History

Built on the Love of God

Ignatius House was born from the generous gift of a family’s summer home and a desire to help future generations know God.

In 1957, Suzanne Spalding Schroder and her son John, a Jesuit priest, determined that the family’s 20 acres along the Chattahoochee River in north Atlanta would be ideal as a retreat center. They sold the property to the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus and plans began.

A 50-room retreat house was dedicated in December 1960 and Ignatius House opened for retreats in January 1961. The first retreat was offered for women only and widely attended by friends of the late Suzanne Spalding Schroder.

Ignatius House has continued uninterrupted for nearly 60 years, annually welcoming approximately 3,000 guests who seek to spiritual renewal to live out God’s will in their lives.

In 2005, the iconic, glass-walled St. Ignatius Chapel was added to the property by Alex & Betty Smith. Designed by Atlanta architect Jimmy Haverty Smith, the chapel builds upon Suzanne Spalding Schroder’s intent that future generations will know their God. The chapel was entirely funded by her descendants and the architect was her great grandson.

In 2009, Maria G. Cressler was named the first female director of Ignatius House. Under her leadership, outreach has grown to include diverse demographic groups, including interfaith programming. Now, she turns her focus to support for busy families in a hectic world.

In 2011, Ignatius House added the J. Robert Fitzgerald Resource Building (also designed by Haverty-Smith), named after the first professional who was not a Jesuit priest to lead Ignatius House. Known widely as “Bob,” he continues to participate in the work of Ignatius House as a spiritual director.

Throughout the years, generations of families have contributed to the property, including outdoor decks, trails and garden care, furnishings, art, and operational funds. If your family would like to contribute to this legacy, kindly visit the Donation page.

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History of Ignatius House 1957-2019

May 1957

Suzanne Spalding Schroder donates the family’s summer home — 20 acres in north Atlanta — to the Society of Jesus for creation of a retreat house.

Oct. 11, 1959

Bishop Hyland joins the Schroder family and the Jesuits to break ground on a 50-room retreat house.

Dec. 18, 1960

The completed retreat house is formally dedicated with an outdoor Mass.

Jan. 12, 1961

Igantius House officially opens for its first retreat, consisting of 37 women and was dedicated to the memory of Suzanne Spalding Schroder.

August, 1961

Fr. John Lawrence (“Larry”) Hein, SJ, is named director and superior. During his tenure, he  established a Solidarity group for Christians and Jewish Atlantans, a Marriage Encounter program, and a 15-minute radio show on WGST.

January, 1977

Fr. John Schroder, SJ, son of the late Suzanne Spalding Schroder, returns to Atlanta following missionary work and becomes director of Ignatius House. During his tenure, retreat attendance increased through the recruitment of “retreat captains” who brought friends to weekend retreats.

March, 1980

Fr. Dan Partridge, SJ, becomes director of Ignatius House. He develops a “Blueprint for the Future” to expand nature trails, picnic areas, outdoor Stations of the Cross, and the goal of a new Chapel.

August, 1982

Fr. Kerry Clark, SJ, becomes director. He turns to a Catholic Singles Group (mostly from Christ the King parish) for help constructing paths, steps, and railings throughout the wooded areas.

1985

Jan Chernowski, an architect, designs a four-story, 1200-square-foot deck overlooking the Chattahoochee River in memory of her husband John.

August, 1988

Fr. George Wiltz, SJ, becomes director and appends the term “Jesuit Retreat Center” to the Ignatius House name.

Dec. 1988

The small chapel is renovated, enlarged, and dedicated to the memory of Suzanne Spalding Schroder.

1989

Dolly Tuttle’s “Campaign for Growth” beautifies 20 acres with donated trees and azaleas in memory of a loved one. Gifts include statuary of Mary and Christ, four personal decks, and more.

1991

The 450th anniversary of the Society of Jesus, the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius, and the 30th year since the dedication of Ignatius House.

Fr. Wiltz forms an advisory board with Dennis Crean as the first chairman.

1993

Fr. Jim Babb, SJ, becomes director.

1997

Fr. Jack Vessels, SJ, becomes director. He begins a Wednesday email meditation.

April 2, 2002

Robert J. “Bob” Fitzgerald becomes the first professional director of Ignatius House. He oversees a $1.5 M capital campaign to renovate the Schroder House, add a kitchen and dining room to the Retreat House, and deck. He formalizes a Board of Directors with David Fitzgerald at the first chairman.

Dec. 17, 2001

A 150-foot cell tower, uniquely designed as an outdoor chapel, is dedicated by Archbishop Donoghue. The tower features 22 icons representing creation, Judaism and Christianity. The tile icons were designed by an artisan in Mexico — the neice of Fr. Jack Vessels.

March 2004

Dennis and Marie Crean support a patio extension to create the “Garden of Living Water.”

Sept. 5, 2005

The modern, glass-lined St. Ignatius Chapel is dedicated by Archbishop Wilton Gregory and concelebrated by former Archbishop John Donoghue with Jesuits Fr. Clyde LeBlanc, Neil Jarreau, and Al Louapre. The chapel was entirely funded with a $1M gift from Alex & Betty Smith and designed by architect Jimmy Haverty Smith, grandson of Suzanne Spalding Schroder.

2007

Ignatius House begins retreats for homeless men and women as part of the national Ignatian Spirituality Project.

September, 2009

Maria Cressler is named executive director — the first female to lead Ignatius House.

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