DURWARD’S GLEN -- Magdalen College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Warner, N.H., has decided to sell Durward’s Glen, a Catholic retreat center located in the Baraboo bluffs about 30 miles north of Madison.
The college has owned Durward’s Glen since April 30, 2007, when it purchased the property with funds primarily donated by local investors.
Jeff Karls, president of Magdalen College, said ownership of Durward’s Glen “has become a financial drain for the college.” After failed attempts to find a religious community or some other Catholic organization to manage the Glen or partner with Magdalen, the college trustees decided to list the Glen with a Madison real estate firm.
In 2007, the Order of St. Camillus sold Durward’s Glen to Our Lady of the Rosary Group, which included Wisconsin investors and supporters of the Glen. The Rosary Group transferred ownership of the Glen to Magdalen College, which contributed $100,000 to the sale.
Now, the college said it has agreed that Our Lady of the Rosary Group and one other Christian organization be given the first opportunity to purchase the Glen, but to date there are no firm offers.
Glaciers formed valley
Wisconsin glaciers formed the 35-acre valley in which Durward’s Glen is located. It has a natural spring creek and miniature canyon.
The area used to be owned by the Durward family, who came there in 1862. They have been described as a spiritual family of poets, priests, artists, builders, and writers.
The family erected a statue of Mary, called “Guardian of the Glen,” as well as the Hermitage and Glen Studio. Their historic home was accidentally burned to the ground in 1951.
In 2009, a new Mary, Mother of God Grotto was built by volunteers and funded by sponsor Leo Blau on the site of the former Durward home. Eight loads of limestone from St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, destroyed by fire in 2005, were used to create the shrine. The shrine, which has become the most visited place at Durward’s Glen, is valued at over $100,000
Gave Glen to Camillians
Mary Techla Durward, youngest living member of the Durward family at the time, gave the Glen to the Order of St. Camillus in September of 1932. She stipulated that it remain a Catholic institution.
The Camillians owned Durward’s Glen for 70 years. They added a log building which includes the Immaculate Conception chapel, monastery, and private rooms. Originally, it served as the novitiate of the St. Camillus order. In 1956, the Camillians added the south wing, new novitiate quarters.
The east wing has private rooms, a library, community room, and Durward Hall with kitchen facilities at the ground level. The hall is ideal for parties, family gatherings, and wedding receptions.
An active St. Camillus Parish existed from 1946 to 2006.
Sold to Magdalen College
When the Order of St. Camillus decided to sell the Glen in 2007, local investors raised $600,000. Magdalen College expressed interested in obtaining the property. College President Karls said, “This property for the most part was a gift to the college for which the college had hoped for an opportunity to expand the college’s program as well as to create new programs in catechesis, evangelization, and spiritual retreats.”
Magdalen hired three staff members and undertook efforts to market the Glen. However, two of the employees were gone by July of 2009 and the chaplain, Fr. Gabriel Msoka, left by October of 2009.
Magdalen College dissolved the Durward’s Glen Advisory Board on July 31, 2009. The college agreed to let the Rosary Group run Durward’s Glen with volunteers. They agreed.
Run by volunteers
Magdalen College chose Mardell Krejchik as a volunteer spokesperson and secretary-treasurer. She also has organized weekly cleaning. Leonard and Luke Blau took care of building and grounds.
The college said that Durward’s Glen has been breaking even, but still ownership of the Glen has become too much of a “financial drain” for the college.
Some local people said they feel the college failed because the great distance between New Hampshire and Wisconsin has proven to be a liability. Difficult economic times have also had an impact.
Hope for the future
However, there is much hope for the future of Durward’s Glen, say supporters. They said there is an unmistakable peacefulness that pervades the Glen. The grounds are ideal for retreats. The quiet sylvan setting, quaint log monastery building, singing brook, songs of many birds, and the devotional sites and secluded lodging all contribute to an inspirational experience shared by those who have found a sanctuary of peace there.
Corpus Christi processions have been held at the Glen for 98 years. There was a large turn-out for this year’s event, which included a meal put on by the Knights of Columbus.
The public is invited to share their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to save the Glen. Those desiring more information or to share ideas may contact Rosary Group members or call Durward’s Glen at 608-356-8113. For more information, visit www.durwardsglen.org