HomeAboutHistory

Beginning in 1898, Jesuit Retreat Center is the first and longest running location in the United States providing retreats for laypersons as well as for priests and religious. For over 120 years, men and women of all ages have accepted the same invitation: to get to know themselves more deeply and to encounter God’s love.

1893

Jesuits purchase 20 wooded acres on State Road in Parma, Ohio for recreational use of the college’s faculty. Over the next few years, they acquired additional acreage, but they would never see a vacation house on State Road.

1898

Property on State Road becomes St. Stanislaus Novitiate, a training center for new recruits to the Jesuits, housed in a two-and-a-half story wood frame house. Two years later, a four-story Gothic brick building is constructed by the German Jesuit brothers. Part of the property is farmed to support the Jesuits.

Fr. Theodore Van Rossum, SJ, Rector and Master of Novices, noting the wealth of spiritual direction available at the house, believed making it more widely available would be beneficial to the laity as well as Jesuit novices. He extended an invitation to 14 laymen to come and make the first retreat ever offered at the house. Only two actually came.

The lay retreat movement undergoes much growth throughout the Midwest.

1907

The Buffalo Mission is merged with the Missouri Province, and the novitiate is moved to Florissant, Missouri. The Parma property becomes a tertianship, a center for recently ordained Jesuit priests who provide a supply of preachers and directors to serve the needs of the laity who came to them for retreats. One of the tertian fathers who studied at Parma in 1937-38 was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who later served as the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983.

1926

A fire causes major damages to the house. 22 acres of the 79 acre property are sold to fund reconstruction.

1932

Men’s Lenten retreats are inaugurated; retreats for the laity were only scheduled during parts of the year when the bulk of tertians were away from the house, such as summer and Lent.

1935

Alcoholics Anonymous is founded in Akron, Ohio. Sr. Ignatia, a Sister of Charity, recommends that sufferers go to St. Stanislaus in Parma for spiritual recovery. The strong connection between the 12 Steps and the Spiritual Exercises supported further development of AA programs for Jesuit retreat houses.

1940

Laymen’s Retreat League of the Diocese of Cleveland is formed.

1948

First wing of the current building, including dining room, chapel and rooms above, is built. For the first time retreats for the laity could be held year round.

1956

Second wing, including the chapel, dining room and rooms above, is built. Dining room and chapel in the first wing are converted to a library and lounge.

1960

Conference retreats became the standard format. Retreats were made in silence, with talks based on the Spiritual Exercises and centered on personal conversion and a generous-hearted following of Christ in response to God’s personal love. Retreat time included devotions, spiritual reading, confession, Mass, personal reflection and prayer.

1966

Fr. Tom Gedeon, SJ, Executive Director and retreat director, establishes a lay advisory board, including women, to help implement changes in the wake of Vatican II. Retreat programs for women are introduced.

1967

The tertianship program is moved to Colombiere College in Clarkston, MI. The name of the retreat house is changed to the Jesuit Retreat House.

1970

Programming at JRH is expanded from the traditional preached retreats. The resurgence of the Spiritual Exercises continues from the 1960s.

1973

Fr. Gedeon recruits Frs. Patrick O’Leary, James Nusbaum and James Farrell to JRH as retreat directors. A full slate of 30-Day, 19th Annotation, and 8-Day individually directed retreats is developed by the end of the decade. Several religious women joined the team of retreat directors. AA retreats continued to grow.

1974

The old tertianship building is razed.

1980

Fr. Patrick O’Leary assumes leadership at JRH. Programs continue to grow. From 1982-86, a 30-Day retreat was offered annually. Top spiritual directors across the country came to direct retreats at JRH. The original Jesuit Retreat House logo was designed during this period.

1982

The Advisory Board becomes a governing Board of Trustees that includes both Jesuits and non-Jesuits, and exercises full responsibility for the work of the retreat house in fidelity with the mission of the Society of Jesus, represented by the Jesuit Provincial.

1989

Fr. O’Leary resigns as director.

1996

Attendance at programs waned and the physical plant deteriorated. The house was booked by non-spiritual conference programs. Yet the Cursillo and Christ Renews His Parish retreats grew in popularity and filled the house for a period of time.

Fr. James Riley, SJ, is appointed Acting Director. The board changes his title to Director in 1998. He used the upcoming centennial celebration in 1998 as a rallying point to renew the building, programs and financial state. He reinstated the priority of the Spiritual Exercises. The return to the Jesuit character of the programs and improvement to the facilities generated an upswing in attendance and community reaction to JRH.

1998

Richard Jerdonek conducts a financial feasibility study to determine whether building onto the present structure is advised. Directors of Development and Marketing are hired.

2000

Fr. Clement Metzger, SJ, is named administrator by the Provincial. The Provincial made Fr. Clement Metzger, SJ available to serve as Director when Fr. Riley left for another assignment, but there was some dissension from the board of directors that it had not been invited into the process of selecting a Director. Greater board involvement in the actual administration of JRH is initiated. High school Kairos retreats become the main function at JRH as adult programs wane. Directors of Development and Marketing are retired.

2003

Gerald Jindra conducts another financial feasibility study to determine whether building on to the present structure was advisable. There was no consensus on the choice of architect and the project was dropped.

2008

Sister Mary Ann Flannery, SC, is named to the post of Executive Director. She is charged with developing a program staff which would include a focus on lay leadership and improvements in marketing. Sr. Mary Ann and the board discern the need for a Marketing Director and a Development Director to help navigate the challenging financial times. A full time Marketing Director is hired.

2010

Martha Campbell is hired as Lay Leadership director. This would mark the beginning of an upswing in carrying out the house’s mission through parish outreach, the development of a spiritual formation program, and an expansion of Ignatian spirituality among laity in the Diocese.

2012

Eighty-five trees (mostly Pine) were knocked down during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. JRH was closed for a week due to downed wires which caused a power outage.

2014

Mary Ann Flannery, SC retires as Executive Director of JRH. Rick Krivanka is hired as the new Executive Director. A capital campaign to renovate the existing building and build a major new addition is started.

2015

Significant progress is made in the design of the new addition and renovation as well as the capital campaign, a vision sustained since the turn of this century.

2017

The new addition opens and major renovations continue in the existing building, a dream and a vision sustained since the turn of this century. The new facilities fulfill the hope to better serve more people. A strategic plan is completed to guide the utilization of the enhanced facility.

2018

A new name (Jesuit Retreat Center - JRC), logo and revised mission statement are introduced based on the strategic plan. JRC celebrates its 120th anniversary ushering in the beginning of a new era. The number of people served grows to over 7,000 per year as programs and services increase.