West Hartford, Connecticut Historical Summary
Encouraged by the success of the retreat movement in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1945 the Passionists accepted the invitation from Bishop Henry J. O’Brien of Hartford to establish a monastery and a laymen’s retreat house in Farmington, Connecticut. By 1948 Father Joseph Leo Flynn had moved into a ranch-style house to oversee the construction. A post-World War II method of using pre-fabricated, concrete slabs of buff-brick was employed. Beautiful outdoor Stations of the Cross and a public chapel were included. Dedicated in 1951, both the community and retreat league have thrived. The large volume of mail required a local West Hartford address.
Passionist preachers from here have conducted parish missions, retreats, novenas, devotions, and assisted in local parishes. Likewise, numerous faithful have come to the monastery for reconciliation and spiritual counseling. Over the years the monastery has been home for formation efforts, notably the Brothers Training Program in the 1960s and the novitiate from 1970 until 1981. When the seminary college in Dunkirk closed, the Holy Family Junior College addition was added to the monastery in 1963. The college section was closed in 1968, and for several years was home for high school retreats, the Council for Moral Leadership, and a residence for the Passionist sisters of Mexico who worked in the retreat house kitchen. In 1988 Theodore Foley Hall was dedicated and remains a health care residence for Passionists. In 1998, part of the former seminary building was converted into provincial office space.
Retreat promotion through local statewide chapters, developed by Father Flynn, continues to be the key ingredient for attracting new retreatants and maintaining financial stability. Recently the chapel has been completely renovated. Over the years, retreat directors and the Passionist staff, as well as an associate staff of religious, laity and volunteers, have expanded the programs. Able to house over 150 retreatants, Holy Family Retreat House offers retreats for men and women, married couples, Matt Talbot and other recovery groups, ecumenical organizations, and evenings and days of recollection, in addition to various hosted events and programs.