Thursday, January 11, 2007


I'm back in the Bronx, having completed a long and relaxing home visit as well as a three-day retreat at Inisfada, a lovely and historic Jesuit retreat house on Long Island. The Inisfada retreat gave the men of Ciszek Hall an opportunity to begin the spring semester with a few days of prayerful reflection on our common life as vowed religious. I finished the retreat with a great sense of gratitude for the gift of my vocation and for the ways in which God has been present to me in my Jesuit companions and in the experiences I've had in the Society. The retreat also served to strengthen the bonds of our community in the way that only silent retreats can do. If you've ever made a silent retreat with a large group of people, I think you'll understand what I mean.

We were particularly fortunate to make this retreat at Inisfada, a place that holds a special place in American Jesuit history. A gracious mock-Tudor mansion, Inisfada was once the home of Mrs. Genevieve Garvan Brady, an early twentieth-century Catholic philanthropist whose other gifts to the Society of Jesus and its institutions include the old Maryland Province novitiate at Wernersville and substantial donations to Georgetown University. A good friend of Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), Mrs. Brady was also a formidable negotiator: giving the money for the novitiate at Wernersville, she got the Jesuits to agree that both she and her husband would be interred in a crypt beneath the chapel and that, as long as she lived, she could go wherever she chose on the property despite the restrictions of the religious cloister. You can get more of a sense of the kind of person Mrs. Brady was by reading this article in the March 8, 1937 issue of Time regarding her decision to give Inisfada to the Jesuits. With apologies to any readers who may take umbrage at the attitudes expressed in a seventy-year-old magazine article, I present the following excerpt:
Twenty miles out from Manhattan on the wooded, hilly North Shore of Long Island, inland from Manhasset, lies a great and famed 225-acre estate, on a road locally called "The Irish Channel" from the origin of several large landowners along it. Behind massive iron gates, looming almost as large as the late Otto Kahn's huge chateau down near Huntington, stands a rambling, many-chimneyed Tudor house whose four stories and 50 rooms contain $2,000,000 worth of the world's greatest paintings, tapestries, porcelains and a large handsome private chapel. Last week the public learned that next May it may pay admission - for charity - to inspect the house, the wooded walks, the unsurpassed rose gardens of "Inisfada," home of the late great Roman Catholic Utilities Tycoon, Nicholas Frederic Brady. After the contents of the mansion are sold at auction, "Inisfada" will become the property of the Society of Jesus, to be used as a "house of studies" for young men of that order.

To the black-cassocked Jesuits, who more than any other Catholic fathers are at home in the drawing rooms of the rich and great, the acquisition of "Inisfada" was almost routine. Though they enjoy no personal property, many Jesuits work and study in places like the vast Massachusetts estate of the late W.E.D. Stokes, and in the hotel at West Baden, Ind. which the late Edward Ballard gave them. To the giver-away of "Inisfada" and its treasures, Mrs. Genevieve Garvan Brady, the decision she made public last week marked a definitive turning point in an unusual life.

Genevieve Garvan of Hartford, Conn., comely sister of Francis Patrick Garvan (Chemical Foundation), in 1906 married Nicholas Brady, son of a family whose transit and utilities fortune at one time was among the greatest in the U.S. To them both, their wealth became a means by which to serve their Church. In 1920 a Cardinal, His Eminence Giovanni Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the U.S., dedicated "Inisfada." The Bradys, indifferent to decorators, had spent 20 years traveling the world buying furnishings for it. Tycoon Brady, who confessed his sins in his last years to a bishop, his friend the Most. Rev. John Gregory Murray (now Archbishop of St. Paul), was a trusted lay adviser to the Church, became the second U.S. Catholic named Papal Chamberlain and was made a Papal Duke in 1926, by which time he had given the Vatican more than $1,000,000.

Goodness was once viewed as woman's chief end. In a time when women compete with men in politics, business and badness, goodness and piety are seldom seen practiced on a grand scale, or recognized as such by the Press. Moreover, Papal Duchess Brady is shy, extremely apprehensive of publicity. Yet she is the foremost member of her social class in a faith which demands completely public acts of faith of its people. While her husband was living, Mrs. Brady - Dame of Malta, Dame of the Holy Sepulchre, holder of the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice - founded the Carroll Club (for Catholic business girls), visited and gave money to Catholic hospitals, orphanages, homes for the aged. She succeeded Mrs. Herbert Hoover as board chairman of the Girl Scouts of America. Her husband dead in 1930, leaving her $50,000,000), she accepted Notre Dame's Laetare Medal as the most notable U.S. lay Catholic of 1933, and began thinking of giving "Inisfada" to the Jesuits.
A product of its era in approach as well as in the prose, the Time article notes local officials' futile efforts to thwart Mrs. Brady's plans to give an $8,000,000 property to a tax-exempt entity like the Jesuits and speculates about whether the widow's imminent marriage to Irish diplomat William J. Babington Macaulay would be performed by family friend Cardinal Pacelli, a sometime house guest at Inisfada. If you want to know more of the story or simply enjoy reading periodicals, read the rest of the 1937 Time article. If you'd simply like to learn more about Inisfada and might be interested in making a retreat in a beautiful and spiritually enriching setting, check out the retreat house website. I'm sure the staff there would be glad to have you. If you do make it to Inisfada, I hope that you find many graces there, as my Companions and I did this week. AMDG.


At 1/13/2007 7:17 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Very interesting history!

At 12/13/2013 12:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said... is the new site for the history of Inis Fada.


Post a Comment

<< Home