Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center

Share on

Each year, thousands of people come to Mater Dolorosa in search of spiritual enrichment. A Passionist retreat center in the San Gabriel foothills, in the city of Sierra Madre near Los Angeles, Mater Dolorosa is a sacred place whose spiritual work depends on some decidedly material things. Mission-style buildings, a stunning outdoor Stations of the Cross, and many other physical improvements set the stage for lives to be changed in faith.

To help preserve the beauty and soul-changing power of the places in their care, Mater Dolorosa’s board and staff rely on a professionally prepared Reserve Study. Based on a detailed inspection of each element of the facility, the Reserve Study enables Mater Dolorosa to set aside enough each year to fund expected maintenance indefinitely.

Like many other institutions, Mater Dolorosa once took a much more casual approach to maintenance funding. Ron Brown, a long-time board member, recalls, “They had a couple hundred thousand in the bank and thought they were doing fine. But they were not fine. There was no real plan. It took some time for people to see how much we actually needed to be putting into our reserve fund.”

Starting around ten years ago, that began to change. After much discussion, Mater Dolorosa’s management and board decided to invest in a Reserve Study conducted by Association Reserves, a company with a 30-year history of doing similar plans for condominium associations. Matthew Swain, RS, the company’s national representative for Worship Facilities, inspected each of Mater Dolorosa’s buildings and outdoor assets, estimating the useful lifespan of each component, the number of years remaining, and the cost of renovation or replacement. The eastern section of the main building, for example, has a tile roof that measures about 10,600 square feet and was installed in 1995. The 2015 capital plan reports that the roof should last about 5 more years. At that point it will need to be renovated at a cost of around $74,200.

The plan lists each significant component of the Mater Dolorosa buildings, outdoor improvements, and major equipment: air conditioners, refrigerators, carpets, laundry machines, rest rooms, guest rooms, and barbecue grills. For each component, the plan indicates how much Mater Dolorosa should have in its maintenance fund, and how much it should set aside each year, to be prepared for the eventual cost of renovation or replacement.