In the Heart of the Heart of Queens: Thomas Berry Place
By Mary Linda DeWitt
Linguistically and culturally vibrant, home to a cornucopia of cultures and languages, Jamaica has always been, arguably, the dynamic and relevant heart of Queens. Therefore, it makes sense that the spiritual heart of Queens now finds a home in the ecologically-minded, inclusive, and socially conscious, Thomas Berry Place, or “TBP” for short. Thomas Berry Place is the renewed, renovated and reimagined facility that for decades was known as Bishop Molloy Retreat House, the much-loved spiritual retreat house in Jamaica, Queens. TBP is named after the renowned Passionist priest Fr. Thomas Berry, CP—an academic, author, and pioneer environmentalist. With a particular attention to serving the prolific, interfaith community in which we position ourselves, TBP is devoted to serving communities here in Queens while challenging and pushing notions of what it means today to be a truly inclusive and accessible. We are, decidedly, a center for education, dialogue, and social responsibility. And, while our roots are distinctly Passionist and Catholic, we proudly build on that inspiring history while simultaneously recreating our role in a world where social responsibility is informed by an inclusive and intersectional ecological consciousness.
As they say, location is everything, and that is an understatement when describing where Thomas Berry Place is located. Close enough to Manhattan, but far enough away to feel like an idyllic retreat situated in the gentle, lush rolling hills of Jamaica Estates overlooking Jamaica proper, one can get here from downtown Manhattan in approximately thirty minutes by subway. A transportation hub like no other, our campus is accessible as well from the east by Nassau County buses which run ubiquitously on Hillside Avenue, which is home to thriving Little Bangladesh, Central American, and East Indian communities. The opportunity to enjoy delicious fare on Hillside Avenue is a treat for locals and visitors alike. Where else can you enjoy a mango lassi, some jerk chicken, and a pupusa all on the same street? In the words of Sr. Mary T. Naccarato, PBVM, Director of TBP’s Spiritual Programs, “Thomas Berry Place is an ‘oasis’ where anyone came come to pause from life and encounter the Divine in the beauty and sacredness of this place. We look forward to Welcoming You soon!”
TBP is singular in that is the only full-service retreat and conference facility of its kind in Jamaica, Queens, and actually, the entire metropolitan area. The centrically located TBP also boasts ample parking for guests. Furthermore, it is situated right between two major international airports of JFK and La Guardia. Available for day, midweek and weekend events, there are fifty renovated bedrooms, twenty of them with Queen size accommodations, and thirty with twin. Our grounds are teeming with possibility for educational and spiritual pursuit, hosting a board room with accommodations for fifteen people, two spacious conference rooms for eighty to one hundred people, smaller conference rooms that accommodate thirty-five people, a library and break out rooms, not to mention a chapel accessible twenty-four hours a day. Thomas Berry Place has singular outdoor areas—including an apple orchard and lush gardens—and a fully operational urban organic farm designated to provide organic food sources for our in-house kitchen and dining room that can serve up to one hundred diners, helmed by acclaimed chef Anthony O’Connor.
Moreover, our relationship to the planet as being integral to our daily mission is at the forefront of all our decisions here at TBP. Not only does our facility utilize solar power, but the flooring is carbon neutral across its full life cycle. Ramiro Agredo, COO of Thomas Berry Place, “In the TBP lobby we are also proud to highlight our Living Wall, a verdant lush display of various flora. Its purpose is not solely aesthetic, but rather these plants serve to purify and renew oxygen in an effort to reconceptualize the concept of indoor space and our relationship to it.” Additionally, the facilities are constantly taking on new and exciting dimensions in the form of a soon-to-be café/bakery run by our mission partner Reconnect. Every single aspect of Thomas Berry Place is directly connected to our commitment to rethinking the ways of reflecting, healing and communicating. Positioned on the same campus as Immaculate Conception Monastery, Parish and Academy, the team at TBP works closely with mission-based partners like Reconnect and Hour Children, Passionist Earth & Spirit Center, Emmaus House, and Sisters of St. Joseph, all who collaborate with us to logistically and theoretically to provide a quality guest experience. We invite you to visit our campus and learn more about our this our singular endeavor: thomasberryplace.org