Marydale Retreat Center at 945 Donaldson Hwy, Erlanger, KY 41018 US - Marydale Retreat Center's History
|Marydale Retreat Center's History|
|Entrance to Marydale Retreat House|
At the close of the Second World War in 1945, then Bishop William T. Mulloy sanctioned a search for a suitable piece of land to be used for a diocesan camping program for boys and girls. Father Anthony Deye located a choice parcel just outside of Erlanger, Kentucky that was owned by the Williams Family of Cincinnati, Ohio called "Williamsdale". The land was purchased along with several surrounding farms totaling about 400 acres. Two lakes were constructed and the first camping season was held in 1947 utilizing government surplus tents.
In the early 1950's Bishop Mulloy instigated a major fund raising program in the diocese which resulted in the building of two much needed high schools, the Seminary of St. Pius and the Retreat House. The latter two institutions were built on the Marydale property. Prior to this, both the seminary and the retreats were housed in Madonna Lodge, a large renovated horse barn that was also used in the summer months by the camping program. The retreat movement was founded in 1952 under the direction of Father Carl Tillman.
The present retreat house was completed in 1956. After the untimely death of Father Tillman in 1957, Father Thomas Middendorf was named Director of the house and the retreat movement in the diocese. In 1958 Marydale became th ehome office of the NAtional Catholic Laymen's Retreat Conference (now called "Retreats International") and Father Middendorf was named as the executive director of that office which served retreat houses throughout the United States and Canada. Under Father Middendorf's energetic leadership the retreat movement grew in the diocese and throughout the U.S. The camping program, now including family camping, and a number of programs for handicapped youth, continued to grow and Camp Marydale became popular throughout the mid-West. Cabins were constructed to replace the tents and a swimming pool was added.
Because of the deteriorating condition of Madonna Lodge it was deemed necessary to replace that building and a new complex was started in 1971. Designated as "The Timbers", it consisted of heated buildings with indoor plumbing that would serve the camping programs in the summer months and be utilized by various groups during the winter months."Saga Lodge" served these units with a large dining hall and chapel/conference area.
In 1969 Father Middendorf instituted an outreach to Senior Citizens by providing them with recreational programs, Senior Citizen Vacation Programs, which were immediately popular with the Senior set.
Father Middendorf left Marydale in 1974 and was replaced by Father Allen Meier. Father Meier expanded the Senior Programs and worked diligently to reduce the debt on the Saga Lodge facilities. During these years the camping program and retreat movement continued to flourish.
Father Meier left in 1979 and was replaced by Father Edward Baumann. Under his leadership the camping programs, in particular, grew and flourished as did the Senior Citizen Vacation Programs. Several new cabins were added during his tenure.
During Father Baumann's term as director, the state of Kentucky began to pressure the diocese to allow a right-of-way through the property for the extension of Houston Road. Their arguments were that this needed road would implement the commercial development in the area, provide an alternate route to the large Florence Mall just south of the property and relieve congestion on Interstate 75. After considerable study, Bishop William A. Hughes, who came to the diocese in 1979, decided that this would be a reality and subsequently allowed the diocese to sell off unused portions of the Marydale property to relieve financial stress as well as provide needed monies for other diocesan projects.
Father Baumann left as director in 1987 and was replaced by Deacon Edward Stieritz. Deacon Stieritz was not unfamiliar with Marydale as he had served as Father Middendorf's administrator from 1969-1972. He understood that the extension of Houston Road was imminent and advised Bishop Hughes that he felt the camping program should be closed down at the end of the 1988 season to allow for the refocusing of the institution and provide for the health and well being of the Retreat Movement.
In 1991 all of the cabins and the Saga Lodge complex, which were located on what would now be the other side of Houston Road, were sold off to various buyers just before the building of the road began.
The sale of these income producing facilities precipitated a financial crisis that was not unforseen. As a result the staff was considerably downsized. The years of 1991-1993 were difficult years financially but with the support of Bishop Hughes and a resilient staff the crisis was weathered with no disruption of services.
In 1990 Marydale was approached by Northern Kentucky University to provide room and board and hospitality for their Elderhostel programs. These programs were found to fit in well with Marydale's long history of providing for senior citizens.
In the Spring of 1990 meetings were held with Bishop Hughes to discuss replacement of the present retreat house and its possible movement to a different site. The move would greatly benefit the diocese in that it would free up considerable land on the property for future development.
In 1997 Marydale celebrated its 50th Anniversary of service to the Diocese of Covington. During these years of almost constant changes in our religious and secular cultures it has struggled to remain relevant and economically viable.
Today Marydale Retreat Center continues to serve persons of all races, ages, creeds and national origins; including youth, senior citizens, clergy, ministers, educators, recovering alcoholics, married couples members of professional and community service organizations, etc. The facility can also be rented for extended meetings, conferences, workshops, planning sessions, institutes, conventions and seminars geared toward any kind of service to God's people which are in accordance with Christian principles.