They gathered to remember and to pray. They gathered to celebrate a special moment in the history of Guest House.
They were the more than 200 alumni, benefactors, guests, friends and staff who met on a fittingly cloudless day on the Guest House campus in Lake Orion to celebrate the nonprofit’s 60th anniversary May 20 at the historic Scripps Mansion.
It was 60 years ago Pentecost Sunday that Guest House — known worldwide as a place of hope and healing — was opened in Lake Orion by its recovering alcoholic founder, Austin Ripley.
Its mission and work remain the same as the day Ripley accepted the first clients: the provision of information, education, treatment and care for Catholic clergy, religious and seminarians suffering from alcoholism, addictions and other behavioral health conditions.
The 60th anniversary Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, a 1988 graduate of the Guest House program, followed by a luncheon.
Joining the archbishop at the altar as concelebrants were Fr. George Hazler, IVD, chaplain of Guest House; Msgr. John Zenz, pastor of Birmingham’s Holy Name Parish and executive editor of the Guest House Human Development Magazine; and other clergy friends and alumni; as well as board members and Deacons Patrick A. McDonald and Christopher V. Stark.
Guest House recently completed the move of its men’s program from its center in Rochester, Minn., back to the founding campus in Lake Orion, in essence bringing its program full circle.
In addressing guests before the Mass, Guest House CEO Bob Koval called it a privilege to welcome them because they were helping in “saving the vocations and lives of clergy and religious for the good of the Church.”
“But with privilege comes responsibility, as we all strive to bring Guest House into a new decade of services,” Koval noted. “We are building upon all those who have come before us. And, hopefully, we are preparing a stronger foundation upon which others can build in the years to come.”
Koval especially thanked the Icon Dei Guild of Guest House, a fundraising group that has supported its mission and work since the early 1960s. Several of its members were on hand to assist, mirroring the service commitment that Guild members displayed more than 50 years ago at the same location. At that time, per Ripley’s request, members provided 60 dozen homemade cookies each week to Guest House.
Reading a letter from Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Koval quoted: “I am very grateful for the good work done by Guest House and the work of its alumni. I am proud to be in the succession of bishops who have had the easy task of placing confidence in the Guest House approach, beginning with Cardinal Archbishop Edward Mooney.”
In his homily, Archbishop Tobin also expressed gratitude to those in attendance and to all benefactors of Guest House. He added that Guest House, a “house of mercy,” is like a building project that began 60 years ago: “This construction is not yet complete,” he said.
The archbishop lauded the vision of Austin Ripley, who, against great odds and resistance from the Church of his day, was able to launch Guest House successfully in Lake Orion with the assistance of Cardinal Mooney. The cardinal not only gave his approval of Guest House, but also helped with the early financing.
“Ripley could see the idea of a place where laypeople could reach out to priests and religious to help them rediscover their humanity, the very humanity that God loved,” Archbishop Tobin said.
Today, 60 years later, Austin Ripley’s vision lives on at Guest House, where more than 20 Catholic priests and women and men religious at any given time are taking their first steps in recovery and rediscovering their own humanity.
John Gumina is a freelance writer who writes on behalf of Guest House, an addiction treatment and recovery center for clergy and religious based in Lake Orion.