From Mary Pendergast, Sisters of Mercy, Cumberland, Rhode Island
1982 – 1987 studied meditation with Sister Virginia and Sister Davina: Or some early history of the Christine Center
My journey to the Christine Center in 1982 was preceded by painful rheumatoid arthritis. Sister Virginia was conducting a meditation retreat near my home several years earlier and one of my friends had told me that Virginia was a healer. I attended the retreat, learned some meditation skills and as I had hoped, I had a healing session with Sister Virginia Mary. Over time, with an ever deepening meditation practice, my health improved greatly. This led me to request and to receive permission to travel to the Christine Center to study meditation with Sister Virginia.
For five years I studied and worked at both building the meditation center and building my own spiritual practice with guidance from Virginia and the many teachers who made their way to Willard. In that time I became principal cook, bread maker, gardener, tractor driver, laundress, construction worker and welcomed all who came to work and meditate at the Christine Center.
These were formative years for the Center. When I arrived, there was a house and the barn and one hermitage. The barn still had a long way to go before it would be transformed into the meditation loft and library, showers and kitchen.
During my recent visit with Sister Gabe we were laughing over pictures of her literally pitching out the muck from the cow stalls one weekend and me shoveling out cow manure from a truck that would form the basis of our gigantic organic garden. Sister Virginia would quote, “As above, so below.” We would wonder about the level of our spiritual life when it seemed that all we ever did was move cow dung! In time the barn became the heart of the meditation center.
Several retired farmers would come to help us build the hermitages, and I learned the additional skills of shingling roofs and digging post holes. There is a defined spiritual energy in this land. I experienced it both as a still point and an outward radiating force of light and love and power, excluding no one and nothing.
Presently I am the Ecology Director for the Sisters of Mercy in the Northeast. It is an educative and justice activist role which also includes future planning for the land of the Sisters of Mercy. My brief visit to the Christine Center was, in a way, returning to an alma mater to see the old campus, now much expanded, beautiful and growing. “This experience was foundational for a life of contemplation and action. I will always be grateful for knowing Sister Virginia and for the privilege of my time here.”