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Celebrating Light and Life at St. Mary's Spirituality Center

Service held to transfer ownership of St. Mary's to Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Article by Mary Alice Murphy; Photos by Shirin McArthur, Mary Alice Murphy and one Courtesy of Mark Erickson

Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and others, who have been affiliated with St. Mary's over its long history in Silver City, celebrated the transfer of the church and hall's ownership from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, to the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity in a service held Saturday afternoon.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, called for silence. A loud knock came to the back door of the church. The sisters walked to the door and opened it to welcome the pastor of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, Father Henry Hoffman, Jr. and his followers.

The sisters went back to their seats on the left of the aisle, and the Anglican members sat on the right side. Everyone sang "Beatitudes." The assembly prayed together, and Sister Jean Befort read Matthew 5:13-16 on the topic of salt and light.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski conducted the ritual of light.

During the recitation of the history, at each point of change in the purpose and use of the St. Mary's facility, a representative of that use lit a candle on the altar and the assembly sang the refrain of Beatitudes. The history is taken from a document read by Sister Jean.

Sister Jean began the history. In 1918, a small group of sisters from Tipton, Indiana, traveled to Silver City, New Mexico. Wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit, they responded to a call to be of service to the people. They became the Sisters of St. Joseph of Silver City and purchased a 10-room mission-style adobe home, which is now 1801 Alabama St. Monsignor Wright purchased what is now Marian Hall and built Joseph House. He then donated both buildings to the Sisters for their ministries.

Four years later, in 1922, the adobe house was destroyed in a fire. The Sisters were undaunted and built the present chapel and attached a convent to it. They rebuilt the school, St. Mary Magdalen's Academy and re-opened in the fall of 1923. Because times were hard and money scarce, in 1926, the small number of Sisters merged with and became part of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas.

Sisters from Kansas came to offer education at the Academy, which flourished in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. It remained a boarding school until 1965, at which time it became a day school until it closed in 1980. The Guadalupe Montessori School, while not affiliated with the Sisters, has offered classes from time to time since 1979. GMS purchased the school building and the surrounding property on May 22, 2013.

The Center for New Life was a birthing center that opened in 1982 to emphasize the normality of birth, where family and friends could be more intimately involved with welcoming new life to the family. The building is now part of the Montessori School.

St. Mary's was a place for deepening one's spirituality through retreats, Cursillos, Antioch weekends and Search retreats. The Life Quest Program found a home at St. Mary's for a time.

Marian Hall became a safe haven in 1990 for victims of domestic violence through the El Refugio Program. Hundreds of women and children have found refuge at St. Mary's. If the walls could speak, they would tell of the move from horror and fear to joy and new life, again affirming the sacred space of St. Mary's.

In 2001, St. Mary's Spirituality Center began bringing dozens of groups and retreatants to the hallowed ground, crossing religious and ideological boundaries to those seeking time to deepen their relationship with God or offering unity and reconciliation.

By 2013, only two Sisters from Concordia staffed St. Mary's. The Holy Spirit seemed to be telling them that the Sisters of St. Joseph have been good stewards of the property, and it was time to pass it on. They were pleased to keep the holiness of its history and the sacredness of its impact when the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity purchased the property on March 5, 2014, with plans to continue to be a beacon of light and a place for spiritual renewal and growth.

After the last candle was lit, the Sisters of St. Joseph spoke together to transfer the property, "which has been entrusted to us since 1926. May you continue to serve the people of Silver City and its environs with the same love and care we have shown. May the Gospel of Jesus be preached and praises be offered in this church to all who enter through the doors."

A light was lit and given to Fr. Hoffman. The members of the Anglican Church responded: "We the members of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity give you our word that we will continue the legacy of prayer and hospitality that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, have given to the community of Silver City. We pray that the example you have given us will be lived out each day. We pray, also, that God will give us the strength to care for this property as you have cared for it." The refrain of Beatitudes was again sung.

The assembly then prayed the Our Father together, while holding hands with those seated next to them and across the aisle.

Fr. Hoffman gave a short homily. "It's not just what you do, but what people do because of you."

He gave his "sincere thank you for your 88 years in the community. The torch has been passed to us, and we have big shoes to fill. It is wonderful to see the Sisters were so involved in the community, because of your passion and because you listened to the Holy Spirit. I want to be driven by the power of example you leave us...."

"I sincerely pray that those, no matter their ideology, may find comfort through prayer in our church," Hoffman continued. "Thank you for trusting us to continue your mission and vision. We are humbled you have passed the light to us. I will include in the litany a prayer for you and for what you have done for this community....

"Let your light shine among others," he said. "We have received the light, and I pray it will go before us. Your influence has nourished us. Thank you."

Fr. Hoffman then gave the benediction and dismissal, followed by the assembly singing "One Spirit, One Church."

Those participating then could watch a presentation of the history of St. Mary's, took tours of the Holy Trinity Retreat House, which was the former residence of the Sisters, and ate a meal together, provided by the members of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

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