North of the Bow River, near what is now Cochrane, Alberta, the first peoples known as the Stoney First Nations hunted along the foothills of the Rockies called a prominent hill “Manachaban” or the Big Hill.
From it, they could look south across the plains or west to the Rocky Mountains. Today, a portion of the Big Hill within the retreat centre lands is graced by the Stations of the Cross which overlook the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre.
Mr. Charles Wellington Fisher (a local Member of Legislature until 1919) purchased a large ranch (now Mount St. Francis) with the promise to build his wife, Marjorie Powell, a castle in Cochrane. The original sandstone house remains a part of the Retreat today.
McConachie family purchased the land, which became the “Just Home Guest Ranch”.
March 10, 1949
Franciscans of Western Canada purchased 336 acres from McConachie family.
April 21, 1949
Mr. Clair J. Cote, a local realtor, purchased the remaining 165 acres of land and later another 25 acres, and generously donated them to the Franciscans for the Retreat.
August 15, 1949
Friars gave first retreat to the Calgary Diocesan clergy.
August 19, 1949
The first of hundreds of lay retreats with 26 local businessmen.
The Sisters of St. Elizabeth join the retreat staff and have provided meals for the retreatants and friars for next 50 years.
More than 10,000 people had attended retreats at the Mount.
More than 50,000 people had attended retreats at the Mount. Over the years, the Franciscan friars have invited various members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis and different lay people to join the retreat team, modeling a collaborative approach to ministry.
Over 4,000 people continue to attend retreats and programs each year. Since 1949, over 100,000 people have enjoyed silent retreats at the Mount.