The History of Our Lady of Grace Monastery
Our Lady of Grace was founded by the Benedictine sisters of Ferdinand, Indiana at the prompting of Paul C. Schulte, Archbishop of Indianapolis. It was the Archbishop’s desire to have a home for the elderly in his diocese. He approached the Ferdinand sisters with the prospect of staffing such a facility.
Because the Ferdinand community was relatively large, the sisters decided to found a daughter house and an academy for high school students in addition to the archbishop’s request. The new community found their home on 30 acres of swampland in Beech Grove, Indiana a suburb of Indianapolis. The weeds and brush had to be cleared before the building could begin. After many months the new foundation began to take shape.
The time came to decide who would come to the new community in Beech Grove from Ferdinand. Sisters either volunteered to transfer or were assigned if they were working in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In the 1960’s the community grew to approximately 130 sisters. Today there are 64 members in the Beech Grove community.
In 1956 Our Lady of Grace Academy opened with 27 ninth graders. The academy also housed a kindergarten which was open for 12 years. The academy began with one building which was attached to the monastery. It not only included classrooms, a library, labs and cafeteria, it also included bedrooms for the young women who were boarders. Students came not only from Indiana but other neighboring states and even some International students attended the academy. The academy eventually closed in 1978 due to declining enrollment.
In the late 1960’s several sisters formed a musical group. Over the years, this group and many others have contributed to the beautiful music heard in our chapel. You may purchase tapes and CD’s of their music at Shop-Innspired in the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center.
Attached to the monastery building is the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center (formerly Our Lady of Grace Academy). The academy was closed in 1978 and in its place a new ministry began. The Inn hosts thousands of people annually for programs focusing on women, families and spiritual growth. The Benedict Inn fulfills the sisters’ commitment to education.
Also located on the monastery grounds is St. Paul Hermitage Retirement and Nursing Care facility. A new nursing care wing, opened in 1997, and a renovated floor dedicated to the care of retired priests of the archdiocese have increased the facility’s census to over 100 men and women. The Hermitage offers 24-hour care for the aged and infirm and retirement care for the well elderly. It enjoys an excellent reputation due to the sisters’ commitment and the outstanding staff of lay people with whom they work.
The vow of stability roots us to a particular place, committed to a particular group of people. Nowhere is this vow more evident than at the monastery’s cemetery. We like to say we are not going anywhere because our dearly departed are buried on these very grounds. The cemetery walk is a favorite location for after dinner walks. Surrounding the grave sites are the stations of the cross. Handcrafted by one of the sisters, the stations are made of hard woods and aluminum.
As you enter Our Lady of Grace you will find yourself in the front lobby. Above the The Lobby was designed to be warm and welcoming to our guests who St. Benedict said, “…are to be welcomed as Christ….” Above the doors leading into the monastery proper, in gold, are the words SEEK GOD. The focal point of the room is a statue of the Smiling Madonna. Holding the Christ Child, Mary extends her hand in greeting to all who enter our doors.
Meals are prepared in our spacious, well equipped kitchen. St. Benedict enjoined his followers “…(to) regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar.” Rule of Benedict, chapter 31. Consequently, throughout the monastery one can detect evidence of the sisters’ care of everything they have been given to steward.
As we wend our way back “up the hill” to the monastery our tour ends at the feet of Our Lady of Grace. The sisters who left their home at Ferdinand to found Our Lady of Grace Monastery accepted the challenge to bring Benedictine life to central Indiana. The monastery continues to grow and prosper so that, in all things, God may be glorified.