Sacred heart Retreat House and Visitation Monastery began in 1832 when Bishop Michael Portier invited five Visitation Sisters from Georgetown, D.C. to pioneer the formation of a convent and school for girls.
Twenty-seven acres of land was deeded to them, along with a five-room cottage known as the de Angelis house. By 1834, the number of students made it necessary to build a large dormitory and convent. A chapel for the nuns, students and 300 Catholics of the vicinity was constructed about 1843, the same year a kitchen addition to the convent was completed. The chapel and first convent were destroyed by fire in 1854 and rebuilt about 1860. The kitchen wing, since enlarged, now is the north building of the convents inner quadrangle. Cornerstone was laid in 1894 for the present Sacred heart Chapel, in great part a gift of the McGill family. Several members of this family are entombed in a cypt under the chapel.
The girls academy was closed in 1952 because of modern educational demands conflicted with certain monastic privileges and rules. This permitted a new type of apostolic work, beginning with the inauguration of women’s retreat movement in 1956. In 1964, the completely modernized monastery became the center for retreats for men as well, and Archbishop designated it the official retreat house for South Alabama and Northwest Florida. Retreatants enjoy private, air-conditional rooms, tiled baths, and delicious food in a beautiful large dining room with restaurant equipped kitchen.
Retreats are held all seasons for Men, Woman, Students, Engaged and Marriage Encounters, Cursillo, Charistmatic Retreats, Special group retreats, Days of prayer/recollection.
- Only a hand full of cloistered nuns live in the convent
- In March 1840, a tornado leveled the buildings. The convent was rebuilt and a hundred students enrolled.
- Tragedy again struck in May, 1854, when fire reduced the monastery and chapel to smoldering ruins.
- The monastery is extended to a number of non-Catholic churches as well.
- In 1957 a candy kitchen was established. The popularity of Heavenly Hash was fast turning the modest facilities into a large business.
- The monastery is marked by the Historic Mobile Preservation Society
- A group of volunteers assist the sisters, opened a gift shop and book shop in the cottage
- The original water well is located under the gazebo
- The swimming pool was filled in
- Sisters encouragement “have great courage and you will see the glory of God increasing in your house like the glow of a beautiful dawn”.