During my vacations in New York, I have had the desire to have my annual 8-day retreat in the tri-state area instead of making another trip to a retreat house somewhere else. With some back and forth, I managed to schedule my retreat on June 11-18, 2021, at the Loyola Jesuit Center in Morristown, N.J.
The graces were bountiful at the retreat as I grew closer to Jesus and Mary. Fr. Steve Pugliese, SJ directed me with the right amount of guidance and insights. My increasing closeness to Jesus centered around the Eucharist. Reading In Sinu Jesu, I felt convicted to adore Jesus more in the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Steve showed me where the monstrance and tabernacle key were kept so I can have my own private Eucharistic Adoration. Starting on Sunday the 13th, I exposed the Blessed Sacrament for almost every prayer period.
Sitting almost face to face with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I began to grasp and feel how much Jesus desires to approach me as a close friend.
The retreat house reminded me of St. Joseph Retreat House in Milton, Mass., only supersized. The Loyola Jesuit Center grew from the original mansion of Robert Foote built in 1909.
The pools and gardens reflect the house’s heritage. The sounds of pools’ fountain reminded me of the fountain in the courtyard at St. Clement Eucharist Shrine in Boston. Frenetic civilization seems far away with the patter of flowing water. Staying on the second floor for private retreats, I felt very much at home. Because the whole floor is carpeted, I could walk around with my slippers.
Both retreat houses have surrounding property to make it more secluded than it is. But one can turn and find houses creeping closer.
At the Loyola Jesuit Center, the property shrank about 30 years ago when the Jesuits sold most of the property and kept 10 acres to buffer the retreat house. But the Stations of Cross wind close to the property line and one can’t deny that the neighbors are next door.
Instead of walking behind the retreat house, I would pray daily my Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Chaplet of Venerable Bruno Lanteri at Foote’s Pond, Wood nearby. The mostly shaded trail through the woods and around the pond exuded a peaceful feeling.
Throughout the retreat, I suspected Mary had organized the whole thing, especially when I saw her giant statue at the grand staircase. She appears everywhere in the house.
As if this wasn’t enough, Loyola Jesuit Center continues to expand her presence. Down the hill from the front door on June 11, I noticed a hole with a few rocks and a statue of Mary. Despite the construction equipment, the site looked mostly the same during most of the retreat. But on the morning of Thursday, June 17, I looked out my window to find a Mary garden. It seemed to have sprung overnight. I can imagine future retreatants praying in that space.
If I have another chance to do a private, directed retreat at the house, I would do it again. Be aware though that the Loyola Jesuit Center does not provide food service during the weekdays for private retreats. But that was a boon for me with my food restrictions. By providing for my own food, I could eat whatever and whenever I want.
However, if you want food service, you can always attend the scheduled weeklong retreats at the retreat house. That had been my original intention, but I needed an earlier retreat because of a scheduling conflict.
I’m grateful for the graces and time at the retreat house. Jesus has prepared my heart for the new adventures at my pastoral year at St. Joseph Retreat House, starting on June 27.
From one retreat house to another.