The Springbank staff is in harmony with an integrated approach to life, centered on the Word of God, conscious of spiritual, mental and physical health, and the extraordinary power of creative energy. We hold a deep respect for all life and accept the responsibility to care for Earth as co-creators of a culture of compassion, fostering freedom and well-being in ourselves as well as in others.
In the Dominican and Franciscan traditions, we choose to live simply, to create beauty, to respect Earth and all beings, and to share the learned wisdom as co-creators with the Divine for a sustainable future. Springbank provides a healing environment for spiritual growth, the arts, and earth awareness.
Springbank’s history began 230 years ago as part of a 5000 acre land grant by the King of England to John Burgess, who developed it into a rice and cotton plantation with the hard labor of the enslaved. The house, now called Cypress House, built in 1782 saw a succession of owners over the years in which the events of history forced the South to move from placed rural life to political strife, a war which brought about the emancipation of the enslaved.
During Springbank’s history under plantation owners, numbers of men, women and children were enslaved on the land. A comprehensive list of those enslaved under Henry J.Smith are on record at Springbank. A cemetery on the grounds of Springbank also exists evidenced by stones, small metal markers and many unmarked depressions in the cemetery area.
Mr.Howard Hadden purchased the land as a wedding gift for his wife Agnes. Under their stewardship, there were new plantings of shrubs and trees which attracted a wide variety of birds. In the 1940s, the original house burned down. It was quickly rebuilt following the original plan and today graces the long, magnolia-lined drive from the front gate.
The property was given to the Catholic Dominican order of men who developed the facilities and built a chapel.
A reorganization of the Dominican Order resulted in the closing of the center.
The retreat center reopened under the stewardship of a small group of Dominican men and women. Sr. Elizabeth Condon, an Adrian Dominican and Fr. John Egan OP were among these pioneers who returned.
With the arrival of Adrian Dominican Sisters Ursula Ording and Trina McCormick, the retreat center began a renewed existence. A sabbatical program which included ecological education , healing modalities and indigenous wisdom was started, inviting religious from around the world to a time of renewal and rest. The Arts – painting, pottery, basket making, music and dance were introduced as ‘soul work’ – integrating the left and right brain.
This was also the year the property was deeded in trust to an Ecumenical Board of Directors with the stipulation that it be used exclusively for religious purposes. In 1988, Sr. Karla Barker OSF from Oldenburg, Indiana joined Sisters Ursula and Trina.
“Springbank Christian Center – Dominican Retreat House” now became known as Springbank Retreat Center for EcoSpirituality & The Arts. Over the years, Sr. Trina, the staff and volunteers blazed the extensive trails through the wooded area, set up a Native American prayer lodge and medicine wheel with the guidance of Buck Ghost Horse, a Lakota teacher from the Creation Spirituality program of the Holy Names University. The 7- circuit labyrinth under the arms of two live oak trees was created.
1989 - Present
Springbank has evolved into a sanctuary for those seeking rest for the body, renewal for the spirit and refreshment for the mind. The combination of Sr. Ursula’s love of Earth Science, Sr. Trina’s deep connection with native wisdom and the arts and Sr. Karla’s Franciscan love of simplicity and nature were combined in envisioning the sacred and holy space of Springbank. It has been staffed by Adrian Dominican Sisters continuously for 51 years, among whom were Sr. Elizabeth Condon OP, Sr. Ursula Ording OP and Sr. Trina McCormkick OP.
On Sr. Trina’s resignation as Executive Director, with effect from September 2022, the Board of Directors honored her as ‘Founding Director of Retreat. Trina continues to be at Springbank offering her services and sharing her wisdom.
Springbank Retreat continues today under the leadership of Sr. Anita Braganza IBVM as Executive Director, the committed staff from different religious communities, a dedicated Board of Directors and generous benefactors and volunteers.