By Rick Redding | Photos by Tony Bennett and Courtesy Photos by Mary K. Korfhage
THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS are enjoying a different kind of spring break this year, as they’ve done for four decades. They’re going to a quiet, peaceful oasis near New Albany to learn about leadership, problem-solving and faith.
At the Mount St. Francis Center for Spirituality, Brother Bob Baxter has been retreat director for eight years, coordinating activities for weekend campers, many from Louisville and Southern
Indiana Catholic high schools.
“For senior retreats, we talk about values and beliefs and motivate them,” Baxter said. “We can help shape their thoughts on how to look at other groups and talk about their relationship with God.”
But Baxter makes it clear that the gorgeous Mount St. Francis property welcomes non-Catholics to its spacious acreage, too. The 400 acres are kept and maintained by the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation as a sanctuary meant to be shared with anyone. Prior to 1976, the property was a seminary. The Friars operate it now as a retreat in which they “encourage religious and human enrichment, all being done in a context of respect for creation and the sanctity of life in all its forms.”
Many visitors spend time simply taking a walk in the woods. The Friars offer trails and trail maps for free. The land is left in its natural state.
This year, the Friars are celebrating their 40th anniversary as a retreat center. Four decades ago, the facility welcomed its first group of high schoolers on retreat. Since then, Baxter estimates tens of thousands of young people have come to Mount St. Francis on retreats with school groups. He expects more than 2,500 school-age retreaters this year and another 2,000 adults on their own retreats.
The property includes a youth center with dormitory-style rooms that accommodates 58 people. The main center includes 51 rooms, plus meeting space and dining rooms. Three professional chefs are on duty.
In addition, there are separate private suites designed to host retreat leaders. Plus, there’s a single-room cabin available for those seeking silence and peace.
Baxter said retreat activities include both high and low ropes courses, which help teach lessons on how to work together and solve problems, with an emphasis on imparting leadership skills.
This year, there are plenty of special events planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary, along with a call from the Friars to all alumni to come back and visit. For instance, on Sunday April 3 the Friars hosted a “HeartToHeart” event in which individuals who have drifted from the church were invited to have a cup of coffee or hike with a Friar.
There’s an outdoor music festival on June 4, which will feature local musicians. For those who have attended a high school retreat in the last 40 years, Mount St. Francis is hosting a “Live the Fourth” event July 9 to welcome them back to the Mount.
October 1 is the date for an old-fashioned hayride, campfire and cookout.
Mount St. Francis offers something that’s in short supply in our busy world — peace and serenity. And it’s just a few miles away in Southern Indiana.
MOUNT ST. FRANCIS CENTER FOR SPIRITUALITY
101 St. Anthony Drive
Mount St. Francis in Floyds Knobs | 812.923.8817