PHILADELPHIA - The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill Feb. 5 released the following statement, announcing the permanent closure of Saint Mary by-the-Sea, a congregationally owned and operated retreat house, in Cape May Point:
"We, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA, have owned and operated our beautiful retreat house, Saint Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, NJ, since 1909, providing retreats for sisters and laity for more than 100 years.
"In October 2016, the congregation announced that Saint Mary by-the-Sea, the large main retreat house, located at 101 Lehigh Ave., would function as a retreat house through at least 2021. However, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of our 2020 and 2021 retreat programming at Saint Mary by-the-Sea. Therefore, we bring our ministry at Saint Mary’s to a close.
"Thousands have been part of this holy history, and Saint Mary’s has been blessed by the generosity and love of staff, volunteers, and retreatants. The Sisters of Saint Joseph, our Associates in Mission, sisters of other congregations, clergy and our lay brothers and sisters have encountered God in this sacred place and have also been a prayerful presence to the Cape May Point community.
"The heartbreaking and difficult decision to close the facility was the result of comprehensive planning that clearly identified the need for the divestment of this property. Given its beachfront location and our congregational commitment to care for Earth, our desire is to return this land to nature rather than use it for further development. We will make plans to ritualize the closing and celebrate the sacredness of our retreat house.
"As Sisters of Saint Joseph, we value our mission to 'live and work so that all people may be united with God and with one another.' We will continue to reflect with our sisters and others on creative ways to share our lives, our mission, and our spirituality."