History

The grounds where St. Therese's Retreat Center now stands have been a haven for people spanning many generations. The land once part of a 4000 acre grant from Congress stretched from Alum Creek on the west to beyond Noe Bixby Road on the east.

It was granted, around the turn of the nineteenth century, to a southern gentleman named James Hamilton, who by some manner supported the Revolutionary War. To satisfy the need to separate plots of land in order to sell the property, Congress had it surveyed into 'tracts' forming townships. Townships were then divided into lots and sold by an agent.

While in 1800 James Hamilton was granted the acreage, many of the lots were sold to Canadian refugees as a reward for their support of the Revolutionary War. Because of the many Canadian soldiers occupying the area, it became know as the 'Refugee Tract'. Truro Township formed from Liberty Township was given its name in 1810 by a Canadian.

The early history of this area is more or less generalized. History was lost due to the selling and reselling of property when the change of said land required not much more than a shake of hands plus a piece of paper signed with an "x".

Also many documents legally filed with the county recorder were destroyed in a fire supposedly set by a disgruntled employee.

While history records that the first log cabin was built on the banks of Alum Creek, others were constructed further east into Truro Township. Log cabins served as home for most of these early township residents.

Some communities, lost in history, were not more than a post office at crossroads while others remain on today's maps. Outside these communities, farmers tilled the fertile soils of Ohio and 76 acres of one of these farms would become St. Therese's Retreat Center, a place of tranquility.

The heart of St. Therese's Retreat Center is its beautiful stone chapel. There are meeting areas, sleeping rooms, a large dining room as well as natural walking paths to enhance the retreatants stay. A grotto recently rebuilt and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, offers a place for quite contemplation. But it is the dining room in the original house that reveals that it is of a past age. To serve today's purpose, newer construction was added to the old farmhouse built previous to 1872.

The land itself has passed through a number of owners. Early ones included Elijah Merion whose name is known to some historians because a section in the southern part of Columbus carries his name. However, an 1872 map shows the land was owned by David Pugh, and other maps show the Pugh family owning property in the area as early as 1823. David F. Pugh and his wife Margaret sold the farm to John W. and Olive Groves in 1882. After David died, Olive, now a widow, sold the farm consisting of 122 acres to John G. Deshler of Bexley. The transaction took place on November 22, 1912, in the amount of $24,000.

On December 2, 1912, John G. Deshler and his wife, Minnie, "in consideration of love and affection which we bear to our daughter, Martha G. Deshler, grant, give, and convey" these 122 acres located in Truro Township. Seven days later Martha Deshler of Bexley and Harry Wilbur Brown of Columbus, applied for their marriage license.

Martha and Harry made the farm at 5277 Hibernia Road (now Broad Street) their home which was evident as recorded on the 1920 United States Census. Harry is listed as a veterinarian, with Martha as his wife. A couple was listed as their two servants. Their marriage lasted only twelve years as they divorced in May 1924 with Harry signing a quit claim deed giving Martha all rights to the farm for $1.00.

Martha G. Deshler died a year later on September 20, 1925. Her last will and testament was filed September 25, 1925 requesting Thomas H. Dickson and Max A. Gamble be appointed as executors. She directed that 50 acres of the farm be sold for "$1.00 and other goods and valuable considerations" to Eli W. West. On January 23, 1926 the final papers were signed for this transaction.

Further disposal of her estate created the opportunity for Rt. Rev. James J. Hartley, Bishop of Columbus and his successors "forever", to acquire the remaining seventy-five acres "for the sum of $1.00" in September 1926. Bishop Hartley insured that this Diocese would have a place for retreats by dedicating this property to that mission. St. Therese of Lisieux, who had been canonized in 1925, was chosen to be the patron of the "House of Retreats". This is one of the first institutions in the United States in her honor.

Originally Father Otto Guenther who taught at St. Charles lived on the property in the existing stately farm house. In 1927 sisters from the Franciscan Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity arrived. They served the center from 1926 until 1971 and again from 1978 to 1984. When funds were available, Bishop Hartley was able to build the present stone chapel in the Romanesque style. "The exterior is simple, artistic and beautiful, while the interior shows beauty, solidarity and devotion." The architect for the chapel was Robert Kraus. In addition 32 rooms were constructed at that time for anticipated retreatants. St. Therese's Shrine, House of Retreats was dedicated on October 3, 1931.

Shortly after the dedication of the retreat house, nine men made the first of many retreats that were to take place at the center. In 1935 a group of men obtained permission from Bishop Hartley to form a Retreat League. Men's retreats were held from 1936 to 1939, but with the coming of World War II the group dissolved.

With the urging of Bishop Michael J. Ready, the Men's Retreat League was reorganized in March of 1945. Also, during this time women, too, were drawn to the center for retreats . The Catholic Laywomen's Retreat League was soon formed.

At this time the chapel of the retreat center was being used as the parish church of Holy Spirit. Because of the large number coming to Mass a parish church was built two miles west of St. Therese's. In 1960 at the beginning of the renewal in the church and surging popularity of retreats, a new conference room and 27 sleeping rooms were added by Bishop Clarence Issenmann. John Gibboney was the architect for this addition. October 7, 2014 saw the dedication of the Grotto to our Lady of Lourdes that replaced an earlier structure.

The center has gone through two name changes. In 1970 it was changed to SHRINE CENTER FOR RENEWAL in an effort to draw a wider audience of people. In 1997 when St. Therese was declared a Doctor of the Church it seemed an appropriate time to renew the original character of the retreat center. Therefore, the legal name was changed to St. Therese's Retreat Center. According to Mary Murphy, the Director of the Center, "the name change was made to reflect the deepening spirituality of the people of the Diocese of Columbus."

The retreat center now serves retreat groups, both singles and married couples, parish meetings and days of reflection, priests, seminarians, gatherings of women religious and youth retreats as well as ecumenical groups.

The center has gained a reputation of its own as it was September 2, 2010 that it became a U.S. Postage Office for a day! A stamp was struck in honor of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. When mailed from the center the stamp would become desired by collectors.