Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor, NY has long been a shining light on the seashore, “…being built together into a holy dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph.2:22). The winds of COVID beat on that house but it did not fall. After the suspension of activities necessitated by the pandemic, there is joy and encouragement for many in the return to treasured programs and events.
The first weekend retreat early this September was appropriately a Matt Talbot group, continuing a tradition of over four decades. Alcoholics Anonymous Group 33 returned so enthusiastically to their “home away from home,” with masks and proof of vaccination. Sr. Martina Crowley said, “They would have stood on their heads if necessary!” Expressions of joy and gratitude abounded: “So glad to be back…I don’t want to leave… Can’t wait to come again in January.” Social distancing requirements kept the number of retreatants to 35, but many more were present in heart and memory. An enduring testament is the beautiful deck built and maintained by Matt Talbot’s Group 39 in memory of their brother-member, Mike Musselman.
And the testaments continue. Recently, a couple came to the door and asked if they could just spend some quiet time on the porch remembering their son who had recently died. He had loved to spend time on the porch while attending AA retreats. They sponsored a baseball tournament as a fundraiser. Their gift of $5,000 came from generous, grieving hearts.
Another September event was the Extended Family Day of Reflection, which focused on the first four corporal works of mercy. It was part of Sr. Ann Marino’s regular outreach to this group of RSHM associates. As Pat Ann Healy said, “The SHM Extended Family has always been welcomed as family by Sr. Ann and the staff at Cormaria. For all these years, we have listened and learned more about our relationship with God and ourselves. She is truly a blessing for the EF and all who know her.”
Sr. Ann’s Wednesday morning prayer group has also been happily revived following the COVID interruption. For decades this weekly gathering has drawn women of all ages, cultures, religions, or perhaps no formal religion, to seek solace and peace in their own souls. Sr. Ann’s gentle spirituality opens the way. Their comments reveal the depth of their gratitude:
- “Returning to Cormaria after the 18-month pandemic hiatus . . . lifesaving!”
- “Cormaria connects me to Jesus and His mother Mary.”
- “Cormaria means to me: safe haven, love and friendship, acceptance, peace.”
Other events of long-standing are anticipated at Cormaria. A history of collaboration has united Sr. Ann and Fr. Tim Brown, SJ, in conducting Holy Week retreats. A sense of their focus shines through this introduction to a past retreat, a reflection on God’s invitation to each one:
- Will you say yes to the growth I offer you?
- Will you trust me to raise up the good things in you?
- Will you thank me for being always here for you and with you?
There is great hope that this annual retreat can be conducted with everyone on-site next Holy Week. Meanwhile, guided and directed retreats will be offered through Zoom or in person, as the pandemic allows. Fr. Larry Lewis, MM, who is scheduled to direct Cormaria retreats in February and in April 2022 introduced his March 2021 retreat with a reflection on the collective grief experienced throughout the pandemic.
“We are all familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. David Kessler, who worked and co-authored with Kubler-Ross, has added a sixth stage: finding meaning. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our God empathizes and saves us from paralyzing fear and anxiety in the face of life’s emptiness – not by taking away grief, but by giving meaning to it.”Fr. Larry Lewis, MM
In the wide spectrum of human experience – joy and celebration, loss and mourning, hope and new beginnings – Cormaria offers a peaceful pause to find meaning through the treasures of our faith.