What You Will Find
Loyola Jesuit Center provides a refuge to feed today’s spiritual hungers by enabling people to discover God’s life within them through contemplative silent retreats. People come looking for answers and solutions and leave with insight and enthusiasm. They return home with a renewed sense of peace and are empowered to act on the call of Jesus Christ to communicate and share that life with others.
In silence and solitude, in conversation and discussions, let the hours of this experience at the Jesuit Retreat House heighten your awareness of His presence. Let this be a journey of the soul. Nourish your hunger for growth as a person.
Think of your experience at Loyola Jesuit Center as a gift to yourself. Capture the sense of your own place as a child of God called to goodness, filled with hope, and rich in love. Live with confidence in a time of restlessness. Have you taken enough time to care for yourself?
Our House/Your Home
Many people call Loyola their “spiritual home.”
They return year-after-year because they receive something valuable here. Loyola offers beautiful landscaped gardens surrounded by woodlands in a quiet, peaceful setting for reflection and contemplation. Indoors, the chapels, meeting spaces, dining hall and individual private rooms maintain a comfortable and tranquil environment for retreatants. Loyola is your “home away from home.”
- 90+ private, single accommodations with a sink and mirror in each room
- Two chapels for prayer and reflection
- 33 acres of woodland, ¾ mile walking path
- Beautiful gardens with flowers and plants
- Calming, soothing sounds of fountains
- Reflecting pool with fish
- Outdoor Stations of the Cross
- Library which holds a wonderful collection of books on the Bible, theology and spirituality
- Spacious meeting rooms
- Bookstore containing many books and religious articles for purchase
- Bright, Cozy Dining Room
- Freshly-prepared meals appropriate to the season
- Benches for resting
- Indigenous trees, plants, and wildlife
- The perfect environment for contemplation and meditation
Loyola has room to accommodate over 90+ individuals. Retreatants enjoy private rooms with a sink and mirror. All rooms are furnished with single beds, linens, towels, a small desk for study or writing and a kneeler for prayer.
Food for Your Soul
Our talented Chefs prepare innovative, seasonal dishes to compliment your retreat experience. Meals are served family style in our beautiful, bright dining hall. Silence is maintained during meals with appropriate contemplative music playing in the background. Snacks, beverages and coffee/tea are available at all times. Should you have specific dietary needs, please let us know when registering.
The gardens and surrounding woodlands play an important role in the retreat experience at Loyola. In this fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to have a place to unplug from technology and plug-in to God through nature. The Frank Diassi, Sr. Memorial Gardens allow retreatants the sacred space to do just that. With generous donations from Frank Diassi Jr. and his wife Marianne and Nancy and Sam Singer, our gardens continue to grow in the same way we hope that those who come on retreat will continue to grow in their spiritual lives.
History of the Frank Diassi Sr. Memorial Gardens
The gardens are a beautiful extension of the retreat experience at Loyola Jesuit Center. They are named after an Italian immigrant, Frank Diassi, Sr. who served as the estate’s groundskeeper for decades, tending to the gardens in the 1920s for the original owners, the Foote family and later for the Jesuits who transformed the property into a place for silent contemplation and prayer.
The gardens were extensively renovated in 2010 to include new landscaping and a large reflection pool lined with benches for contemplation through a gift from Frank Diassi Jr. and his wife Marianne. The renovation also included a new brick garden wall and fountains dedicated to the sanctity of human life, especially the unborn, donated by Sam Singer, a frequent retreatant and his wife, Nancy.
The gardens were officially dedicated in memory of Frank Diassi Sr. in 2015. At the dedication, Frank Diassi, Jr. recalled memories of his father tending to the gardens at Loyola. He said his father walked two miles from his Harrison Street home in Morristown to Loyola every day through his early 80s. “He loved this place. He worked very hard and took pride in caring for the gardens as if they were his own,” said Diassi, Jr. of his late father. “The vegetables from my father’s garden even fed the clergy and those on retreat. I know my father would be very proud of how the gardens look today, that they were dedicated to him and that they continue to provide a peaceful atmosphere for retreatants,” said the junior Diassi.
History of Loyola Jesuit Center
The Loyola story has always been more about the foundation of a family than of a building.
