St. John's, Plymouth

The story of St. John’s Plymouth is one of mission and facilities rich with history and transitions. The communities in Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Northville and western Wayne County embrace the excellence of the present facility and its programs as St. John’s Plymouth celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The entire complex, excluding the hotel building, is currently owned by the Archdiocese of Detroit. In 2018, the archdiocese received notice the hotel building ownership would be conveyed from the estate of a generous donor to the archdiocese in the coming year. Upon completion of this transfer, the entire complex will be owned by the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Since 2009, an independent Board of Directors monitors operations and advises the Archbishop on the strategic planning developed to contribute to the overall missions of the archdiocese.  Archdiocesan support continues for a very active Catholic wedding ministry at St. John's, in addition to regular use of the St. John's chapel for Sunday evening Mass and other events. As needed, the Board reviews opportunities to enhance the revenue earning capacity of operations at the complex with the Archdiocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors.

As we approach 2019, St. John’s Plymouth, better known by its marketing brand name of “The Inn at St. John’s” has been generating positive cash flows, establishing reserves for maintenance of the entire complex, and paying for the annual $400,000 expense to keep the former Youth and Family Retreat Center structure properly maintained and protected in its limited use status.

The last independently audited balance sheet of St. John’s Golf Club, Inc., for December 31, 2017, shows shareholder equity of $25 million, cash reserves of $7 million, and net property and equipment investment of $18 million derived from consistent annual revenues in the $10 million area (excluding any hotel related income or value).

What’s changed?

  • The average $1.5 million in annual subsidies over the 15 years (accumulating to $25.3 million) needed to support the Retreat Center from 1994-2009 was stopped. The average $1.5 million in annual subsidies over the 15 years (accumulating to $25.3 million) needed to support the Retreat Center from 1994-2009 was stopped.
  • The management teams have elevated the entire level of services to achieve prestigious rankings and awards such as: The management teams have elevated the entire level of services to achieve prestigious rankings and awards such as:
    • “4 Diamond Status” designations from AAA; “4 Diamond Status” designations from AAA;
    • 2017 “Best of Weddings” pick from the Knot; 2017 “Best of Weddings” pick from the Knot;
    • 2017 Best of Events and Meetings (small venue) from Michigan Meetings and Events; 2017 Best of Events and Meetings (small venue) from Michigan Meetings and Events;
    • The prestigious Concours d’Elegance historic car show initially moved to The Inn at St. Johns in 2011 (moving from the Meadowbrook Mansion facility) and recently extended its commitment for the next 3 years. The prestigious Concours d’Elegance historic car show initially moved to The Inn at St. Johns in 2011 (moving from the Meadowbrook Mansion facility) and recently extended its commitment for the next 3 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the background of St. John's?

Located in western Wayne County off Five Mile Road between Sheldon and Northville Roads, St. John's Provincial Seminary was established in 1948 as the major seminary in Michigan by the bishops of the state under the leadership of Edward Cardinal Mooney. At the time, there were not enough seminaries in the Midwest and the bishops decided to establish a major seminary, a designation that reflects that the institution confers graduate degrees.

St. John's provided graduate-level theological education and spiritual formation for diocesan priesthood candidates from the dioceses of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Gaylord, Kalamazoo and Marquette.

Founded in 1919 as a minor diocesan seminary, Sacred Heart Seminary, in Detroit, was attended by high school and undergraduate college students. From 1948 into the 1980s, it was common for men graduating from Sacred Heart Seminary to attend St. John's for their graduate studies. St. John's continued its mission for 40 years, expanding into the education and formation of laity and religious.

As the number of seminarians in Michigan declined in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Archdiocese of Detroit obtained sole possession of St. John's property and facilities.

The Archdiocese designated Sacred Heart as its major seminary in 1988 when it added a Graduate School of Theology to its College of Liberal Arts. Seminarians at St. John's transferred to the newly-established graduate program at Sacred Heart, after which St. John's was closed. St. John’s Provincial Seminary began a 6-year period of dormancy while its land and buildings were available for sale.

What happened after the St. John's seminary was closed?

In 1994, Cardinal Adam J. Maida brought forth a vision of reviving the property as a resource for diocesan youth and families. The former seminary would see three phases of construction and expansion from 1994 to 2006.

  • In 1996, St. John’s Center for Youth & Family opened in Plymouth, Michigan, on the south side of the property. These renovations addressed deferred maintenance and conversion expenses.
  • In 1998, the rebirth of the historic facility surged again when work commenced on an $11 million redevelopment of St. John’s main buildings into a comprehensive center for corporate and social conferences, Catholic weddings and celebrations.
    • The 10 acres of adjacent land was acquired from Northville Township to allow for expanding and upgrading the recreational component of the conference center.
    • In 2000, the Grand Opening of St. John’s Golf & Conference Center marked the completion of the careful restoration process.
  • In late 2005, the important addition of the Grande Ballroom, with seating for up to 450, created the largest ballroom in the conference center.  
  • In early 2006, St. John’s entered a new phase of development with the opening of the privately owned and financed “Inn at St. John’s” hotel on the property. The conference and banquet center capabilities were substantially expanded with the addition of on-site hotel rooms.

