Guest House founder Austin Ripley (“Rip”) began his career as a Congressional page, working for the U.S. Speaker of the House in Washington, D.C. He had an innovative entrepreneurial mind that served him well as a syndicated newspaper columnist where he wrote a daily column called the “Minute Mysteries.”
Additionally, during World War II, he devised a 90-day training program that the Pentagon loved. The books he wrote were bestsellers and his work was featured in Look Magazine. But active alcoholism marked his career and personal life with great highs and great crashes.
By the early 1940s, he was involved in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and in the recovery movement. As a devout Catholic, Ripley tried to help many alcoholic priests find “sobriety.” In spite of his best efforts, he observed none of them were able to “get sober.” He noticed that in AA meetings, as soon as it was discovered that one was a priest, he would immediately become the designated counselor and not receive his own treatment. Ripley knew something more was needed. Over time, he developed the “Guest House” concept. The Guest House concept was to develop a priest-only inpatient treatment center where they would receive treatment with their brother priests with the goal of achieving sobriety and returning to active ministry.
The Guest House concept would become a reality in 1956 when Detroit’s own Cardinal Edward Mooney invited Ripley to come to the Archdiocese of Detroit. Cardinal Mooney assisted Ripley in securing funds to acquire our permanent treatment center at the Scripps Mansion. Guest House opened its doors Pentecost Sunday, 1956. Always part of Ripley’s vision, the treatment facility for women religious was christened in 1994. Since its founding, Guest House has treated over 8,000 clergy and religious. This year marks our 63rd annual Bishop’s Dinner and 27 years since the founding of our program for women religious. Guest House is the world’s first and most successful treatment and recovery center for Catholic clergy and religious and the only one with specific treatment centers dedicated to men and women.
Born in Washington, D.C., in 1896 and passed away at his home near Colfax, Wisconsin, in 1974. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1942 and on May 20, 1956, the doors of Guest House opened.
“Moulton Manor” was the original name of the 67-room summer home to the William E. Scripps family. Scripps was the son of the founder of The Detroit News, and he founded the nation’s first commercial radio station, Detroit’s WWJ. The house was built in 1927 at a cost of $2.8 million. In addition to being involved in family business, Mr. Scripps was an avid pilot and devout farmer. On the 3,800-acre estate known as Wildwood Farms, Mr. Scripps and the farmhands raised Angus cattle, cows, swine, sheep and poultry.
When Mr. Scripps died in 1952, his widow sold the estate to a group of investors. A significant part of the collection of European paintings from the estate was donated in 1956 to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The farmland and lakes are now largely parks for Orion Township, Oakland County and the state of Michigan. Some of the original farmhouses and buildings have been converted into the Canterbury Village Shopping Center.
Austin Ripley knew that the mansion and its surrounding grounds offered an ideal site for recovery: serene and private countryside with rolling hills, wooded areas, ponds and streams. He purchased a portion of the estate; and on Pentecost Sunday in 1956, Guest House opened in the Scripps Mansion with 20 beds. Sixty years later, it still remains faithful to Austin Ripley’s vision: “Save the individual; save the vocation.” The Scripps Estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
It was May 20, 1956, when Austin Ripley’s dream became a reality. The doors of Guest House opened to care for priests and seminarians suffering from alcoholism. Ripley, a recovering alcoholic, recognized that priests had a more difficult time in recovery than lay people. He believed Guest House could help priests successfully recover and restore their relationship with God. In 1994, Guest House introduced a separate program for women religious. Today, both programs operate simultaneously on the 105-acre campus in Lake Orion, Michigan, treating clergy and men and women religious suffering from substance use disorders, process addictions and compulsive overeating. We are grateful to continue our ministry of saving lives, saving vocations and strengthening Catholic communities.
Guest House recently celebrated 60 years, and our goal is to continue our ministry and meet the needs of those we serve. Our strategic plans for the future focus on improving campus grounds to support advanced care and a peaceful environment for healing, increasing the scholarship fund for clients who have little or no ability to pay for treatment, and providing innovative programs and education in addiction and recovery.
To most efficiently meet the needs of clients, Guest House consolidates, closing the Rochester center and returning the clergy and men religious to a renovated treatment center in Lake Orion, with the women religious relocating to a new state-of-the-art, handicapped-accessible facility on the Lake Orion grounds. Guest House acquires the Human Development Magazine.
Construction is completed on a new treatment center for women religious in Lake Orion, restoring the mansion to continuing care and education use. The Scripps Mansion is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The outdoor Mother Seton Chapel opens at the Lake Orion campus, providing a natural setting for Masses and other events.
Guest House, committed to continually improving the quality of services and service outcomes, earned accreditation from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and continues to achieve the recognition.
Recognizing each situation as different, Guest House opens “The Recovery Residence,” a long-term setting for clergy and men religious who require additional time to achieve quality and lasting sobriety.
Guest House responds to an increasing need and opens a program for women religious on the Lake Orion campus in the Scripps Mansion.
As part of a reorganization effort, Guest House moves all clergy and men religious to Rochester and continues outpatient treatment, aftercare and education in Lake Orion.
Guest House in Rochester increases to 43 beds to meet the demand for care.
Success and growth prompts the opening of a second location in Rochester, Minnesota, with 23 beds.
The Guest House program expands from 20 beds to 40 beds, and there are still waiting lists for priests in need of the healing treatment offered.
Guest House in Lake Orion, Michigan, opens to clergy and men religious in the historic William E. Scripps Family Mansion on Pentecost Sunday, with 20 beds.
Austin Ripley meets with Detroit’s Edward Cardinal Mooney who agrees to help begin Guest House in the Detroit area.
A first Guest House in Wisconsin opens as a temporary facility and closes within a few years.
Guest House owes its existence to the inspiration and dedication of one man, founder Austin Ripley who was always known as “Rip.” He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1896 and passed away at his home near Colfax, Wisconsin, in 1974. He achieved considerable celebrity as a writer in the 1930s and 40s (“Minute Mystery” series and “Photo Crimes” Column), even while sliding into alcoholism and despair. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1942 when that fellowship was still small and embraced its principles with an enthusiasm that never wavered. A chance meeting with a priest in a bar led him to discover that priests were joining AA but failing to achieve sobriety. Because the AA program was working so well for others, Rip made a special effort to find ways of helping priests.
Convinced that priests needed extended treatment in a warm, spiritual environment with considerable support from peers, he developed a plan for this special program and launched a campaign to raise funds and win support from the Catholic hierarchy. Although he made a succession of contacts with influential persons and usually came away with promises of support, there was rarely money to back up the agreements.
Rip’s great breakthrough came in 1955 when Cardinal Mooney of Detroit gave him official backing as well as funds for the purchase of the Scripps Mansion in Lake Orion. For the next 16 years, Austin Ripley headed Guest House, where hundreds of alcoholic priests from around the world came for treatment. Today, his vision continues to drive our ministry of healing Catholic clergy and religious and returning them to their communities, reignited in their vocations.