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A Contemplative’s Legacy at the Mount


Riverdale, N.Y. – An unexpected gift from the family of a modern-day contemplative has opened new vistas for spiritual opportunities for the Mount community. The Brother Aelred-Seton Shanley Endowment for Spirituality Programming will enable Campus Ministry to enhance their offerings in three ways. The funding will support more frequent student retreats, will endow two additional Seton Service and Leadership Scholarships, and will provide funding toward the restoration of the historic Roosevelt Opus IV organ in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Brother Aelred-Seton Shanley was a lay Benedictine monk who, in the latter half of the 20th century, built the Hermitage of the Dayspring, a secluded retreat in the hills of northwestern Connecticut. After Brother Shanley’s death in 2006, proceeds from the sale of the property were donated to the College of Mount Saint Vincent, thanks to the efforts of his sister, Lorraine Shanley, who serves on the College’s Mission and Ministry Advisory Council.

“Our culture and our society have adopted a very hectic pace, with every day heavily scheduled,” said Matthew Shields, Director for Mission and Ministry. “Retreats provide an oasis where students can reflect and pray. We hope to equip them with tools they can incorporate into their daily lives.” Retreats are open to all, but Mr. Shields hopes to attract more students during their second year. “First-year students have so many options and activities to choose from. We believe sophomores need a little love, too!”

In addition to increasing the number of extremely popular weekend offerings (which fill up quickly), Campus Ministry is laying the groundwork for a weekly on-campus experience that provides students some refuge from the pressures of daily living. “It’s great to get away to a retreat center, but student life can become so frenetic they don’t even have time to plan the trip,” said Kathryn O’Loughlin, Associate Director for Campus Ministry. “We felt the need for sanctuary is much more immediate. We want to encourage students to take a break, even for just an hour a week, to look inward and reflect on bigger questions in their own lives.”

As the program grows, the Office of Campus Ministry will shift retreat leadership to students. “It’s especially effective to have juniors and seniors working with freshmen and sophomores,” Ms. O’Loughlin said.

Brother Shanley’s legacy will seed further growth of the Seton Service Leadership Program. “Some of the best and brightest students in the College’s recent history have been Seton Scholars, committed to academic excellence and engaged in meaningful service and community building,” said Mr. Shields. “Sometimes we’ve had to turn away excellent candidates, but now we can expand our reach.”

Finally, the new funding will help restore the Roosevelt Opus IV organ in the Mount’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. One of the oldest of its kind, the organ is still in working condition, resplendent with hand-carved wood and vaulting pipes. Built in 1873, it was last repaired in 1960.

“We hope to establish a series of concerts of classical music and medieval church hymns that will highlight the great composers who dedicated themselves to this aspect of a rich spiritual life,” said Mr. Shields. “Once the Opus IV organ has been restored to its former majesty, we will have Brother Shanley to thank for that as well.”

This story originally appeared in the College’s 2017 Annual Report.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.