Nov. 2, 2015 – On a beautiful sunny and crisp fall afternoon volunteers, board of trustee members, friends and staff of Loyola Jesuit Center in Morristown, N.J., gathered in the gardens behind the 111-year-old mansion, to take part in a special dedication ceremony in memory of Frank Diassi, Sr., Loyola’s original groundskeeper. The ceremony on Oct. 11, was led by Fr. George Witt, SJ, provincial assistant for spiritual ministries in the USA, Northeast Province, who dedicated and blessed the gardens.
An Italian immigrant, Diassi, Sr. served as the estate’s groundsman 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.
During the dedication, Frank Diassi, Jr. of Far Hills 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.”
The gardens were renovated in 2010 through a gift from Frank Diassi Jr. and his wife Marianne to include new landscaping and a large reflection pool lined with benches for contemplative reflection. To complete the renovation, a new brick garden wall and fountains were donated by Sam Singer, a frequent retreatant and his wife, Nancy of Warren. “I know my father would be very proud of how the gardens look today and that they were dedicated to him,” said the junior Diassi.
The gardens 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. The Frank Diassi, Sr. Memorial Gardens allow our retreatants the sacred space to do just that,” said Renee Owens, director, Loyola Jesuit Center. “With generous donations from the Diassi family, Singer family and other contributors, 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.”
Loyola is planning future events in the Frank Diassi, Sr. Memorial Gardens such as garden tours with Fr. Bill Rakowicz, SJ, concerts and more. Visit www.loyola.org or “Like” the Center’s Facebook page to stay up to date on all of the latest news, programs and events.