The Saint Mary by-the-Sea Retreat House in Cape May Point, the shore getaway home for the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill since 1909, will be closing permanently.

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In a website posting on Jan. 31, the Sisters of St. Joseph announced that Covid-19 had been the final obstacle in keeping the retreat open.

Among other heartrending consequences, COVID19 has affected decisions regarding St. Mary by-the-Sea Retreat House. We believe the risks of opening this season outweigh the advantages.  As a result, St. Mary by-the-Sea will not open for the 2021 season. Since we will not open in 2021, it is not feasible to open in 2022. Therefore, we bring our ministry at Saint Mary by-the-Seato a close. These are difficult words to express and absorb.

Originally constructed as a hotel in 1889, Saint Mary's by-the-sea, purchased by the Sisters of St. Joseph for $9000 in 1909, had been used by the sisters exclusively for years, then the facility had been made available to the public for "private retreatants encounter with God. Silence is observed throughout the house on all five-, six-, and eight-day directed and guided retreats, day and night, including meals", according to a brochure from 2019.

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The website statement from the Sisters of Saint Joseph looked back at the more than 100-year history of the facility.

“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 Sisters said their desire is to “return this land to nature rather than use it for further development.” A ceremony will be held for the closing at a later date.

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