Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Order of St. Helena closes two of their Houses

I was profoundly sad when I found out that the Order of St. Helena would be closing two of its community's houses. I have spent several visits to the Vails Gate, NY retreat house as a member of the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and, most recently I had a wonderful retreat at Vails Gate in July of this year. I realize that for the sake of the whole Order, the decision was reached to close the Vails Gate house, as well as the house in NYC, but it still leaves me profoundly bummed!

I pray for the Sisters, and for the Associates of the Order of St. Helena as they chart the next step of their journey as a community.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Their website is HERE (, and here is the letter that the Order of St. Helena (OSH) sent out to friends of the Order:

At the 62nd Annual Chapter of the Order of St. Helena, Sunday August 10, 2008, the sisters took an enormous leap of faith. Due to increasingly overstretched resources, both in terms of finances and a shortage of sisters, we agreed to close both of our New York convents and to move -- temporarily -- to our Augusta, GA convent, with the intent of looking for a new piece of property in a diocese and location as yet unknown on which to build a new convent. Our intention for the Vails Gate property is to explore ways in which we can realize appropriate income from the property but also attempt to preserve the land from development.
However, The Rev. Sr. Jean Campbell, OSH will continue to live in Hughsonville, NY and serve as rector at Trinity, Fishkill, NY. Sr. Magdalene, OSH will remain in NYC to finish the last year of her M.Div. program at GTS. Sr. Barbara Lee, OSH will remain for the present in Seattle WA.
Unfortunately, we will need to cancel our programs that have been scheduled for the coming season at Vails Gate, after October 3rd. Since our guesthouse in Augusta will be needed for sisters to live in, we will be canceling the Augusta programs after October 13th. Full refunds will be sent to all who have registered for these programs.
We feel that the Holy Spirit is moving us to relocate in the near future to a new area and to re-found our community and mission. We have written to the House of Bishops that we are looking for a diocese that will welcome us and for a location that is close enough to a major metropolitan area for sisters who are called to urban ministry. We are also interested in finding a sufficiently natural setting to encourage a contemplative lifestyle. We hope to build a purpose-designed, efficient, “green” convent.
What has brought this about? For several years we have been facing an increasingly serious budget deficit, and we have also come to realize that our shortage of “sister power” is draining us of the energy we need to do ministry, both to the church and to our own sisters, some of whom are aging and in need of special assistance.
While the decision was made with much heartbreak and many tears, we do feel the Holy Spirit has led us to this point. We have been in both the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of Georgia for many years, and the idea of leaving both brings us much pain, but we recognize that we can no longer afford to operate and staff three convents.
We do not as yet know where we might end up, but we have faith and confidence that God is leading us into new directions for new ministry. In the meantime, we ask your prayers and support as we begin this journey of faith.
The Leadership Council of the Order of St Helena
Sr. Cintra Pemberton, OSH
Sr. Mary Lois, OSH
Sr. Ellen Francis, OSH

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