A HISTORY OF MANRESA
The seeds of Manresa were planted by a group of laymen who
had their first retreat experiences at St. Stanislaus Retreat House (now
Jesuit Retreat House) in Cleveland, Ohio. Their initiative was fostered
by two Jesuits, Fr. John Donoher, SJ (from 1921 to 1925) and Fr. William
Cogley, SJ (from 1925 to 1945). And God gave the increase.
The original group of men formed an association called "The
Laymen's Retreat League." Together they purchased land in what is
now Grosse Pointe Park and planned to build a retreat house there. After
four years of hard work it became clear that the site was less desirable.
Fr. Donoher died on May 30, 1925, and Fr. William Cogley was appointed
his successor, and the search for a new site continued. In March, 1926,
the Edsel Ford Estate offered to purchase the Grosse Pointe property.
This gave the Laymen's Retreat League the opportunity the men had prayed
for. They sold the property and in July of that year bought the "Deepdale
Estate" of William Murphy on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Quarton
Road. This site was more central to a growing Detroit area. Public transportation
was available on the Woodward car line between Detroit and Pontiac.
39-acre Deepdale Estate had been developed by William Murphy, one of the
builders of the Penobscot Building in Detroit. The beautiful, rustic setting,
divided by the swiftly flowing main branch of the young Rouge River, was
not only an estate but a small farm. Mr. Murphy, in addition to the main
house, had built a tile barn for the cattle, a caretaker's house, and
a barn for farm equipment. A pump house powered by a waterwheel fed water
into an underground sprinkling system throughout the vast gardens. A special
feature of the Deepdale Estate was a silo built in the shape of a lighthouse,
which gave him a lofty place to survey his property. In 1926 Mr. Murphy
put the property up for sale.
With the approval of the Provincial of the Chicago Province,
Fr. Jeremiah O'Callaghan, SJ, the purchase of "Deepdale" was
completed in August of 1926. At that time Fr. O'Callaghan stated that
the Father General of the Society of Jesus required that complete ownership
and management of the property and all the activities of the retreat house
be under the control of the Jesuits. But, for the time being, Fr. O'Callaghan
preferred that the property and all assets be left under the management
of the Laymen's Retreat League. The actual transfer of the property to
the Jesuits took place decades later.
In these early days the Retreat Office was located in the
Gabriel Richard Building in downtown Detroit. The manor house on the new
property was promptly made ready for retreats and Fr. Cogley directed
the first retreat September 23-26, 1926.
Sixteen men made this retreat. Initially it was a great struggle to meet
the costs and to recruit retreatants. But with Fr. Cogley's leadership
and the enthusiasm of the retreatants the new venture picked up momentum.
The full capacity of the house was 23 retreatants. To help make ends meet,
Fr. Cogley worked a big garden and raised cattle to keep the table supplied.
The outdoor Way of the Cross, the Lourdes shrine, and the handsome gateway
at the entrance soon enhanced the property.
the depression came in the early 1930's, expenses became almost insupportable.
Then disaster struck. On March 22, 1934, the manor house caught fire and
burned to the ground. Yet the retreatants, determined to carry on despite
the economic situation, raised the funds to build a new structure on the
site of the old. The cornerstone was laid in early 1935 and the building,
constructed under the guidance of Henry Brennan of the W.E. Wood Co.,
was completed by August 27, 1936. Fr. Marshall Lochbiler, SJ, directed
the first retreat for 31 retreatants, the capacity of the new facility.
The house was built in a style that came to be known as Detroit Cotswold,
a style inspired by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, completed just a
few years earlier.
Growth and Development
Laymen, priests, and some younger boys made regular retreats.
In these earlier days it was customary for men from a single parish to
make a retreat together. Retreats ended with Benediction at 4 PM on Sunday
and the diocesan pastor normally participated. Retreatants remembering
these days never fail to remark that the heaviest penance for all was
the food. One retreatant remembers overcooked lima beans for breakfast!
Table waiters were frequently "jugged" boys from the University
of Detroit High School, i.e., their punishment for disciplinary infractions
was to wait on tables at Manresa. Fr. Cogley, the "founding father"
of Manresa, died on July 2, 1945. It was due to his generous twenty years
of ministry at Manresa that the apostolate took root and thrived.
In 1945 Fr. Gerald Fitzgibbons, SJ, took over as Director.
The number of retreatants grew and in 1951 the present chapel wing was
built. This added rooms on the second floor and raised the capacity to
42 retreatants. In 1952 Fr. Clement Singer, SJ, became Director. And as
the number of retreatants continued to grow, the possibility of a second
retreat house in the Detroit area was considered. Eventually it was decided
to increase Manresa's capacity even more.
Bernard Wernert, SJ, was named Director in 1963. He moved the offices
from downtown Detroit to the Manresa facility and formed a building committee
which began to plan for a new addition. On Palm Sunday, April 3, 1966,
ground was broken for the substantial new wing which included a basement
assembly room. On May 21, 1967, 1400 people celebrated the dedication
of this extension which brought the number of retreat rooms up to 70.
Funds saved by Fr. Singer and his predecessors covered the cost of the
building and all its furnishings.
