In the mid 1950's the Benedictine Community in Ferdinand, Indiana was growing at a rapid pace. The need to establish a new community was obvious. At that same time, Most Reverend Paul D. Schulte desired to provide a retirement home for the elderly. The sisters at Ferdinand and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis agreed to work together. The Archdiocese would provide the land for a new community and the retirement home which would become St. Paul Hermitage.
The ministry of the sisters at that time, was primarily education, therefore it was only natural the sisters would open a school on the property in addition to the retirement home. And so in 1956 Our Lady of Grace Academy opened her doors with 27 ninth graders. The academy also housed a kindergarten which was open for 12 years. The academy began with one building which was attached to the monastery. It not only included classrooms, a library, labs and cafeteria, it also included bedrooms for the young women who were boarders. Students came not only from Indiana but other neighboring states and even some International students attended the academy.
In 1978, the Sisters of St. Benedict made the painful decision to close the doors of Our Lady of Grace Academy. Due to economic problems, the establishment of more co-educational secondary schools and the decrease in enrollment, the sisters had no other recourse.
Former Academy Student Center [gymnasium and indoor pool] building.
Bendict Inn Retreat & Conference Center
When the decision was made to close the Academy more decisions then had to be made. What to do with the empty buildings, and the gymnasium and indoor pool. The sisters formed a committee to study the facilities to decide what to do in the future. The idea of a retreat center came to focus and in 1981 the sisters opened the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center.
Since its beginning, the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center has served thousands of people through spiritual enrichment programs, private group retreats, individual retreatants and physical activities. The Benedictine charism of hospitality is evident in each facet of the facility. The Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center serves a variety of ages and strives to be a viable presence in the community at large.
It is difficult to walk through the halls of the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center and not see remnants of the academy present. Pictures of the graduation classes still hang in the main lobby. A mural, painted by former students, also is on the wall in the main lobby greeting the many people who come to the center. Classrooms may have been converted into meeting rooms and other minor changes have taken place, but the spirit of Our Lady of Grace Academy lives on – especially in our hearts.
As we know things can never remain the same. Change is a part of life and sometimes that change is a sad part of life. In 2010 the sisters were faced with yet another decision about the facilities at the former Academy. Beause of the cost of upkeep and the staggering cost of insurance, the sisters were forced to close the gynasium and indoor pool building. The decision was not taken lightly as many sisters, as well as the larger community used the facilities for health reason and exercise. The sister soon learned that it would be less expensive to tear down the building rather than trying to keep the facility open. So, in 2011 the building came down and a new entrance was contructed for the Benedict Inn. Prior to that time there was no obvious entrance to the retreat center but today the entrance is warm and welcoming to the thousands of people who use take advantage of all the Benedict Inn has to offer.
The former students of Our Lady of Grace Academy are never far from the thoughts of the sisters. We remember you in prayer and we have many stories, which we share with one another. We look forward to rekindling old friendships.
New entrance of the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center.
Ariel view of Our Lady of Grace Monastery and Our Lady of Grace Academy soon after the end of building construction.
[Left & Below] Palmer Hall, in the beginning and how it looks now. It was named after Sr. Mary Robert Palmer first Prioress of the new community.