||Fr. Rick Heilman leads a family Rosary at the Mary, Mother of God Grotto at Durward’s Glen Retreat Center near Baraboo during the recent Fall Faith and Family Marian Conference. (Catholic Herald photo/Joe Ptak) For more pictures click here.
BARABOO -- At 7:30 a.m. on September 25, the Carillon bells rang at Durward’s Glen Retreat Center in the Baraboo River Valley, greeting pilgrims as they arrived to attend this year’s annual Fall Faith and Family Marian Conference, “Do Whatever He Tells You.”
Our Lady from the newly built, “Mary, Mother of God Grotto,” seemed to come alive as she stood watching over her guests as they entered the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the base of the hill. Clearly, those who rose early, realizing the importance of not missing Confession before Mass, chose to respond to her call for this special day.
Greeters for this special occasion presented booths on the front porch. They were Nancy Chenery, a spokesperson from Miles Christi; Joe and Vonnie Clemens, volunteers for registration; and Rose Ann Blau, a Durward’s Glen historian.
Displayed nearby, a large picture of the Virgin Mary by Charles Durward and titled, “Madonna of the Embrace,” welcomed guests as they climbed the steps to the retreat center.
Feeling God’s presence
Fr. Pedro Escribano from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest offered the Tridentine Mass, greatly valued by those attending. One cannot help but feel Our Lord’s presence in this holy log-constructed chapel that has a four foot walnut crucifix, Stations of the Cross on the walls, a wood carving of the Last Supper in the altar, and a print of Charles Durward’s “Immaculate Conception Without Cherubs” painting in the back.
Following Mass, hot coffee, donuts, and juice were served outside under a white tent in the upper meadow of the Durward’s Glen Retreat Center property. Next, simultaneous talks, one for children and one for adults were presented. Fr. Rick Heilman, founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy, presented “Why Mary?” to the adults and Fr. Pedro Escribano from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest addressed “Mary, Model of Prayer” to the children.
At mid-morning pilgrims climbed the hill to the grotto for a Family Rosary led by Father Heilman. It was quite moving to see children with their parents, down on their knees, praying before Our Lady.
When the Rosary ended, someone commented, “Did you see that hummingbird fly by?” One had to look quickly to see it dart above a rose bush near the grotto, planted in loving memory of Germaine Ryce.
Future events at Durward’s Glen
• October 22 to 23: Marriage Encounter Weekend. For information visit www.mariageencountermadison.org
; for information and to register call: Lisa and Mike Friar, 608-436-8526.
• November 12 to 14: Care-givers Retreat in the spirit of St. Damien of Molokai. For information visit www.durwardsglen.org or call 608-356-8113.
Next, Durward’s Glen’s historian and author Rose Ann Blau led a historical tour of the glen, quite fascinating in that she captured the heart and soul of founder Bernard Durward, who in 1862 purchased and dedicated the glen to the Virgin Mary.
Blau led her group to the special sites of Mary, Mother of God Grotto, Durward’s Spring Fountain, Crown Bridge, Guardian of the Glen, The Hermitage, Stations of the Cross, St. Mary of the Pines Chapel, Glen Studio, and the Durward Coat of Arms. Simultaneously, another group of attendees rode a hay wagon driven by Kevin Blau, neighbor and friend of the glen.
A picnic lunch of chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, and bars followed. Visitors enjoyed some free-time exploring the grounds of the glen before the next afternoon talk delivered by Father Heilman, this time to the whole family, “Do Whatever He Tells You.” At 3 p.m. the Divine Mercy Chaplet was led by Father Escribano, who also concluded with Benediction.
Spiritual scavenger hunt
But the day did not end there. A family spiritual scavenger hunt throughout the grounds was led by creator Dawn Helt. “No cheating,” said Helt as she provided instructions to anxious youngsters. Clip boards containing clues and lessons were handed out to parents accompanied by their children.
Families not only learned the history of Durward’s Glen but also obtained further knowledge about the Bible, Our Lady, and God. Prizes were awarded to everyone, but there was one special prize awarded to the Kevin Blau Family who answered the most questions correctly.
Pam Quinlan, a volunteer who helped with the hunt commented, “Really, a treasure chest of God’s gifts can be found here. Everyone today seemed to be having a good time and we hope to do this again next year.”
Future of Durward’s Glen
Several pilgrims asked Volunteer Director Mardell Krejchik about the status of Durward’s Glen. She said, “Durward’s Glen is owned by Magdalen College of New Hampshire. Presently it is for sale and is being operated on a volunteer basis. The important thing to remember is that Durward’s Glen is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother and its future rests in Our Lady’s Hands. Our goal is to keep the glen open to the public with the mission of bringing souls to Christ. It is our hope to keep it a Catholic entity as Bernard Durward originally intended.”
Those wishing to support or volunteer at Durward’s Glen or who would like more information may call 608-356-8113 or e-mail