By Jacob Musselman
Tucked away in 30 acres just off of Southern Avenue in Beech Grove, The Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center has opened its doors to thousands throughout its existence. Now, the conference center and retreat hosts corporate events, birthday parties and it can even accommodate guests on overnight stays. According to “The Rule of St. Benedict,” all things — including eating, drinking, reading, working, sleeping and praying — should all be done in moderation, thus focusing on a more balanced life. The meaning of S. Benedict is also where the inn gets its mission, to provide hospitality for all. Their website also states that the inn reaches out to the community with our hospitality and encourages the growth of our guests through opportunities for spiritual, emotional, intellectual and social interaction.
Before we can get into what all the Benedict Inn does now, we have to learn about the history of it and track all the way back to 1956. It was a different time and The Benedict Inn had a different name.
Our Lady of Grace was founded by the Benedictine sisters of Ferdinand, Indiana. With the community already large, Paul Schulte, the archbishop of Indianapolis at the time, went to the sisters to ask about forming another facility somewhere else. The sisters from Ferdinand, Indiana, volunteered to move to Beech Grove, or were assigned to the new site. Back in the 60s, the membership was around 130 sisters while today, there are 64 members living in the Beech Grove community.
At this time, Our Lady of Grace Academy opened its doors to 27 ninth graders. What was originally one building attached to the monastery, also included space for multiple classrooms, a library, offices, a cafeteria as well as bedrooms for the students. Later on, a second building was build which housed a swimming pool, gymnasium, lounge and a study hall.
In 1978, the school closed its doors with the popularity of coed schooling and the decline of enrollment.
After the academy closed, a ministry was formed in its place. The Beech Grove Benedictine Center, as it was called back then, opened its doors to the community. The grounds featured two buildings including Palmer Hall and the Center building. Palmer Hall housed the administration offices, meeting rooms, a chapel, the library, dining room as well as the gift shop and 51 private bedrooms. The Center building was where the pool and gymnasium were housed.
In 1991, Sr. Pat Benson, a sister from Adrian, Michigan, joined the staff where she was asked to develop and direct a program to train spiritual directors called the Spiritual Directors Internship, (SDI) which was a two-year, four-semester program that has certified nearly 300 people of various faiths and traditions.
In 1996, the name was formally changed to The Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center. The name change was a mission to clearly communicate the mission of the ministry. In 1997, a new 24-hour nursing wing was added to the grounds. The new wing featured a renovated floor dedicated to the care of retired priests of the archdiocese and increased the facility’s census to over 100 men and women.
On the 50th anniversary of the Our Lady of Grace Monastery, a labyrinth replicating the one constructed around 1220 AD in the stone floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France was dedicated on the grounds.
The decision to close the Center building was made in 2012, which subsequently closed the olympic-sized swimming pool, gymnasium and study lounge. The closing was decided due to the increasing maintenance and insurance costs. It was torn down this year and replaced with more parking and a small nature garden. The garden was made possibly through a grant through the Eli Lilly company that provided over 2,000 native plants for the garden. The garden was finally finished in 2015.
This year, the whole facility began a comprehensive renovation project which included the updating of the bathrooms, bedrooms and offices. More bathrooms and bedrooms were added and the existing ones were updated.
This year, the Benedict Inn celebrates its 40 year anniversary. Still to this day, the inn continues to serve the community it calls home by providing guidance and a place to learn and grow, right in the heart of Beech Grove. It doesn’t matter your denomination or if you believe or not, the Benedict Inn is the place for everybody.
The Benedict Inn is located at 1402 Southern Ave. Beech Grove, IN and its phone number is (317) 788-7581.