A monastery is home to a group of religious believers who reside in seclusion to pursue a life of contemplation. The monastic life is characterized by asceticism and self-denial. The general physical property of a monastery includes the church, cloister, work area, and individual cells—usually forming a quadrangle.

Carmelite Monastery, 2007
Carmelite Monastery, 2007 Credit: Paula Henry via Wikimedia Commons View Source

An Indianapolis example of this lifestyle and architecture is the Carmelite Monastery on Cold Spring Road. Five sisters from Iowa founded their Indiana mission in New Albany, Indiana, in 1922. Ten years later, the sisters relocated to a newly constructed monastery on the Indianapolis near west side. J. Edwin Kopf and Deery Architects designed the medieval, castle-like building. The Carmelite Sisters are a cloistered order, meaning they seldom leave the confines of their monastery.

A retreat house provides opportunities for the faithful to pursue personal prayer, meditation, devotions, and spiritual exercises. Increasingly popular following changes suggested by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, Indianapolis has had several retreat houses.

Alverna Retreat House, ca. 1950 Credit: The Indiana Album: Evan Finch Collection View Source

In 1948, Franciscan brothers from St. Louis established Alverna Retreat House. Their programming at Alverna traditionally stressed one’s relationship with God through a special emphasis on prayer, meditation, and silence. In 1991, the brothers were forced to close the 40-acre facility because of high maintenance costs. Resort Condominiums International, a time-sharing brokerage, purchased the property and restored the mansion.

Fr. James Moriarty founded the Fatima Retreat House in 1950. Originally the retreat house served the spiritual needs of women but expanded its mission in 1963 to include men. Its programs are directed toward reflection and spiritual enrichment.

The Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace in Beech Grove own and operate a similar retreat house. Since 1981 the programs sponsored by the sisters have focused on the monastic practices of prayer, work, community formation, and hospitality.

Franciscan brother Justin Belitz founded the Hermitage in 1984 on East 46th Street. The retreat house and educational center emphasizes personal development as a lifelong process.

Nuns from Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace are rehearsing for recording their upcoming album, 1990 Credit: Joe Young, IndyStar View Source

In 1993, the Carmelite Monastery on Cold Spring Road remained the only cloistered order in Indianapolis. Sixteen sisters, leading a contemplative life of prayer, resided in the monastery at that time. In 2008, the order closed, and the remaining nuns moved to the Sisters of St. Francis convent in Oldenburg in southeastern Indiana.

More recently, Beth and David Booram established Fall Creek Abbey, first known as Sustainable Faith Indy, in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood in 2011. Fall Creek Abbey is interdenominational and offers personal and guided retreats, including experiences tailored for the Christian seasons of Advent and Lent. The retreat center also offers spiritual counseling and Ignatius exercises, which provide direction for daily prayer.

Revised September 2022

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