Riverdale, New York Historical Summaries

Riverdale, New York Residence Historical Summary

A late 19th century Victorian Bronx home with a scenic view of the Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades was renovated in 1995 as a new Passionist residence with five members. Expectations were that the primary focus for this group would be community life, not any particular ministry. The five current members include a volunteer in a pastoral outreach hospital program and artist-in-residence, a member of the Passionist general council in Rome, and three members who are itinerant preachers throughout the East Coast.

This Riverdale residence continues in the footsteps of a Passionist presence in the Bronx originating in 1920 when the Claflin Estate on Sedgwick Avenue was bought in order to promote Passionist preaching and presence in the Archdiocese of New York. Desiring more solitude, in 1924 the Claflin Estate was sold. The Allien Estate in Riverdale was purchased. The Passionists were taking possession of 14 acres of land, a 62-year-old house, two small cottages and an old stable. A chapel was built adjoining the residence, and the new residence was named after the Passionist bishop, Blessed Vincent Mary Strambi. From 1924 to the 1970s, a small group of Passionists lived and ministered there until the adjacent Passionist Spiritual Center was built in 1965. From the 1970s to the new venture in 1995, the residence was home to the Riverdale Center of Religious Research, directed, until his retirement, by Father Thomas Berry, world renowned ecologian and author. A small group of Passionist religious also lived there.

Riverdale, New York Spiritual Center Historical Summary

Nestled on a hillside along the banks of the beautiful Hudson River stands The Passionist Spiritual Center/Cardinal Spellman Retreat House. It was the last of a series of retreat houses constructed by St. Paul of the Cross Province in the 1960s and sits adjacent to the Passionist Residence in Riverdale. The retreat house, designed by architect Brother Cajetan J. B. Baumann, O.F.M., fulfilled a longtime dream to expand the Passionist presence in the Archdiocese of New York. In 1967, Father Columkille Regan was named the first retreat director. The first men’s retreat occurred two months before the April 28, 1967, dedication.

From the start, the Passionist retreat staff employed a team-ministry approach, emphasizing multiple presentations and group participation. It was not long until the retreat house became a center of spiritual renewal for many diverse groups.

Today, Father Paul Fagan is the retreat director. With more than 105 private rooms, The Passionist Spiritual Center hosts many specialized groups and meetings, but the primary ministry continues to be retreats for lay women and men, religious women and men, priests, and youth. The ministry team is made up of three Passionists, two lay women, and a religious sister. The full team consists of the retreat director and the ministry team; a lay administrator, Mr. William Gilberg; and an enthusiastic coordinator of hosted and special events, Brother James Johnson; a dedicated staff and a hard-working lay executive board; a zealous women’s auxiliary and a group of committed associates; all working together with the hope and vision of making The Passionist Spiritual Center a vibrant place of spiritual renewal for many years to come.