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 apparently be saved from the wrecking ball.

On Monday, the Sisters posted a letter announcing the property would instead be sold, to become a science education center.

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The Convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, and Cape May Point Science Center, Inc. are pleased to announce that they have entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement for Saint Mary by-the-Sea Retreat House in Cape May Point, New Jersey. It is anticipated that closing will occur in early 2022.

 

The Sisters of Saint Joseph have owned and operated the retreat house since 1909, providing retreats for sisters and laity for more than 100 years. When deciding to divest themselves of this special property, it was their desire and pledge to the community to prevent further development and return this land to nature. When the Sisters were ensured by professional authorities that the site was no longer in imminent danger from the sea, plans were modified. The Sisters knew that those red roofs are iconic and a treasured part of the landscape of Cape May Point and explored options for this property consistent with their pledge. After much discussion and negotiation, the Sisters agreed to sell to the Science Center, an entity devoted to protection of the environment.

It's a last-minute reversal of fortune for the historic building originally constructed as a hotel in 1889.  Saint Mary's by-the-sea was purchased by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1909 for $9000 and had been used by the sisters exclusively for years.

More recently the facility had been made available to the public for "private retreatants encounter with God".

In a website posting on Jan. 31, the Sisters of St. Joseph had 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.

 

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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 new Science Center nonprofit has also agreed to the deed restriction against any future commercial development of the property, according to the Sisters' statement.

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