Quómodo sedet sola cívitas.
A couple of days ago, I read the sad news that Inisfada, a historic Jesuit retreat house on Long Island, will be demolished in the coming days. As I related in this post from January 2007, Inisfada enjoyed a noteworthy place in American Catholic history: built in 1920 as a home for a wealthy pair of Catholic philanthropists, Nicholas and Genevieve Garvan Brady, the 87-room Tudor mansion called 'Inisfada' (apparently Gaelic for "Long Island") received such distinguished guests as Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII) before being given to the Society of Jesus in 1937. Initially used as a house of study for Jesuit scholastics, Inisfada was eventually converted into a retreat house and remained one until rising operating costs and a declining number of retreatants forced its closure earlier this year. Despite the protests of preservationists and opposition from many in the local community, the New York Province of the Society of Jesus sold the property for $36.5 million to a group of developers who remained consistently mum about their intentions but were widely expected to tear the old house down in order to replace it with densely-planted McMansions. With Inisfada's contents having been auctioned off and a demolition permit in hand, the developers now seem poised to do what everyone expected them to do all along.
I am the sort of person who appreciates beautiful old buildings and is sad to see them destroyed; I also made a number of retreats at Inisfada when I lived in New York, so I can't help but feel a personal connection to the place. I can't blame the New York Province Jesuits for closing the retreat house or for selling the property - for various reasons, they really couldn't afford to keep the place going - but I still regret the fact that some means could not be found to save Inisfada from the wrecking ball. This post is accordingly meant as a sort of elegaic tribute to a place that won't exist for much longer. I took the photos below while I was on retreat at Inisfada, while the text comes from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, as featured here previously in a post on the Office of Tenebrae.