Sunday Open House marks Manna’s 35th anniversary

April 21, 2013 by

For some, it was a chance to study the 19th-century architecture of the original Nazareth Convent and Academy.  Others found the artwork scattered throughout the three-story brick structure most fascinating. And for still others, Sunday’s 35th anniversary Open House at Manna House of Prayer was a chance to remember when the building at Fifth and Olive streets had served a different mission.

Janice Fief Morell of Glasco belonged to that last group. She worked for many years as a nurse in what was then St. Joseph Hospital, and as she toured Manna House with friends June Dwyer and Jan Teasley, she told stories about her days in the maternity ward.

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The tours of the historic building were part of the attraction for more than 125 guests at the afternoon open house, but others stopped by just to chat with the Sisters of St. Joseph and to share in the 35th birthday party for the spirituality and retreat center.

The red brick building that is today Manna House was built in 1884 as the first Motherhouse of the newly arrived Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. The building first served as the convent and a boarding school, but as the number of sisters and students grew, it soon became apparent that a bigger building was needed to house Nazareth Convent and Academy.

So in 1903, the new (and still current) Nazareth Motherhouse opened at the corner of 13th and Washington streets, and the sisters converted their old home into St. Joseph Hospital.

An addition to the hospital was built in 1915, and the significantly bigger facility remained a hospital until 1951, when the sisters built what is now Cloud County Health Center.

The sisters converted the building into a nursing home and it served as St. Anne’s Home for the Aged until 1977, when the residents there were able to move to the new Mount Joseph Village on the west edge of Concordia.

Renovations began immediately and in just four months — in April 1978 — the building was dedicated as Manna House of Prayer.

The Manna House program actually began a few years earlier and 14 miles to the east — in September 1972 in the former St. Ann Convent in Clyde. The program remained there until moving to its current site in April 1978.

The founding sisters at the first Manna House were Sister Viatora Solbach, who died in 2011, and Sisters Pat Lewter and Faye Huelsmann, who today live and serve in Grand Junction, Colo.

The mission of Manna House, then and today, is to be a place were people of all faiths come for personal and communal prayer, on-going education, quiet time and counseling. Sisters who live there also provide youth ministry, facilitation services, spiritual direction and counseling.

Numerous sisters have served on the staff at Manna House over the years, and have offered a wide range of workshops, seminars and retreats.

In the early 1980s, the sisters at Manna House joined the Sanctuary movement and welcomed a family that had fled war-torn Guatemala.

By the mid 1990s, the sisters had established the Theological Institute at Manna House as a way to continue the long-standing educational tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. This summer’s seminar, set for July 25-28, will focus on “Understanding Vatican Council II” and its impact over the past 50 years.

While always respecting the underlying mission of Manna House, the sisters and staff there continue to seek new ways to serve as new needs arise.

The Helping Hands program — funded solely from donations — offers emergency assistance to people who have no other resources. Through its small food bank and emergency financial assistance, Helping Hands was able to serve more than 350 families last year.

Sisters at Manna House also respond to spiritual hunger, with a wide array of retreats and workshops as well as one-on-one spiritual direction. And for those who can’t get to Concordia? The spiritual directors have adapted; now they can meet you via video calling over the internet.

In 2013 it is home to six Sisters of St. Joseph and has a staff of four laypeople. Throughout the year there are workshops on everything from “seasonal spirituality” and the ancient art of bobbin lacemaking to “meditation and movement” and the meaning and mystery of the rosary.

The April 21 open house is just one of a series of special events planned during the 35th anniversary.

Special dinners — called “First Mondays at Manna” — are continuing on the first Monday of each month. The next one will be May 6 with a Mexican feast in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. There will be two seatings for the dinner — at 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. — and reservations are required by calling 785/243-4428. Donations are welcome.

For information on Manna House and its programs, go to




7 Responses to “Sunday Open House marks Manna’s 35th anniversary”

  1. Beth Stover on May 7th, 2013 3:09 pm

    A great day of celebration. One more experience and expression of our charism of Love of Neighbor and Love of God! Thank you to all who provided
    the hospitality, the good food, the loving environment, and the opportunity to
    celebrate 35 years of Manna House.

  2. Mary Sullivan on April 30th, 2013 2:23 pm

    Great article, wish I could have been there. My first memory of the facility was as St. Ann’s Home. I encountered all of the Sisters Stegeman. Rose Cecelia, my teacher at the time; Mary Julie, who I believe worked in the laundry at Marymount at the time; Louis Marie, who I believe was a nurse on the staff at St. Ann’s, and Ermanelda visiting from a Benedictine convent. This was my initial introduction to the Srs. at Concordia 😉 There are many fond memories of Manna House retreats in the 80’s and staff that inspired us through the courage of their convictions. Congratulations to Manna House, thank you for all you do.

  3. Linda Beck on April 26th, 2013 9:28 pm

    Wished I could have been there as Manna House has made in indelible mark on me: spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely happy it was a very successful event!

  4. Christina on April 22nd, 2013 8:09 pm

    What a beautiful write up!
    We are truly blessed for you to record all of this!

  5. Jodi Creten on April 22nd, 2013 7:51 pm

    Great coverage of a milestone event. Manna House is a very special space for listeners and listening. Congratulations to the sisters and staff for their generous sharing of their many gifts. We all benefit!

  6. Betty Suther on April 22nd, 2013 9:38 am

    Thank you to the more than 125 persons who came to view and visit at Manna House on Sunday….and to all the Sisters and Friends who helped welcome and tour the building. We all had a great time sharing and enjoying one another’s company!

  7. Loretta Jasper on April 22nd, 2013 6:37 am

    A windy Spring day, perfect for blowing in our friends who have many memories attached to the history of Manna House throughout the years. A day to whet the curiosity of those who have passed by Manna House throughout the years, and who shared in the afternoon of celebration.

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