The Community of St. Mary, an Episcopal Benedictine monastic community for women, was founded on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1865, in New York, when the Bishop of New York, the Rev’d Dr. Horatio Potter, received the vows of Harriet Starr Cannon and four other women, to form the community. It was the first Episcopal monastic community in the United States. In 1873, Bishop Quintard of Tennessee, a friend of Mother Harriet, invited the Community to send Sisters to Memphis to begin a school for girls and establish a Church home for the poor and needy. Four Sisters were sent to start this ministry, but their work was interrupted by the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 which devastated the population of Memphis, reducing the population to such an extent that Memphis lost its status as an incorporated city. During that time, the Sisters, though they had no formal training as nurses, cared for the sick and dying. All but one of the Sisters died in their attempts and are remembered today as the “Martyrs of Memphis” for their heroic service.
Sr. Hughetta Snowdon, the one surviving Sister from the Yellow Fever Epidemic, moved to Sewanee, TN, after the epidemic and in 1888, with the help of other Sisters, established the Sisters of St. Mary in Sewanee, Tennessee. The Sisters soon opened a school for mountain children known as “St. Mary’s on the Mountain,” for whom the county school was too distant and the road too difficult. As transportation improved, it became a boarding school for girls until 1968. Later, the school buildings became a retreat center sponsored by the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province. In 1988, the Sisters moved to a nearby location where they built the present convent.
Today the Sisters’ ministries include providing spiritual direction, leading retreats, quiet days, and workshops, going out to preach and teach classes at churches both in-state and out-of-state, and training and working with our Oblates, Associates, volunteers, and Organic Prayer Program interns. The Sisters produce items to sell which include jams and jellies from the fruits of their garden, handmade colored cards, and framed photography all made by the Sisters. The Sisters provide Benedictine hospitality to all who visit and invite guests to stay at the Hermitage or the garden level of the convent.
Our Organic Prayer Program (OPP) is one of our primary ministries for that mission. The OPP internship is for college students and recent college graduates, both men and women, who want to experience S.O.I.L. (Sacramental, Organic, Intentional Living) by sharing the rhythm and routine of daily prayer, working in the convent and garden, and representing the Community in the surrounding community as well as the world at large.
Associates are both men and women, lay and ordained, who wish to commit themselves to a rule of life and to friendship with the Community. They help us through prayer, volunteer service, spiritual and material support, and by their work in the world. Our Oblates are men and women, lay and ordained, who are extensions of the Community – broadening its ministry and representing it in places and ways that the Community desires. Oblates have a two-year formation program that involves study of the Benedictine Rule, written assignments, reading, and being committed to saying the Daily Office. Oblates live out in the world, following an interpretation of the Benedictine Rule and values it expresses that is consistent with their life situation.
As a Benedictine Community, we are known for our gracious hospitality to all who come here. We offer the Eucharist and four services of the Daily Office each day, and offer free breakfast after each Eucharist service in the morning. Our guest ministries are another way through which people engage with us. People from different backgrounds, ages, and careers come from across America and beyond to stay with us because we are a place of retreat located on a spectacular setting on the bluff of the mountain. Our guests have been seminarians on ordination retreat, parents of university students who needed a quiet place to stay while visiting their children, and those with stressful jobs or those undergoing crises who needed time to reconnect with God and nature and to process their life changing events.LEARN MORE ABOUT
The DuBose Conference Center is Tennessee’s historic conference center in Monteagle. Generations of Tennesseans have enjoyed DuBose’s peaceful grounds and warm hospitality.
It’s home to major annual programs in the Episcopal Church, including:
The Episcopal School of Nashville, a diverse, urban, independent school, is dedicated to nurturing the joy of learning and the spirit of discovery in each of its students.
At the very heart of the Episcopal School of Nashville’s mission is its commitment to academic excellence. By combining rigorous curricula with engaging and challenging learning experiences, Episcopal School students are prepared for the future. Our goal is to nurture and support students as they grow into literate, discerning, confident, and independent thinkers.
The Purple Martin on our logo has special significance for the Episcopal School of Nashville. In learning more about their behavior, we have discovered that Purple Martins feed their nestlings 50 or 60 times per day, wholly devoted to giving their young the nutrition they need to survive the journey awaiting them. It is a level of devotion we admire and one to which we aspire as we raise up the children in our school with love and learning, teaching them to soar with minds and spirits uplifting.Learn More About the Episcopal School of Nashville
St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School is a private, coeducational, Episcopal, day and boarding college preparatory school serving 255 students in grades 6-12.
Located on a beautifully wooded and historic 550-acre campus high atop the Cumberland Plateau, St. Andrew’s-Sewanee offers students an innovative curriculum presented by a creative and engaged faculty who are dedicated to cultivating well-rounded and thoughtful human beings.Contact the School
St. Luke’s Community House operates as a United Way Family Resource Center in West Nashville, Tennessee. The programs and services they offer their neighbors are holistic in their approach and hopeful in their purpose.
As a Family Resource Center, they work to strengthen the local neighborhood by partnering with twenty other local agencies to provide specialty services for the neighbors during times of normalcy and crisis. Through this method of partnership, they both maximize the community’s resources and eliminate the duplication of services in the immediate area.
St. Luke’s overall goal is to encourage their neighbors by joining in their own efforts to address and respond to their own needs and to the needs of the community as a whole.
St. Luke’s Community House was founded in 1913 with this goal in mind, and through the generosity of their supporters, the doors continue to remain open to those in need.Contact Us
St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development sits on 230 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau. It offers a sanctuary of natural beauty and quiet for rest, renewal, and reconnection.
St. Mary’s Sewanee is a place that caters to individual and group spiritual needs through a variety of personal retreats and group programs. The Ayres Center is dedicated to providing spiritual hospitality to persons of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds, in a place of natural beauty, simplicity, silence, tranquility, and warm spiritual rest through retreats, renewal, and learning.View our Trustees Contact Us
The University of the South sits atop the Cumberland Plateau between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sewanee’s 13,000–acre campus – the second largest in the country – features forests, meadows, lakes, caves, more than 50 miles of trails, and 15 miles of rock outcroppings.
The Sewanee education is characterized by serious intellectual pursuit, collaborative learning, community outreach and spiritual growth, all amid an unparalleled outdoor setting that inspires reflection and academic growth. More than 95 percent of Sewanee undergraduates live on campus in eight coed dorms, four all-male dorms, five all-female dorms, a women’s center, four language houses, and two special halls for student emergency personnel (EMTs and firefighters). It has hosted the Sewanee Church Music Conference since 2015.Contact Us View our Trustees
The School of Theology is an intimate community high on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, students with diverse callings and backgrounds experience the best in theological education and formation. Here, through prayer, learning, and service, they prepare to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary place of Spirit.
The School of Theology is a leader in Episcopal education that prepares priests and lay leaders for ministry in witness and service to the Triune God rooted in scripture, theology, prayer, and reflective practice. Its academic, worship and community life is characterized by intentional commitment to the mission of the Church, especially through Christian education and formation and to the Church’s call to social justice.