Sisters of St. Mary Elect Next Prioress

The Community of St. Mary, Sewanee, TN
Posted Dec 2, 2022

“The prioress must always remember what she is and remember what she is called, aware that more will be expected of one to whom more has been entrusted.” (from The Rule of St. Benedict – II.30)

“In other words, she should strive to model Christ through her life and her leadership.” (from the Customary of the Community)

At a recent elective chapter meeting, Sr. Hannah, CSM was elected the next prioress of the Community of St. Mary. The prioress serves as the leader of the Community and is elected to a five year term. Sr. Hannah’s installation will take place on Sunday, January 22, 2023 with a Eucharist at 8:30 AM in the Convent Chapel. Sr. Hannah joined the Community in 2015 as a postulant and made her life profession in 2021.

Reflecting on her election, Sr. Hannah said: “My favorite words of wisdom from the Rule of St. Benedict are “Never lose hope in God’s mercy.” Since the humble beginnings of our Community in 1865, led by our foundress Harriet Starr Cannon and four other Sisters – Jane, Sarah, Mary and Amelia – God’s mercy has created, sustained, and strengthened our Order for almost 157 years. Being a part of the oldest women’s religious community in the Episcopal Church means that we stand on the shoulders of unknown and unheralded women whose service quietly enriched the areas they ministered to, and whose lives of prayer benefited all of the world. As leader, Sr. Madeleine Mary worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the past ten years for the good of the Community throughout its joys and sorrows, challenges and successes. Her work enabled us to continue on this history, and to thrive and expand our work, ministries, and connections to the world. I am deeply honored to be elected as the next prioress, and I ask your prayers for guidance, as I, with our Community, strive to discern where the mercy of God guides us in this next chapter of our history.”

Following a resolution passed at General Convention 80, January 22 will also mark the renewed observance of Religious Life Sunday sponsored by The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas (CAROA). They explain: “This observance focuses our efforts to tell all Episcopalians and Anglicans about our monastic and Christian Communities and what we offer the church,” and thus it is a fitting day to mark such a transition in the life of our Community. Learn more about Religious Life Sunday by visiting

After a decade serving as prioress, Sr. Madeleine Mary, CSM will enjoy a sabbatical period before returning to the Community. On Saturday, January 14, 2023, the Community will celebrate Sr. Madeleine Mary’s leadership with a reception in the Convent following Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM. “We have much to be grateful for. God has supported our community both through great trials and deep blessings in the last ten years. Our friends, Associates, and Oblates, likewise, have supported the Community and continue to partner with it in extending its ministry. I look forward to this new chapter in our history as Sr. Hannah becomes Prioress and leads us into new directions and new growth. May God bless her as she undertakes her ministry as Prioress and may she be a blessing to others through her leadership,” said Sr. Madeleine Mary.


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 – the first Episcopal monastic community in the United States. In 1873 the Community sent Sisters to Memphis to begin a school for girls and establish a Church home for the poor and needy, but their work was interrupted by the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. All but one of the Sisters died in their attempts and are remembered today as the “Martyrs of Memphis” for their heroic service. The one surviving Sister moved to Sewanee, TN and in 1888 started what is now the Southern Province of the Sisters of St. Mary. Today the Sisters’ ministries include providing spiritual direction, leading retreats and workshops, preaching and teaching at churches across the country, and working with Oblates, Associates, volunteers, and Organic Prayer Program interns. The Sisters provide Benedictine hospitality to all who visit and invite guests to stay in the Convent accommodations. Learn more at