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Father Martin's Ashley

April 1, 2008
by root
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If one word could capture what Father Martin's Ashley seeks to convey with the design of its stately campus on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, “continuity” might come the closest. From the acquisition of the same granite used to construct buildings on the site more than 200 years ago to the careful integration of the surrounding natural beauty into the treatment experience, leaders at the Maryland facility seek to preserve a setting that honors the ideals of founders Father Joseph Martin and Mae Abraham.

Many patients and visitors have described the center's inter-denominational chapel and its Oakleaf Coat of Arms stained glass window as the campus's heart and soul. Father Martin's Ashley CEO Father Mark Hushen recalls one patient telling him how it was in the chapel where he could most closely experience Father Martin himself, after having heard so much about his good work.

Father Martin's Ashley this year celebrates its 25th anniversary on its historic estate overlooking the bay. The surrounding environment is one of the site's greatest assets and never stands far removed from the treatment experience. The calmness of the bay's waters reinforces how water can restore the spirit. Patients in groups often will sit at a gazebo on a bluff overlooking the bay in the early morning to watch the sun come up, read daily meditations, and discuss what is happening in their treatment experience.

Father Mark adds, “We give patients the time to be still and be quiet,” in order to contemplate nature's beauty. He says that while treatment certainly involves a great deal of hard work, programs should not be so jammed with activity that opportunities for solitude do not present.

Father Mark considers the campus a sacred place of respect, and in maintaining the integrity of the physical surroundings Ashley is respecting the dignity of its patients. “We can't settle for mediocrity here; we have to believe in greatness,” he says.

This doesn't mean Ashley is after a high-end look that is overly heavy on amenities. The campus's buildings have retained a simplicity and functionality, such as in a chapel that might fit no more than 80 comfortably but conveys a true sense of community.

Whenever leaders at the center are considering improvements to the campus, they turn back to the organization's mission statement and decide whether the activity will reinforce the single-minded purpose of healing, Father Mark says. By this standard, the campus's indoor fitness center and outdoor track, for example, constitute an ideal fit.

The most recent major addition to the campus was the 9,600-square-foot Abraham Hall, where patient lectures and special events take place and where the archives collection commemorating Ashley's history is displayed. In order to maintain continuity with the two oldest buildings on campus, which were part of the original early 1800s estate on the property, Ashley took ambitious steps to acquire the same Port Deposit granite that was used to build those structures but is no longer in use today. This involved finding owners of properties where old buildings made of the same material were being demolished.

This is but one of many stories at Ashley that mirror the experience of moving from addiction to recovery. Out of something destructive comes something restorative and beautiful.

“Everything here is geared toward restoring human dignity,” Father Mark says. “So we say, ‘Let's keep the integrity and dignity of our buildings alive.’”