Guest House is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to the treatment of Catholic priests, deacons, brothers, seminarians (and - since 1994 - women religious) who suffer from alcoholism, other chemical dependencies and other addictions involving food and gambling. Opened in 1956 in Lake Orion, Michigan, Guest House is the oldest, continuously operating treatment center of its kind anywhere.
Guest House has 68 full-time and 61 part-time employees and an annual budget in excess of $7 million. Guest House operates two licensed and Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Facilities (CARF) accredited treatment centers. The one in Rochester, Minnesota is for priests and male religious and the other, in Lake Orion, Michigan, is for women religious.
Guest House was founded by Austin Ripley who was a nationally renowned mystery fiction writer and author of Minute Mysteries, a popular newspaper column featuring solve-it-yourself crime cases, which was syndicated in more than 170 U.S. newspapers.
Until the early 1940s Ripley was battling his own crippling addiction to alcohol. As a recovering alcoholic, Ripley observed through priest acquaintances that Catholic priests were not succeeding in overcoming their own addictions. Ripley decided to devote himself to the creation of a treatment program that respected not only the religious calling of priests and other religious people, but also to preserve their dignity as human beings. First opened in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1951, Guest House was founded on Ripley's profound belief that his program should "save the individual; save the vocation," and in precisely that order. Guest House eventually moved to Lake Orion, Michigan.
Ripley re-opened Guest House on Pentecost Sunday in 1956. The new location of Guest House would be the former home of newspaper magnate William Edmund Scripps in Lake Orion. Built in 1927 at a cost of over $2 million, the Scripps mansion was isolated and had plenty of land which provided a peaceful environment for treatment. The purchase price of the mansion in 1956 was a bargain at only $185,000; however, Ripley did not have enough money to meet the purchase price. He was able to raise the money with the help of the Archdiocese of Detroit, through various fund-raising activities and with additional help of the then Archbishop of Detroit, Edward Cardinal Mooney. Mooney was deeply concerned about alcoholic priests in his own Archdiocese and had been favorably impressed when some had recovered through the Guest House process in Wisconsin. Ripley obtained the necessary funds required to make the purchase with a loan.
Ripley reasoned, correctly, that these clergy lacked the support of the Church hierarchy (who were, in the main at that time, punitive toward alcoholic priests), and that the average clergyman was better able to recover in the care of laymen, but among men of his own calling, education and lifestyle.
As the need for services grew, Guest House found that there were long waiting periods for admission. In the early 1960s, a routine operation took Rip to the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which he felt was a great location for a second Guest House treatment center. In 1967, the ground was broken for the Rochester Treatment Center and it was opened in 1969.
The Lake Orion Center, originally housed in the Scripps mansion, is now situated in a new $3.5 million facility on the same property. The new 16-bed center has the latest features for the handicapped and for those women religious who suffer from ambulatory problems.
Guest House began a collaborative working relationship with the National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Problems (NCCA), whose offices were located to Lake Orion at the time. In 2007, Guest House and NCCA merged to assist NCCA with its efforts to be a resource for the Catholic lay recovering population, and to further Guest House's efforts in this regard.
Guest House currently treats priests, deacons, religious and seminarians in three different facilities located in Minnesota, Michigan, and Mangalore, India.
Priests, deacons, and male religious are cared for at Guest House's center in Rochester, Minnesota (opened in 1969) where the organization enjoys a working relationship with the Mayo Clinic.
In Lake Orion, Michigan, women religious receive services in a new, state-of-the-art center opened in 2007 and designed especially for sisters with ambulatory issues. Between the years of 1994 and 2007, women religious were cared for on the same campus but at the Scripps mansion.
Guest House's annual graduates join nearly 2,300 living alumni worldwide, and are among the more than 7,500 cared for since 1956. Over 2,000 are still serving the Church as pastors, teachers, counselors, and missionaries. Guest House alumni enjoy a life-time recovery rate of at least 75% - which is a much higher percentage rate than their lay counterparts - and remain in ministry for an average of 20 or more years after treatment. Patients come from 165 Dioceses and 120 religious communities throughout the United States and 48 other countries.
As part of its principal mission, each year Guest House admits up to 125 priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and seminarians to either of its two licensed, CARF-accredited treatment centers. There, each client remains for a minimum 90 days of intensive counseling, education, medical and nutritional support, fellowship, recreation and spiritual renewal and growth. In recent years, Guest House has expanded its services to include diagnosis and care of religious with eating and gambling/spending compulsions.
Guest House's programs have expanded from its original concentration on alcoholism and other chemical addictions (such as to prescription drugs), to include care for religious with eating disorders and gambling/spending compulsions. All residents also participate in Alcoholics Anonymous or other appropriate "12-step" programs.
Following their in-patient care, clients are also enrolled in "Continuing Care," a 21-month program centered on three, week-long return visits by the client to the center where they received treatment. In Continuing Care, there is additional counseling, education, fellowship and time for more spiritual renewal.
Fully 50% of its annual operating budget comes from generous private benefactors through financial contributions from around the world or from special event fund raisers and annual mailings. Donors can provide outright gifts of cash and stock, remember Guest House in their wills, or establish annuities or trusts for "planned" gifts. Guest House also has a memorial gift program as well as a program for arranging Mass for donors' special intentions.
A second mission of Guest House is the education of Church hierarchy in the realities of chemically based addictions, recovery and sobriety, and the spiritual aspects of these. Toward this end, Guest House Institute and Guest House, Inc. staff visit at least 50 dioceses and religious orders a year, provide an annual conference, numerous workshops and seminars and maintain active websites.
The mission of the Guest House Institute is to promote health and spiritual well-being of Catholics by providing educational services related to alcoholism and other addictions, and by promoting and providing research into alcoholism and other addictions affecting the Catholic Church.
The Guest House Institute Develops training and educational opportunities for Church hierarchy, clergy, religious and laity regarding addiction;
Works with seminarians, universities and dioceses and religious institutions to facilitate on-going education and training for those who are studying for ministry;
Offers retreats, seminars, and family seminars for those impacted by addiction;
Provides confidential consultation to those in leadership and ministry who are dealing with potential or actual addiction concerns;
Works with those in parish ministry to implement programs that address the needs of parishioners, becoming welcoming communities for those afflicted by addiction;
Facilitates the education and training of Catholic professionals who are faced with the complications of addiction in their work and ministry;
Develops and implements affordable continuing education experiences for addiction counselors and ministers to improve their skills and understanding.