As counter-intuitive as it seems, at times the success of an advance may depend on the success of a retreat. The “Men of Malvern” have been demonstrating this now for 100 years.
In 1912 a group of Catholic laymen founded the Malvern Retreat Center on 125 acres of wooded country side not far from Philadelphia.
Since its founding Malvern has served more than one million retreatants, including significantly many non-Catholics.
Often referred to as ‘St. Joseph’s-in-the-Hills’ this spiritual sanctuary – which operates in full canonical jurisdiction with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia – is owned and managed by a lay board of trustees and is financially independent.
For most of the century, Malvern provided retreat services for men only. In recent decades, however, it has expanded its outreach and now serves men, women, married couples, families, youth and clergy. Availing itself with the expertise of both internal and external speakers, the staff offers a wide variety of retreat experiences from the traditional men’s weekend retreat to programs for women, couples, families and young people, to special programs for those struggling with divorce, addiction and unemployment.
Since its founding Malvern has served more than one million retreatants, including significantly many non-Catholics. In 2009 over 21,000 individuals participated in 214 retreat programs including 22 high school retreats. Participants came from all 50 states and 8 foreign countries have been represented.
Now the largest Catholic retreat center in the United States, Malvern is “bucking the tide” with its decision to continue the expansion of its outreach to those who have been previously underserved. It is doing this in spite of the fact that several regional retreat houses around the country have been closed.
Its success, no doubt, is due in large measure to the excellent and welcoming physical facilities St. Joseph-in-the-Hills offers. As important, though, are two other key elements. One is the genuine spirit of hospitality with which this century old ‘spiritual getaway’ is imbued. The other is the flexibility and creative responsiveness with which the program directors meet the challenging and changing needs of those who are serious about their faith in our increasingly secularized society. No matter where a retreatant is on his or her (or their) faith journey, the Malvern program effectively enhances the faith experience and deepens the involvement of the retreatant in the life of the Church. Understandably, a great many return year after year.
The testimonials which appear on Malvern’s website give witness to the spiritual nourishment one receives in this peaceful but vibrant oasis. They also underscore the realization that as the Kingdom advances such R & R (reflection and reconciliation) is helpful.