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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

In the Marianist tradition, Bergamo renews the spirit and expands the mind

One of the little-known facts about the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives is our willingness to assist with professional development days, retreats or conferences for local Catholic schools.

Many of these programs are held at Bergamo, now known as Bergamo Center for Lifelong Learning.

Upon entering the grounds, you can feel the tranquility and peacefulness. A breathtaking setting greets you on Mount Saint John. Surrounded by colorful wildflowers and God's creatures, you hear the sounds of crickets and birds chirping throughout the sprawling 150 acres. It inspires guests to renew the spirit and expand the mind. 

The retreat and conference center was founded in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and the Society of Mary. In the Marianist tradition, Bergamo offers holistic spiritual formation programs for youth and adults throughout life. Programs on site help deepen self-awareness, develop interior life and generate a personal and communal faith response to changing times.

“The one aspect of the Marianist charism that permeates through Bergamo is the concept of a discipleship of equals, or sometimes described as inclusivity,” Executive Director Brent Devitt said. “We strive to promote a spirit of hospitality and openness of mind to all people and experiences in their own groups, in the Church and in society.”  

The transition of Mount Saint John, being primarily a property owned and used by the Marianists to form their members in religious life and administrate the Province into a place where people came for lifelong learning, started in the 1960s. There are many stories about the days the property served as the Mother house, Novitiate and college. In fact, when the farm was operational, the Brothers would can fruits and vegetables for the pantry shelves.  

Since the Bergamo Center’s founding on the campus of Mount Saint John, previously known as the John the XXII Center for Christian Renewal, one its very first programs was "Community of Faith," an ecumenical event involving Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish friends. There was also a Marianist LIFE (Living in Faith Experience) program providing opportunities for communities of faith to form, grow and flourish. Soon, Bergamo became a popular destination. Television host Phil Donahue, who began his  career in Dayton, was a keynote speaker for another workshop. The training session was publicized to explore new patterns of student leadership.

In recent years, Bergamo has hosted an equal number of programs for adults, held typically on weekends, and youths, held on weekdays. With room accommodations available on site, many programs involve an overnight stay.

“Bergamo is unique in that all of the core services of dining, lodging and conference space are all on one level, from the parking lot to the front entrance to the bedrooms," Devitt said. "There are no steps which makes it very accessible too.

"Also, we are surrounded by nature with nearby woods and blooming prairie plants in the center courtyard.”

The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Bergamo will continue to serve God’s people, individuals and groups alike from Dayton and around the world.

Today, the Bergamo Center for Lifelong Learning rents facilities from the Marianist Province and receives an endowment of support. There is still a Board of Trustees advising on the operation of the Center as well as representation of Society of Mary members on the Board. Read more about its history.

Contact Brent Devitt, Executive Director, for more information. 

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