sustain the Marianist charism at MRCC even though the Marianists no longer live on the grounds. “This goal is core to our Marianist character as a ministry. “We will continue to demonstrate how MRCC is part of a much larger and global ministry by ongoing formation of the Board, guests, and staff in the Marianist Charism. “Because family ministry is part of our charism and history, we will expand our capacity to meet the spiritual needs of families.” Recently, we have held focus groups and conducted online surveys relevant to the spiritual needs of families. “What we have heard from families is being incorporated in recent programs like Hearts of Mary (see picture, right), Theater Camp, and Family Fun Day with the Saints.” In the future, we will continue to create retreats that support the spiritual journeys of all St. Louis families.
The Marianist Retreat Center, founded in 1967, was built for the primary purpose of providing retreat experiences for high school youth. “Over the ensuing years, that focus has evolved into a ministry that serves both youth and adults in approximately equal numbers.” Last year, over 3,000 people made an MRCC retreat. “It remains a vibrant and very busy ministry with few dates throughout the year that aren’t booked.” In short, the retreat center is “maxed out”, offering no availability for an envisioned Family retreat ministry.” Moreover, the main retreat building – keeping in mind its original purpose – consists of 42 small rooms designed for single occupancy. “Another building on the property, known as Marycliff (see picture, left), is a 10,000 square foot historic structure built in 1905 as a residential summer retreat house of a wealthy St. Louis family.”
Purchased in 1949 by the Marianist Order (The Society of Mary), the building has served as the Provincial headquarters of the order, a novitiate, as well as a site for small group retreats. “On June 1, 2017, the building ceased to serve as a residence and came under the aegis of the retreat center management. “The vision for Marycliff is to serve as a lodge for an exciting new ministry serving families and their spiritual journey.” Although extensive modification will be required, it is felt to be an ideal setting for this new program emphasis. “The Marianist Province in the United States operates another retreat facility in Cape May, New Jersey that conducts a very successful and highly sought-after ministry to families.”
As a “sister” facility in the Marianist family of ministries, the Cape May program will serve as a model for this new program at Marycliff. “No other religious retreat house in the St. Louis area caters exclusively to family retreats.” To accomplish this goal, we are facilitating a thorough evaluation of Marycliff which includes looking at building codes and accessibility issues, adding a central AC system and other major improvements. “Once we know the extent of the changes and improvements that will be needed, we will begin a drive to raise the money needed to make these changes.” Because of the work needed to make this happen, we can no longer book overnight retreats there but we can use it during the day.
We will continue to increase opportunities to educate for service, justice, and peace. Because social justice outreach is a key Marianist value, we will continue to look for ways to engage in the local social justice community. “Outreach also includes welcoming and working with low income groups and organizations so that they too can make retreats at MRCC.
Recent polls show that more and more Americans are not identifying with a church but are still serious about their spiritual journey. “With this in mind, we will continue to reach out and attempt to meet the spiritual needs of adults and young adults.” This means we will need to continue to create retreats that are non-traditional religious experiences and offer weekend retreats that utilize a variety of faith traditions. “We will also continue to host a variety of churches and religious groups.
The bottom line is that our present retreat ministry is very healthy and the future is indeed bright. We are grateful to a God who has truly blessed this ministry for 50 years and we pray for the guidance and wisdom to make our vision a reality.