How much money has the Archdiocese put into the St. John's complex?

Between 1994 and 2006, the Archdiocese invested approximately $30 million in renovations and construction to repurpose the former seminary into a conference and retreat center. The investments have continued to grow, and a recent estimated value of the properties exceeded $50 million.

The Archdiocese allocated an additional $25.3 million from its reopening in 1996 through 2009 to operate several youth and family ministries from St. John's as well as to operate the Retreat Center. At various times, about 30 archdiocesan Central Services staff members were based at St. John's, including personnel engaged in family life ministries such as marriage preparation and support.

No archdiocesan funds were used to construct or operate The Inn at St. John's and no archdiocesan funds are supporting conference center or golf course operations.

The Archdiocese continues to support a Catholic wedding ministry at St. John's as well as regular use of the St. John's chapel for Sunday evening Mass and other events.

Where did the AOD funds come from?

Funds for renovations and Retreat Center operations at St. John's were obtained from the archdiocesan Loan Deposit Program (LDP), which is an internal financial platform that the Archdiocese created more than 70 years ago to facilitate savings from parishes, schools, and other Catholic organizations in southeast Michigan and to make loans available to those same depositors.

The majority of the $30 million invested in repurposing the St. John's complex was committed in the late-1990s when archdiocesan investments were performing well amid a strong national economy and high returns on LDP investments.

Why did the Archdiocese invest in redeveloping St. John's?

The archdiocesan master plan for St. John's was to retain the religious purpose of the complex and support youth and family ministries at the nonprofit Retreat Center with revenue generated by the for-profit enterprises located onsite – the conference center, golf course and hotel.

While weekend bookings were consistently good, the Retreat Center did not attract enough activity during the week, and its expenses outpaced revenue from the for-profit operations at St. John's. The Archdiocese provided operating subsidies to the Retreat Center for several years until suspending operations at the facility in November 2009.

Who owns the buildings and land at St. John's?

The Archdiocese of Detroit owns the buildings and land at St. John's (approximately 200 acres) except for the hotel building, which is owned by a private investor.

Under a contract with the Archdiocese, the Troy, Michigan-based Hotel Investment Services Inc. (HIS) operates the hotel, conference center and golf course. Carl's Golfland has operated the driving range and golf store since 2000.

No archdiocesan funds were used to construct The Inn at St. John's, which is connected to the northeast side of the St. John's Conference Center and opened in January 2006 as part of the St. John's Golf and Conference Center. This phase of the St. John's redevelopment project was entirely funded by a private investor.

Why did the Retreat Center at St. John's close?

Developed as a regional resource for the Archdiocese, its parishes, schools, councils, and staffs, as well as for state and national organizations holding workshops, programs, and retreats, the volume of weekend bookings at the Retreat Center was strong, but there was little overnight use of the facility during the week.

Cash flow from the for-profit hotel, conference center, and golf course operations at St. John's proved insufficient to subsidize Retreat Center operations and building maintenance.

Because the Retreat Center did not attract the level of usage anticipated and required significant ongoing subsides, the Archdiocese suspended Retreat Center operations in November 2009.

What revenue does the Archdiocese realize from the for-profit hotel, conference center, and golf course operations?

Hotel Investment Services manages operations at St. John's and is generating sufficient income to maintain the buildings, facilities, and grounds at the complex including the shuttered Retreat Center. In addition, positive cash flows resulting from depreciation expenses have resulted in increasing the cash reserves for long term facility improvements. No dividends to the Archdiocese have been made to recover prior equity investments.

The hotel and conference center hosts about 200 weekend weddings and receptions annually. Corporate conference center bookings during the week are strong.

Who is overseeing operations at St. John's?

A six-member board of directors appointed by and reporting to Archbishop Vigneron provides oversight of operations at St John's. Two ex-officio appointees to the St. John's board help ensure operations are consistent with Catholic teaching and values.

Is the Archdiocese considering new plans for the St. John's complex, or will it close?

The Archdiocese has no plans at this time to close or sell the St. John's complex, and is satisfied with its relationship with Hotel Investment Services (HIS). Hotel, conference center, wedding ministry, and golf course operations at St. John's are stable. HIS is attracting new business to the St. John's complex including the Concours d'Elegance of America, an annual weeklong celebration of automotive history and heritage.

The Archdiocese, the St. John's Board of Directors and HIS are considering options to utilize the former Retreat Center to enable the Archdiocese to advance its mission and recoup some of its investments in St. John's.

Posted: January 2019
Reference this information directly at http://www.aod.org/SharingtheLight/StJohns/