Monday, October 2, 2017


For the past ten years, one of the major places I’ve frequented while living on The Mountain at Sewanee, Tennessee is the Community of St. Mary at the Convent of Episcopal Sisters, a center of worship and hospitality established in the 19th century and still alive and well in this 21st century. The Sisters follow the Rule of Benedict of Nursia who wrote this Rule 1500 years ago for monks and nuns; they take seriously “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ,” and receive those who come through their doors as if they were encountering the Christ. The Community is not an exclusive club or a hideout for a select group of cloistered Sisters; it opens the doors of its chapel and those searching for a deeper spiritual life daily. And after guests leave the table of the Eucharist, they receive breakfast at the table in the refectory. The Sisters believe that hospitality is holiness. Many pilgrims also come to the Convent as guests and stay for personal retreats on the lower level of the Convent, sometimes staying for weeks in the peaceful atmosphere at St. Mary’s.

Maintenance of the guest level of the Convent is expensive for even such everyday upkeep as plumbing. Lately, this maintenance has involved the upkeep of a septic system that isn’t working properly, and Prioress Madeleine Mary has sent out a “help-help” in the form of a “Go Fund Me” supervised by Sister Hannah, novice CSM. The goal for this project is $20,000, and so far, donors from many corners of the U.S. have contributed funds.

I’ve enjoyed many breakfasts, and when there’s enough for added guests, Sunday lunches, as a guest of the Community, and I appreciate the Benedictine Rule practiced by this small group of welcoming Sisters. I’m also an Associate and member of the Advisory Board of the Community of St. Mary and feel a distinct responsibility to join in the appeal for funding of this project. During the past ten years, I’ve been one of the Community’s guests at least twice weekly and appreciate the humor of a story told by Benedictine followers about a monastery that has welcomed many guests to stay with them, and when one monk sees yet another new person coming up the driveway exclaims, “Oh Christ, not you again!”

Readers may not be members of this hospitable group on The Mountain here in Sewanee, Tennessee, but anyone who appreciates the efforts of the Religious to turn themselves outward may feel moved to contribute to the upkeep of a center that offers hospitality and holiness to those who’re not so preoccupied with the “busyness” of their lives that they can’t honor the needs of a place that welcomes the stranger as Christ.

You can help this group by contributing to Go Fund Me Or you can contact Sister Hannah, Novice CSM at St. Mary’s Convent, 1100 St. Mary Lane, Sewanee, TN 37375.

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