Loyola set to build retreat College to develop rural property in Balto. County

'We're a growing school'

Residents near property not sure what to think

August 31, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Loyola College is the latest institution to seek spiritual solace in the rolling hills of rural Baltimore County, with a plan to build a retreat center off Beckleysville Road for its campus ministry.

Although the college is still working out the details of what its retreat center would look like, Loyola spokesman Mark Kelly said the North Baltimore school envisions a place for small gatherings to explore religious and spiritual questions.

"We've always wanted a retreat facility," he said. "It's part of our Jesuit character."

Loyola is the third institution to announce plans for a religious facility in rural Baltimore County in the last few months. Baltimore's Bethel AME Church is hoping to build a 3,000-seat sanctuary on a site near Granite. Carroll Community Church, JTC based in Eldersburg, is looking at 65 acres for a sanctuary and retreat at Route 91 and Mount Gilead Road.

Residents in those communities have expressed concerns that large facilities would overburden the rural roads.

But neighbors of the Loyola project are just beginning to learn about the college's plans and are not sure what to think about the proposal.

"The community is guarded," said Sharon Bailey, who lives a half-mile from the proposed retreat. "Our basic concern is preserving the rural nature and atmosphere."

Bailey said the neighbors likely would not oppose a small facility, but would not want to see it become a conference center. The land is zoned for agricultural use and has trees, fields and ponds.

Kelly said Loyola has been looking for a retreat site for nine years, after a fund-raising campaign raised $1 million for such a facility. The property in northern Baltimore County offers a quiet area still within easy commuting distance to the main campus.

Kelly said the college took out an option on two parcels at Beckleysville and Hare roads totaling 101 acres in April, and has been doing environmental studies. The college has not yet presented any plans to the county.

The retreat center would be overseen by the college's campus ministry department, which organizes liturgical services, retreats, counseling and community service programs. Student leaders might meet at the facility to reflect on leadership. The senior class might convene a retreat to consider its future.

"It's an opportunity to leave your day-to-day study life and focus on an aspect of spiritual development," Kelly said.

In any case, the gatherings would likely be small, Kelly said.

The proposed facility is the latest evidence of the 6,000-student college's expansion. Two years ago, Loyola bought the Buomi Temple site in the city and plans to build a student recreation center there.

Earlier this year, Loyola purchased property in Govans for its facilities operations.

"If there is property available, we're interested," Kelly said. "We're a growing school."

Pub Date: 8/31/98

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