By Annette Hinkle
Sr. Ann Marino, a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, who celebrates 30 years as director of Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor this Sunday at 2 p.m. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. will present a proclamation to Sister Ann in honor of her 30 years at 2:30 p.m.
Does it feel like 30 years?
No. absolutely not. I remember the day I walked in here. The first person I met was [funeral director] Mr. Yardley. A nun had died just as I was coming down here.
What were you doing prior to your arrival in Sag Harbor?
I was teaching 2nd grade in a Marymount international school in Rome. I was just there for a year. I loved it. I thought I would stay. Then I got a call to come back. I had just finished my degree in spirituality prior to that. I arrived here August 1, 1982, not knowing I’d stay. I’d been teaching all my live and been a principal. I thought I would help out with some retreats, but I never thought I would take over.
What was Cormaria’s mission in those days and how has it changed?
The mission was just hosting weekend retreats. It was lot of parish groups and one was the Young Mothers From Franklin Square, they came when the retreat house opened in 1949. We have one that still comes. She’s 93. It was a way for Catholic women to bond. The women of Bonwit Teller, the telephone company, the LIRR, would come down for weekend retreats.
Before I came there was a sprinkling of Matt Talbot group – a Catholic version of AA, based on 12 steps. I built on that group because they were a large group, now half of our retreats are Matt Talbot. We have women’s retreats open to everyone on different themes. Taking the time to be still in February — it’s a contemplative retreat of 24 hours of silence and listening to the snow. We also have Holy Week retreats. In summer we have long retreats, though some lay women join – eight days of silence. Usually those are ladies religious and priests in hermitage. In the early ‘80s we were one of the first retreat houses to open our doors to those with AIDS.
Today it’s basically open to anyone and everyone who wants to be still. It’s Ecumenical now.
What did you think of Sag Harbor when you first arrived?
I came to Sag harbor in ‘82. I thought I would die. I had lived and taught my whole life in cities. New York, Richmond, Virginia, Barranquilla, Colombia, Barcelona Spain, Rome. I didn’t know anyone here. I used to walk the streets just to talk to someone. The people in Sag Harbor were wonderful. Joe Schiavoni told me what I should be paying for work on the house. Even [Sag Harbor Express publisher] Vicky Gardener. She was a character, she either liked you or didn’t like you. The townspeople really took me in. I’ve grown to love it.
So I guess this has been a pretty sweet assignment.
There are days I question it. But the great thing is my superiors have allowed me to be and to dream. A lot of retreat houses are closing because of dwindling resources, both financial and human. We live in a fragile world. I think the biggest sin of our time is business. Everybody is working — not that it’s wrong, but nobody takes the time for their children. You go to the beach and people are on cell phones, on the Jitney people are on phones though they’re not supposed to be. We don’t take time to stop and be still. We need to be children again, to play and laugh. We need to tap into the God within each one of us and realize that the breath of the spirit is within us.
Whenever there’s a crisis people stop to pray – but how often do I stop to say “wow thank you God for that sunset?” I love the winter out here when you can look at the sky at night and it’s black and see the stars, the snow, the trees. The farms gathering in the fall colors. I think people have to do that to renew the sprit
How has Cormaria changed you in the last 30 years?
It’s made me stop for my own sake to listen to my God within me. If I’m preaching or talking about praying, stopping and listening, I have to do that for myself. It’s made me more aware of the lives of others and the suffering people are going through and I’ve become more compassionate. It’s taught me not to judge people.
Cormaria is creating the Sister Ann Marino Endowment Fund. Tell me what that’s about.
We’re trying to continue Cormaria so there’s always money set aside for nitty gritty things, but also to keep our prices down. A retreat is a luxury. It’s $180 a weekend. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a parent of three, it’s a lot.
It’s for the upkeep of the house. If we start now, we can let it grow. I always say whatever I get is more than I had.
The celebration for Sister Ann Marino’s 30th anniversary as director of Cormaria Retreat House will take place at Cormaria, 77 Bay Street, Sag Harbor this Sunday, September 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free.