On June 10, 1927, Loyola House of Retreats (now Loyola Jesuit Center) in Morristown, New Jersey was officially opened as a retreat center on the former grounds of the Foote family estate. Retreats were very popular around the turn of the century and Fr. Herman Storck, S.J., a Jesuit priest on staff at Mount Manresa in Staten Island at the time, began looking for a place to hold retreats in the Northern New Jersey area. Fr. Storck soon discovered the Foote estate, one of the most stately homes in New Jersey when it was built in 1904. Having found the place, Fr. Stork’s next challenge was to secure financing for the purchase of the property. Fr. Storck was directed to Welcome Bender, a wealthy lawyer from Elizabeth, NJ, by Bender’s brother, Frederick. One might speculate that Frederick knew of Welcome’s desire to build a church to honor their mother, and perhaps saw the retreat house as an opportunity to fulfill his brother’s dream. Fr. Storck, early in 1926, went directly to Welcome’s office and asked him if he would purchase the Foote estate and donate it to the Jesuits. Mr. Bender said no to the request and asked Fr. Storck never to mention the subject to him again. Meanwhile, another offer was made to donate an estate in Saddle River, along with $100,000 to build a new retreat house. The Jesuit Provincial gave Fr. Storck an ultimatum—if he could not finance the Foote estate, he would have to accept the Saddle River property. But Fr. Storck had his heart set on the property in Morristown. Fr. Storck pleaded with the Provincial for time to pray until the end of the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier. His prayers were answered on the last day of the Novena, March 12, 1927. Over one year after his initial rejection, Welcome Bender notified Fr. Storck that he had a change of heart. He would purchase the Foote estate after all and donate it to the Jesuits in memory of his mother, Mrs. Katherine Bender. The purchase and transfer took place in Morristown on April 27, 1927. Fr. Herman Storck, S.J. received the gift of the house and property from Mr. Bender in the name of the Society of Jesus and became Loyola’s first director.
“The presentation of the Loyola House of Retreats is certainly one of the greatest and most joyous occasions of my life. As I formally tender the deed of this estate to the Society of Jesus, I feel that it is a dedication to my mother that certainly will repay me a hundredfold by the joy of the giving. I want to thank God for granting me this opportunity and for blessing me with the means to take advantage of it. I want to thank Father Storck for assisting me to realize the ambition of my lifetime to establish as a memorial to my mother a house dedicated to God.” – Welcome Bender
We can claim, therefore, that the Loyola retreat house was founded on faith—the faith of Fr. Herman Storck. Challenged with the pressures he faced, many would have given up. It would have been much easier to accept the Saddle River offer. But Fr. Storck would not abandon his vision. The Foote estate would be the new retreat house. He devoted the next six years of his life to establishing Loyola as a retreat house, almost single-handedly. His faith in God gave him the heart to persevere.
And so we give thanks to our co-founders, Welcome Bender who made Loyola possible and Fr. Storck who made Loyola actual. Thanks to God’s loving grace, Loyola has remained and flourishes as a house of prayer and a sacred space since 1927. It is clear that the hand of God has been at work, not only through Loyola’s past directors like Fr. Storck but also through its generations of devoted promoters and retreatants, staff and employees, friends and benefactors, shaping the people and events that are the story of Loyola Jesuit Center.
Loyola has been used for retreats by the Jesuit Order of priests since 1927, bringing people closer to Jesus. Here are some interesting historical facts about Loyola Jesuit Center:
- The first retreat took place at Loyola over the weekend of June 10, 1927. It included about 30 men who formed Loyola’s retreat group number one – the Pioneers group.
- Loyola hosted its first husband-wife retreat in August 1966. In June 1969 the first women’s retreat took place for wives of men retreatants.
- The first retreat for children took place in December of 2009 and was for young ladies in 4th – 6th grade.
- The first retreat for the homeless in conjunction with the Ignatian Spirituality Project based in Chicago took place in October of 2010.
- The first retreat in Spanish took place in June of 2012.
- The first retreat for young adults ages 18-39 took place in June of 2013.
- There are over 90+ rooms in the entire mansion. The East wing was added in 1949. It provided 36 additional rooms for retreatants. The West wing was added in 1959. It added an additional 26 rooms to the mansion.
- There is a life-size statue of St. Francis Xavier as you enter the front door of the mansion as a reminder of Fr. Storck’s Novena of Grace to St. Francis that he prayed to find the perfect place for a retreat house in New Jersey.
- Fr. Storck Room: Originally Mass was said in this room. A chalice dating back to the 16th century is on display in this room as well as the original chalice used for Mass when the retreat house first opened.
- St. Katherine’s Chapel: Named after Mrs. Katherine Bender, the mother of Welcome Bender, who donated the house to the Jesuits for the purpose of retreats.
- Ignatian Room: This was the original living room of the mansion named after St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. First Friday Mass (the first Friday of every month) is held in this room. It is also the gathering place during retreats.
- Christ the Priest Chapel: Located on the 2nd floor in the main mansion this chapel was added in 1965. This intimate chapel seats about 25 and is a favorite place of contemplative prayer for our retreatants and visitors. Mass is held there every day at 11:30am and is open to the public.