The Community of St. Mary, is the oldest indigenous
Religious Order in the Episcopal Church, founded in
1865 in New York City. Contemplative and
Benedictine in ethos, the sisters of the Eastern Province center their life together in corporate worship, personal discipline and study, and simple work -- with mission flowing outward from this stable anchor.
St. Mary’s Convent is set on a hillside overlooking Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich, New York, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. The sisters’ ongoing witness to a life of prayer make Christ the King unique among conference centers of its kind in the United States.
A Short History of the “Peekskill Sisters”
The Community of St. Mary has been in Greenwich less than a decade. The Sisterhood of St. Mary was founded in New York City in 1865, centered in several active ministries. Property was purchased in Peekskill, NY, in 1873 which the sisters called Mount St. Gabriel. The Mother Foundress moved her office there, intending that the site become a quiet place for the training of the community's novice sisters and a haven for aging sisters. Mother Harriet saw the completion of of a monastic church at Mount St. Gabriel in 1890, and at the turn of the century a convent was built which could hold up to 40 women. By 1900 the convent at Peekskill, NY, became the operational hub of an Order with multiple institutions throughout the greater New York area as well as missions in the Midwest and Tennessee. Soon thereafter the sisters in the Midwest and South formed independent Provinces to administer their local institutions.
In 1983 the Eastern, Western and Southern
Provinces became fully separate and
autonomous and began pursuit of their own
particular expressions of the ideals of the
founding sisters. The Eastern Province
remained established in the old convent and
were often referred to simply as “the Peekskill
A New Chapter for the Eastern Province
By the middle of the twentieth century the
sisters began to struggle with increasing
governmental requirements for
institutional charitable work versus the time
commitment of living the full religious life.
To which was our principal call? Was our first
call to the corporal works of mercy which
clearly had established the legitimacy of our founding sisters' call in the eyes of the Church? Or was our primary call to single-minded devotion to God first, with all else following?
Our sisters in the sixties and seventies concluded the latter and read the sign of the times that the next great need of Church and society would be, less the institutional works which had defined their founding ethos, and more Christian spirituality and the primary place of Jesus Christ in
both private and corporate lives. They believed that
cultural monastic witness the
was being called to in the
would be caught
up in their willingness to
share with others the transformative relationship with Christ
they knew as
women given wholly
As the village surrounding the convent in Peekskill changed from its original rural character to a more urban population of the greater New York City metropolitan area, the Motherhouse there was no longer the place of quiet and devotion that Mother Harriet had envisioned. With an invitation for sisters to come to the Diocese of Albany in 2000, the Peekskill sisters saw the hand of God
beckoning them to return to the original vision of mission and ministry flowing out of a heart filled only with God.
Once more the
sisters are situated in a
rural environment, seeking renewal in the Benedictine way of balancing prayer,
and the study of God's ways.
At Christ the King Center in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany
The sisters have been in residence in their new
home since 2004,
with the new St. Mary’s Chapel and convent dedicated in 2005. We enjoy a close relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Albany through our Episcopal Visitor, the Rt. Rev. William Love, also diocesan bishop.
The new convent in Greenwich is a two-story building,with its main entrance on the lower floor, facing east toward Christ the King Center. CtK Center offers adult lodging and conference facilities, a nationally- known ministry offering healing prayer, a Theological Library, a Youth Camp and a nature preserve. The Convent is connected by a short drive by paved road or by a ten-minute walk by foot path across a covered bridge to most parts of the Center. The combined properties feature more than 600 acres of woodland, meadowland and working farmland, including a 36-acre lake and miles of trails. Every
season has its beauty, and the sisters delight
in the close proximity to wild creatures: river
otters,woodchucks, ruffled grouse, wild turkeys,
deer(even a moose has been sighted!), and red-tailed hawks.
Our convent was built to house and provide
and study space for 12
to 16 women. The north wing on both floors houses the sisters’ private quarters. The south wing has offices, a kitchen and refectory (dining
room) on the first floor and guest rooms on the second floor. The Chapel
and Great Room, in the center of the first floor, are open to guests. A
small library, mainly for the sisters’ use, but available to guests in retreat
or to others who need access to the collections, is located on the first
floor. St. Scholastica’s chapel, a smaller chapel for recollection and
private prayer, is located on the second floor.
Vision and Mission
The principal mission of the Community, out of which all
proceeds, remains the daily offering of a sacrifice of praise and glory to God. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated every morning in St. Mary's Chapel, and the Divine Office is also chanted or recited daily according to our English plainsong tradition. All worship at the convent is open to the public, and
guests are welcome to join the sisters daily for afternoon Tea in the convent Great Room or outdoors and (seasonal) barn or farm tours. Guest house facilities are available for individual private retreats and small retreat groups can also be accommodated.Community life in the convent at Greenwich provides a stable Benedictine balance of worship, study and work, out of which the sisters can live the consecrated monastic life. They raise sheep and cashmere goats, along with maintaining flower and vegetable gardens, and developing lost skills of manual fiber crafts.