St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, New York, better known by its original name of Inisfada, will close in June. Completed in 1920, the 87-room mansion was originally the summer home of Nicholas Brady, a Long Island businessman. After his death, his widow donated the property to the New York Provice of Jesuits. Since 1963 it has been a retreat house, offering the Spiritual Exercises as well as many daily and weekly programs of spiritual enrichment. Its beautiful grounds, easy accessibility from New York City, unique design and comfortable accommodations (it was one of the first retreat houses to offer air-conditioned rooms in the summer) have made it an extraordinary resource for spiritual renewal and refreshment over the years. My own history at Inisfada began in 1976 at a weekend parish retreat, and it has been a grace-filled place to which I have returned many times over the years.
Beyond the personal sense of loss and the effect on New York retreatants, I cannot avoid thinking of the closing of Inisfada in relation to the loss of silence in our technology-driven world. There is noise everywhere: tv news in doctors’ waiting rooms and on dedicated screens in taxis; people shouting into cell phones on city streets; music in restaurants so loud that conversation is impossible. Eight days of silence? Are we crazy? Those of us who practice Ignatian spirituality know the value of silence, even as it becomes harder to find. How to witness to it is a challenge for 2013.
Barbara Lee has been an Ignatian Volunteer in New York since 2000. In 2011 the New York region honored her with the Madonna Della Strada award which honors “lives that reflect the Ignatian values of direct service to the poor, and working and educating for a more just society.”