Collegeville Institute (formerly called the Ecumenical Institute)

  The Collegeville Institute Construction 1968 The Collegeville Institute Interior 1968 The Collegeville Institute Back Exterior 1968 The Collegeville Institute Front Entrance 2006

The Collegeville Institute (formerly called the Ecumenical Institute), from left to right: construction(1968), interior (1968), back exterior (1968) and front entrance (2006)
(click thumbnails for larger image)

Architect: Marcel Breuer & Associates, New York


Dates: 1968

In 1967, Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, founded the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research (later renamed the Collegeville Institute). He was inspired by his research at several ecumenical institutes in Germany in the early 60’s. Father Kilian came back to Collegeville and sought to create a place that would support and promote the best of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox theology. The main purpose of the institute was to allow for a space in which scholars could focus on studying ecumenism.

The Institute was constructed in 1968 on the shores of Stumpf Lake. The architecture was the work of Marcel Breuer; in total, the entire complex consists of a central administration building and three distinct apartment buildings to house ten theologians and their families for semester or year-long fellowships.

Kilian McDonnell first became president of the institute in 1973. The first executive director, Dr. Robert S. Bilheimer, arrived in 1974. In his role, he consolidated the resident scholars’ program and created a summer consultation program.

In 1984, Patrick Henry took over as executive director. When he retired after 20 years, David Ottenhoff became the director, saying, “The kind of cultural research carried out at the Institute is exciting, important, and offers assistance to Christians and other who have to live out their lives in such fluid cultural conditions”.

Beyond the resident scholar’s program, the Collegeville institute began offering short-term residences in 2004. In 2008 summer writing workshops were introduced, and in 2009 the Collegeville Institute Seminars program was introduced. In 2013 the Collegeville Institute began the Fellows Program, which aims to focus on pastoral leadership development.

Over the years, the Collegeville Institute has hosted a myriad of accomplished individuals such as Krista Tippett (a journalist, author, and entrepreneur who was awarded the “National Humanities Medal” by President Obama in 2014), Henri Nowen (a Dutch theologian and writer), and Bernard McGinn (one of the greatest authorities on mysticism), among many others.