- Cormaria Center for Spiritual and Human Growth celebrated its 60th anniversary as a retreat house in Sag Harbor with a solemn Liturgy of Thanksgiving celebrated by the Most Reverend William Murphy
, Bishop of Rockville Centre on November 29.
The previous day, Saturday, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary opened their doors for a festive day of holiday crafts, musical entertainment, marvelous home baked treats by the good Sisters and friends and even a visit from Santa Claus.
Happy Anniversary Cake made by the sisters.
The afternoon began with noted cookie making demonstration by Karina Fengler
, the teenage daughter of Loaves & Fishes
Cookshop and Bridgehampton Inn owner Sybille van Kempen
and granddaughter of the famed chef and author Anna Pump
. Baking is clearly in the blood of all three as the artful demonstration proved.
Floral designer Michael Grim
of Bridgehampton Florist provided an informative lesson in holiday floral design and Judy
and Jack Musnicki
instructed the 100+ attendees in the art of wreath-making and how to build a gingerbread house.
Following the demonstrations, there was a stop at the Holiday Boutique where Christmas items, toys, fine crystal and chin were sold to benefit the Retreat
House's programs. Then onto to the magnificent foyer of the mansion for a musical performance by the Harbor Bells, after which everyone flooded into to elegant dining room overlooking the bay for some very tasty sweets from the recipes in the recently published "Cormaria Cookbook."
Many guests also took the opportunity to participate in a long held tradition of The Sisters - inscribing the names of loved ones deceased or living - on starfish that were then hung on the Memory Tree in the room where the Sisters gather each day for prayers.
Sister Margaret and Sister Ann Marino R.S.H.M. at Cormaria.
A well-known landmark in the village, Cormaria was built on 18 waterfront acres in 1905 as the private home of real estate tycoon Frank Havens
. It was one of Sag Harbor's most lavish waterfront homes. Early records mention the home's interior design by "Tiffany Studios of New York," which is, for the most part, intact. Cormaria changed hands several times in the early 20th century, and was sold again in 1943 to the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as a finishing school for young Catholic women.
In 1949, Cormaria was converted to a Retreat Center. In 1960, an extension was built to provide 28 additional beds, and, soon after, the Retreat House programs were broadened to include men as well as women. Another addition was added in 1984 and Cormaria now accommodates up to 70 retreatants, with a professional kitchen, a modern dining room, a small chapel, and several small conference rooms.
In addition, Cormaria has developed an extensive series of "gardens of the spirit" that are maintained by a volunteer group of local landscape designers.
Today, Cormaria is open to people of all faiths for their spiritual and human growth. By year's end, Cormaria will have provided services for more than 5,000 individuals, including directed and "theme-based" retreats, guided retreats, on-going spiritual direction, and "Day of Prayer" celebrations. Cormaria is also a frequent host of the Matt Talbott retreats for people in 12-step recovery.
Cormaria is now the only Retreat House on eastern Long Island that continues to offer a comprehensive, year-round schedule of workshops and contemplative opportunities.
Cormaria Retreat House overlooking the harbor.
"Regardless of the program chosen, Cormaria's guests are given the time and space to think, to open their hearts, to put their lives in perspective, to plan for the future, and perhaps to respond to a call from their God. These deeply transformative programs are appropriate for anyone who wishes to deepen his or spiritual life," says Sister Ann Marino
S.H.M. Director of Cormaria since 1984.
Sister Ann also notes that the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary actually have a longer history in Sag Harbor than is generally known. According to Sister Ann, the first community of Sisters arrived in New York in 1877 from their home in Beziers, France. In 1879, they proceeded to Sag Harbor and took charge of the parochial school. They also traveled widely on the East End preparing children for First Communion and Confirmation.
In her opening remarks before the Sunday Liturgy, Sister Ann welcomed the guests saying, "We are gathering in the former Boat House which is now our Chapel where many people from all around the world and all walks of life have prayed - for themselves, for their families for the world." She continued, "Each one of you has a thread that is the tapestry of Cormaria."