Youth / Funding / Women
When he came to Manresa, Fr. Wernert found youth retreats
flourishing under the guidance of Fr. Paul Cavanaugh, SJ. From 1961 to
1969 these midweek and evening retreats filled the house. As the new wing
was finished, Manresa's retreatants initiated a fundraising campaign to
build a separate youth retreat house on the property. Changes in the Church
and society called into doubt the wisdom of having a separate facility
for boys. The many donors who had contributed to the campaign, all but
six, decided to leave the money with Manresa, thereby providing a fund
that has helped sustain Manresa in the years that followed. Youth retreats,
however, have continued to flourish at Manresa particularly through high
school "Kairos" retreats. The Second Vatican Council brought
about several changes at Manresa. The most noticeable of these at Manresa
has been the offering of retreats for women.
Golden Jubilee/New Leadership
On September 12, 1976, Manresa celebrated its Golden Jubilee
with an outdoor Mass, presided over by Bishop Walter Schoenherr. Over
1200 people attended. All of this was reminiscent of the grand Corpus
Christi celebrations held by Frs. Cogley and Fitzgibbons in the early
days of Manresa.
In 1977 for reasons of health Fr. Wernert retired from his
14 years of service to Manresa and Fr. Eugene Simon, SJ, became the new
Director. In 1979 the dining room was enlarged and joined to the new wing.
The chapel was air-conditioned. A "cave" chapel was built on
the second floor in an area designated for a future elevator shaft. The
kitchen and store rooms were enlarged. In 1980 the Jesuits received a
new dining room, and Our Lady of Manresa, a one of a kind statue
donated by Peter Grande, came to the Manresa grounds.
In 1981 the Sacred Heart Court was added, and the Board
initiated a campaign to build the Administration Wing. The next year the
new wing, with its Wernert Lounge and administrative offices, was dedicated
by Archbishop Szoka. The new main entrance is graced with a statue to
the Holy Spirit, the gift of a Jewish family. In 1987 the chapel was enlarged
and enhanced with new sanctuary furnishings.
More Recent Developments / Manresa 2000
In 1990, Fr. Simon was assigned to work with the Jesuit
Province Office, Fr. John McGrail, SJ, took the position of Director for
a year, and then Fr. James Riley, SJ, became Director for four years.
During this time the lay Advisory Board became a full Board
of Directors. In 1995 the two-year Internship in Ignatian Spirituality,
which had been functioning at Colombiere Center in Clarkston for 15 years,
became an intrinsic part of the Manresa apostolate. This has now become
the Seminar in Ignatian Spirituality
and the Internship in Spiritual Companionship.
Fr. Riley was called to serve in Rome in 1995, and Fr. James
Serrick, SJ became Manresa's new Director. The Board of Directors then
initiated a study of the whole physical plant with special attention to
current fire and safety codes, and launched a campaign called "Manresa
2000," which raised funds for the improvement and upgrading of the
whole retreat house facility during the summer of 1997. This work included
a new kitchen, an integrated fire and smoke alarm system, fire escapes
from the second floor, a new elevator to all floors, new heat controls
in all the rooms, air-conditioning of the whole building, and rooms for
the physically disabled. The former pump house, which was powered by a
waterwheel, was converted to a small, rustic chapel. On the first floor
of the main building, a statue of Our Lady of Montserrat has become the
focal point of a chapel, while a "cave chapel" is located on
the second floor. With all this work now accomplished, Manresa is well
situated to serve long into the 21st century.
Manresa is the home for many different types of Ignatian
ministries. Fifty-two conference retreats, with a capacity of 78 persons
per retreat, bring in a total of 2,600 men and women each year. Individually
directed retreats take place throughout the year. Cottages on the property
frequently house these retreatants. A. A. groups meet regularly at Manresa.
These had been fostered by Fr. Jack Schuett, SJ, who ministered to our
A. A. constituency for 21 years. The Manresa staff gives ongoing spiritual
direction to many people. Each year the Seminar on Ignatian Spirituality,
the Internship in Spiritual Companionship, and other educational programs train
people of various Christian faiths and backgrounds. Days of Recollection
take place throughout the year.
As the new millennium unfolds, God continues to bless the
retreat apostolate at Manresa. With the help of retreat Captains and Lieutenants
we maintain our conference retreat program,
encourage the participation of younger retreatants, and strive to fill
each retreat so that as many people as possible may take advantage of
the graces to be found here.
Summers continue to provide opportunity for more people
to take time for longer individually
directed retreats. The Internship continues to foster the growth and
formation of persons in their call to minister to God's people. Manresa's
facilities are available during the week for use by groups desiring to
"get away" to a quiet place for various types of meetings, seminars,
To enrich the ministries of Manresa lay and religious people
trained and nurtured in the Ignatian charism have been welcomed as colleagues
in ministry with the Jesuits, and together we will work for Manresa's
goals. Together we can strive to live the motto of St. Ignatius, "Ad
Majorem Dei Gloriam" (For the Greater Glory of God) and with God's
grace Manresa will thrive.
In 2014 Mary Andrecovich's history of Manresa was published, telling
the story of Manresa in even greater detail. Copies are still available
at the Manresa Book Storre.