To the Editor:
All Islanders joined in mourning the closing of the Passionists Fathers Youth Ministry at St. Gabriel’s in 2009. Under the able leadership of Father Bob Joerger and his colleagues, they did marvelous work for our youth throughout the region (over 70,000 teenagers benefited from the youth retreats at St. Gabe’s) while at the same time offering their beautiful land and facilities for many Island activities.
We understood the reasons necessitating this sad move, while at the same resolving to preserve this Island landmark if at all possible. In the meantime, it should be noted that the Passionists under Father Bob continue to do what they can for the Island. For example, during the past three years they have made St. Gabe’s available to the school for classes and other activities while major renovations were going on at the school. In 2011, these school renovations necessitated the temporary relocation of the FIT Center and once again the Passionists answered the call, agreeing to accept the Center from May through September of that year. (Some FIT members are still griping to me, “Why did you move it back? We loved that absolutely beautiful, inspiring location.”) In each instance the Passionists declined to accept any rent, sparing taxpayers that burden.
Additionally, the Passionists still willingly accept one day events at St. Gabe’s such as the Taylors Island Benefit last summer as well as the Wounded Warriors (and, the winners remind me, the Easter Egg Hunt three weeks ago).
So, as we search for a long-term solution to this temporary — I hope — hole in our community fabric, I want to acknowledge that the Passionists are still attempting to do their share, offering this beautiful property on Coecles Harbor and the buildings for Shelter Island needs and activities. Thank you on behalf of all of us.
JAMES D. DOUGHERTY
Supervisor, Town of Shelter Island