Malvern Retreat House announced Feb. 18 that Mark Poletunow has been named the new president of the century-old Catholic retreat center.
Poletunow brings to Malvern Retreat almost 20 years in non-profit leadership and a master’s degree in theology. Most recently he was assistant executive director of the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington, Del., where he was responsible for the financial, programmatic and operational activity of the $10 million agency.
“I am humbled by my selection to lead Malvern Retreat House and I am grateful to be able to use my professional and pastoral experience to enhance its heritage as a sacred place where men and women of all ages come to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, through the retreat experience,” said Poletunow.
The position of president, he said, “allows me to answer my own sense of personal mission to be an instrument to enhance, heal and encourage people who are searching for the presence of God, no matter their circumstance in life.”
The former Catholic priest and Capuchin Franciscan friar was laicized after years of personal discernment and subsequently married his wife, Margalita, in the Catholic Church.
Poletunow is fluent in Spanish and believes that skill can help develop Malvern’s ministry to the growing number of Spanish-speaking Catholics living in the Philadelphia region. He began serving the Latino community in the Archdiocese of Washington as an advocate for immigrants.
“Poletunow’s reputation, credentials and experiences are exemplary within the religious and non-profit communities,” said Francis Barrett, the chairman of Malvern’s search committee. “Beginning with more than 80 regional and national candidates, the search committee was diligent in the examination of each individual’s skills and leadership experiences to ensure the board was presented with finalists well-equipped to drive Malvern’s goals for growth and continued success.”
Malvern Retreat House, which has remained owned and operated by lay Catholics since 1912, has seen strong growth in recent years.
Last year it hosted 20,500 participants, an increase of over 50 percent in recent years. Over the last five years, retreatants have come from every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as several international cities.
The programs offered have more than doubled to 250, with high school student retreat programs growing the most. This year Malvern again will offer nearly 25 programs for teenagers seeking a better understanding and commitment to their Catholic faith.
An additional 150-bed facility recently was built on the campus to accommodate overnight stays for couples, families and non-traditional groups.
“This is an exciting time for Malvern Retreat House and a new chapter in its history,” said Jacki Delaney, vice-chair of the Malvern Board. She has been instrumental in developing new programs for women to enhance their unique spiritual journeys within their family and business lives.
Poletunow will succeed James Fitzsimmons, who retires as president on April 3.
He was praised by Malvern Board President Joseph Nardi for expanding Malvern’s mission beyond the traditional weekend men’s retreats to “a center that addresses the spiritual needs of the men, women, young adults, teenagers, couples and families, with specific programs for prayer and reflection,” he said.
Malvern’s rector, Msgr. Joseph Marino, was a classmate of Fitzsimmons at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and the two worked together at Malvern over the past three years.
Both Fitzsimmons and Puletunow bring “a deep love for the Church and the Church’s fundamental mission of evangelization,” Msgr. Marino said. “In getting to know Mark, I see he has a strong relationship with Christ and exhibits a heart-felt desire to provide tangible opportunities for others to encounter Christ through the Malvern Retreat experience.”