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Mater Ecclesia Institute Records

 Record Group
Identifier: DUMC-C-014

Scope and Contents

This collection contains primary correspondence and documents relating to the development of the Mater Ecclesia Institute as well as the pertaining to the everyday operations of the Institute, including financial documents, retreat and program flyers, and facilities analyses. Also included are extensive meeting minutes and agendas of the Mater Ecclesia Advisory Committee and Board of Trustees. These are mostly arranged chronologically.

Other materials include correspondence and documents relating to the operations of the Shepherd Center and their dissolution, a folder of mostly handwritten thank you notes to Sr. Mary Columba and the Institute for holding retreats, and Mater Ecclesia Institute promotional materials. The collection also includes a scrapbook of various newspaper clippings and press releases relating to the Shepherd Center and the Mater Ecclesia Institute.


  • 1989 - 2002

Biographical / Historical

The Mater Ecclesia Institute started as an effort to create an ecumenical monastic community and retreat center in the Dominican tradition. It was housed at the former Monastery of the Holy Name in Cincinnati, Ohio. The monastery was dedicated in 1954 and was home to the Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Adoration until the sisters voted to suppress the monastery in 1989. The remaining sisters were sent to other Dominican monasteries in surrounding areas including the Monastery of St. Dominic in Washington, D.C. One of these nuns, Sr. Mary Columba Brienza, would become the founder of the Mater Ecclesia Institute. She was initially inspired by a brief discernment to the Carthusian lifestyle and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint, both of which emphasized the importance of community and ecumenism in the church.

Beginning in 1991, the former Monastery of the Holy Name housed another group known as The Shepherd Center which was an ecumenical prayer group. This group decided to lease the property from the Monastery of the Holy Name Corporation until they could purchase it or find a more permanent home. In 1995, the Shepherd Center began to see trouble surrounding their mission and vision for the monastery. Sr. Mary Columba worked with the Shepherd Center for a time and investigated the possibility of a joint monastic community under their guidance. This did not come to fruition and the Shepherd Center closed in April 1996.

In 1996, Sr. Mary Columba returned to Cincinnati and began to develop what would become the Mater Ecclesia Institute with the help of Brother Ignatius Perkins and Archbishop Pilarczyk, along with many others. Sr. Mary Columba remained dedicated to creating this ecumenical monastic community and in 1997, the Mater Ecclesia Institute was officially incorporated and began operations. There were several instances in the existence of the Institute where the Advisory Committee proposed to purchase the property of the Monastery of the Holy Name Corporation but were unsuccessful each time due to various factors including fundraising issues, lack of participation in the community, and local leadership issues. The Mater Ecclesia Institute was also constantly putting out the call for religious to join their community and holding retreats in the contemplative tradition. In 1999, the Institute also became the home to a permanent exhibition of the art of Sr. Mary Grace Thul.

In early 2001, the Mater Ecclesia Institute and the Monastery of the Holy Name Corporation began serious talks to transfer ownership of the property based on a lease agreement and eventual purchase. Even with these talks happening, the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati entered into a purchase contract with the Monastery of the Holy Name Corporation and would take ownership of the monastery property by the end of that year. This left the Mater Ecclesia Institute without a home and because they no longer had a home to hold retreats or house the monastic community that was just beginning to take shape, they closed and officially dissolved in 2002.


2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


In Progress
Jill Barth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Mary Nona McGreal, OP Center for Dominican Historical Studies Repository

Dominican University
7900 West Division Street
River Forest IL 60305 USA
(708) 524-6677
(708) 524-6546