Prose & Comments: We all can save St. Gabe’s

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | A view of the entrance to St. Gabriel's Retreat Center.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | A view of the entrance to St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center.

My name is Christine Verity Monserrate and my father, James Verity, was the Passionist priest who founded St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center many years ago.

I recently spent time at St. Gabriel’s with my husband, Ricardo Monserrate, and our two sons, James and Gabriel. Our days there were some of the most special we have ever had as a family, not only because of the incredible beauty of the property, but also because of the undeniable sense that we were on holy ground.

I would imagine that many residents of Shelter Island, who had the pleasure of visiting St. Gabe’s when it was still operating, whether under the direction of my dad or perhaps Father Bob Joerger, would agree that it is a sacred part of the Island’s history and one they would love to preserve.

However, I also recognize that the Passionists have no choice but to sell the property. They have financial needs that cannot be ignored and more importantly, aging priests who deserve to be cared for.

It is only a matter of time before the right offer comes in and that has compelled me to write. I have found myself playing the lottery in a bid to find the funds to purchase the property myself and have spent many hours daydreaming about the possibility of reopening the Retreat Center for a purpose similar to the original one my dad envisioned. Back in the 1960s, a time of major unrest in this country, he saw a need to reach out to the youth and engage them in their spirituality.

Today, with the threat of terrorism and the senseless and tragic school shootings that leave all parents with a sense of fear and insecurity, it seems like the original mission of St. Gabe’s is more necessary than ever.

So, I write, wondering if there are enough local residents who may want to unite and pool resources and potentially purchase St. Gabriel’s. Perhaps, together, we can find a way to restore St. Gabe’s and use it for its intended purpose, while at the same time easing the financial burden of the Passionists, a religious order that is, in my opinion, the humblest and most devoted of Christ’s servants.

This notice is in no way an effort to stop the Passionists from selling. My own father would have been the first to say, “People first, Christine.” These men deserve financial security as they enter their golden years. Instead, I wonder if there are enough people who feel the type of connection that I do to St. Gabe’s and would like to see it saved and even more, used to its full potential.

I already know of several families who would love to contribute but I also know that it will require a great many more to finance the undertaking. And to be honest, it is very hard to imagine that I could actually be successful in raising the necessary funds. But, it is far harder to imagine not even trying to do so.

I am prepared to work tirelessly to see St. Gabe’s purchased by the members of the Shelter Island community and other local communities who would like to see it preserved and reopened for an appropriate purpose, one that honors the years of inspiring work that was done there.

I believe all of Shelter Island and communities beyond would reap the benefit of such an endeavor and I would welcome any and all ideas on how to make this hope a reality.