Malvern Retreat House records
Held at: William M. Lennox Archives Center at Malvern Retreat House [Contact Us]315 S Warren Ave, Malvern, PA, 19355
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the William M. Lennox Archives Center at Malvern Retreat House. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Malvern Retreat House (MRH) is the nation's oldest and largest Catholic retreat house, serving over 20,000 people annually. Owned and operated by Catholic laity since 1912, MRH serves the spiritual needs of lay men and women of all ages, as well as clergy and religious of many denominations, through the retreat experience. MRH is administered by the Laymen's Retreat League of Philadelphia, which was established in 1912 and incorporated in 1921. From 1913 to 1921, retreats were held at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Overbrook section of the city. In 1921 the League purchased the current property, which it re-christened "St. Joseph's in the Hills," in Malvern, Chester County, PA, in suburban Philadelphia. Retreats have been held at the Malvern location since 1922.
The Malvern Retreat House (MRH) records are comprised of approximately 200 linear feet of materials dating from the 1910s to the present. The collection consists of subject files, files relating to the various groups that hold or have held regular retreats at Malvern Retreat House, board and committee minutes and administrative files, scrapbooks and binders, oral histories, newsletters and other publications, photographs and photograph albums, and framed and oversized materials. The collection includes two record groups, established in the 1980s and 1990s by the Malvern Retreat House Archives Committee, and six other sets of records, as outlined below:
Record Group 1. Subject files Record Group 2. Retreat group files Photographs and photo albums Newsletters and other publications Board and committee minutes Scrapbooks and subject binders Framed and oversize items Presidents' and officers' administrative files
As noted above, Malvern Retreat House's Archives Committee established the two designated record groups in the 1980s and 1990s, but did not establish record groups for the other sets of records. During that same time period the Committee also worked to organized and catalog certain sets of records. However, other sets of records are not organized or cataloged at all, and even within those that have been cataloged, order is often not fully established, or there are inconsistencies in how the materials are arranged and housed.
Record Group 1. Subject files, 1915-2011 (with gaps), consists of 46 linear feet of materials and documents the history of the Malvern Retreat House, and, to a lesser extent, the Laymen's Retreat League of Philadelphia, from 1915 to 2011. The record group contains a mix of both original MRH records such as correspondence, minutes, and reports, and secondary sources such as newspaper clippings, published articles, and miscellaneous histories and historical notes. Most of the boxes are organized by subject and generally include correspondence, photographs, programs/booklets, and news clippings relating to that subject. Examples of subjects include Jubilee and Anniversary years, Rectors, leading members of MRH such as William Lennox or John McShain, among others. A small group of boxes in this record group contain records relating specifically to the formation of the Laymen's Retreat League and the purchase of the Malvern property. Other boxes in this record group are more geared toward a specific committee or event, such as the Property Committee, the Chief Accountability Captains, or the Annual Dinner. Records in these boxes can include correspondence, photographs, programs/booklets, and news clippings, in addition to reports, minutes, schedules, lists of retreatants, forms, CPA reports, annual reports, and financial reports.
Record Group 2. Retreat group files consists of about 46 linear feet of materials and is comprised of materials collected and maintained by the 50-some groups that make regularly scheduled retreats at MRH throughout the year. Each group has one or more boxes of historical materials that they maintain individually and access during their retreat period. There is currently no box list or inventory for these records. In addition to the 46 linear feet of boxed and shelved materials, there are various sets of unorganized retreat group materials that are scattered about the MRH Archives.
Newsletters, 1924-2012, consist of about 8 linear feet of materials and document the activities of Malvern Retreat House. The MRH newsletter has been published since 1924, under different names and with some gaps in years of publication. From May 1924 through May 1929, the newsletter was published as Men of Malvern. Publication frequency varied from one to five issues per year. From June 1929 through September 1934, no newsletter was published. From October 1934 through February 1938, the newsletter was published as The Malvern Mustard Seed. During this period there was a publication most (but not all) months of the year (although from March through May 1938 no issues were published). From June 1938 through December 2000, the newsletter was published once again as Men of Malvern. From January 2001 to the present, it has been published as Prosit. The newsletter was published monthly (late 1930s-1974), then bimonthly (1975-1994), then quarterly (1995-2005), and finally three-times a year or bi-annually (2006-2011). Villanova University is scanning and making digital copies of the MRH newsletter available on its online Digital Library: http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Collection/vudl:203749. As of December 2015, issues from 1924 through 1956 are available online.
In addition to the materials in the designated record groups and other identified sets of records mentioned above, there are about twenty audiocassettes with oral histories, circa 1980s-1990s, from several leading figures of MRH reminiscing about the organization. Transcriptions of the oral histories are available onsite.
Some of the newsletters and board of directors minutes in the collection are available on microfilm and/or microfiche. Villanova University is scanning and making digital copies of the MRH newsletter available on its online Digital Library: http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Collection/vudl:203749. As of December 2015, issues from 1924 through 1956 are available online.
A more detailed collection description that includes a shelf listing for the entire archives, as well as a box inventory for the subject files and a box inventory and list of available issues for the newsletters, is available onsite.
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact William M. Lennox Archives Center at Malvern Retreat House directly for more information.
- Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Philadelphia (Pa.)
- Laymen's Retreat League of Philadelphia
- Malvern Retreat House (Malvern, Pa.)
- William M. Lennox Archives Center at Malvern Retreat House
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Jack McCarthy and Tracy Ulmer and encoded through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact William M. Lennox Archives Center at Malvern Retreat House for information about accessing this collection.