Manna House of Prayer celebrates 40th anniversary
Manna House of Prayer celebrated its 40th anniversary on Aug. 26 with an open house for the community. A crowd of about 150 people kept the building buzzing with activity throughout the afternoon.
The tours of the historic building were part of the attraction many visitors, but others stopped by just to chat with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and to share in the 40th birthday party for the spirituality and retreat center.
“It was a wonderful fellowship of old friends,” said Susan LeDuc, Manna House of Prayer administrative services area coordinator.
For some guests, 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 it was a chance to remember when the building at Fifth and Olive streets had served a different mission — particularly its time of service as St. Joseph Hospital.
“Seeing the former delivery and surgical rooms was a big hit,” LeDuc said.
Diane (LeDuc) Nelson, of Concordia, was eager to see the room where she was born on the third floor of the building. She brought along a sign showing her birthdate to take photos in the room.
“This has been fun,” she said as she examined the former birthing room.
Mary Louise Hydorn, of Concordia, also was born in the building.
“I was born here, and my brother and I both had our tonsils taken out here,” she said. “They did things differently back then. I was in a dorm room with 10 to 12 other women. My brother was 5 and I was 6.”
She particularly remembered the elevator.
“I tried to sneak out on the elevator,” she recalled. “But the Sisters stopped me.”
In addition to tours, refreshments and a video showing some of the history of Manna House, guests were able to sign up for a drawing for door prizes. Winners of the prizes were: Jeanette Kondratieff, Clay Center: quilt; Bob Frasier, Concordia: bowl cozy; Sarah Ganser, Salina, bowl cozy; Joan Fraser, Concordia: tote bag; Shelly Farha, Concordia: jelly gift basket; Tonya Shea, Minneapolis: jelly gift basket; Ina Garrison, Clyde: bobbin Lace cross; Aline Luecke, Concordia: puzzle; Ann Burgess, Salina: puzzle; Noel Garrison, Clyde: puzzle; Rex O’Brien, Hays: puzzle; and Mary McConniel, Belleville: puzzle.
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.
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. 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 1,000 people 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. 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.
For information on Manna House and its programs, go to mannahouse.org