Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center


The Center was a remarkable place to film because not only is it a working Catholic retreat center for the faithful, it is an historic building with its own tale to tell.

The Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, located in Norwood, Ohio, sits on 13.1 beautifully landscaped acres in a residential area of the city. The Center inspires reverie and meditation with its vast collection of iconography and meticulously landscaped garden and outdoor spaces, lovingly cared for and seasonally decorated by volunteers.

The Center began as Mount Saint Mary of the West Seminary in the early 1920’s under the direction of Archbishop Henry Moeller, housing hundreds of seminary students. Later called “The Monk’s Retreat Center,” it eventually closed in 1980 due to declining enrollments.

The massive complex with Corinthian columns, hand-carved oak pilasters and woodwork, and hand-cast plaster statuary lay abandoned for the following twelve years. In the summer of 1992, Father Richard Willhelm, a retired U.S. Air Force Chaplain and priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, purchased the grand building in the hope it would become a Marian Center – a retirement center for priests.

After the unexpected death of Fr. Willhelm, the Center was renamed Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center to more fully reflect the uses for the structure: Marian devotions, days of recollection, retreats, meditation, and renewal of faith.

The facility now houses 67 retreat bedrooms, lounge and meeting spaces, a large media center and library, gift shop, and gymnasium.

Now home to the Sisters of the Children of Mary and the Sisters of Mercy, the process of rehabbing a dilapidated, three-hundred room complex with a separate priest’s accommodation house, built in 1911, was an undertaking requiring vast church and community support.

Much of the statuary and the ornately carved, antique confessionals were donated from closed churches throughout the archdiocese, with bequests, gifts and donations funding the evolution of the Center’s renovations. The roof alone was the first major rehabilitation to take place, later followed by the massive bell tower, which still rings on the fifteen-minute mark. The chapels, “Sorrowful Mother Chapel” and the larger “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary” Chapel were renovated and their hand-made, intricate stained glass windows were cleaned and restored to their original luster. The marble altar in the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary chapel, donated from the old Holy Cross Seminary in historic Mount Adams, was painstakingly taken apart, trucked across town and reassembled on site. In 1994, the 70-year old, waterlogged walls and floors of the West wing, having been susceptible to Cincinnati’s winter freeze/thaw cycle, gave out and collapsed in a few seconds, sending 12 people out of the building who had gathered for prayers. Through hard work and generous donations, the collapsed section was rebuilt in the style of the existing structure.

The center recently received the donation of 762 large, custom, replacement steel windows and 19 doors. Several ministries, notably including Apostles of the Holy Spirit, Men of the Sacred Heart and Sacred Heart Radio continue to work to make sure this facility has priestly guidance and fulfills its mission as a Marian spiritual center in consonance with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist are offered, as well as 24/7 Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration in the exquisitely embellished Adoration Chapel.