Saint Mary By-The-Sea Retreat House

Saint Mary By-The-Sea Retreat House
Cape May Point, New Jersey
Come and be still. Receive the ocean of grace and tides of
transformation awaiting you at Saint Mary by-the-Sea!

Our Mission

Saint Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, is a retreat house sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia to provide opportunities for annual retreat for the members of the Congregation and others who desire a similar retreat experience.

Saint Mary by-the-Sea offers these opportunities to retreatants in the hope of contributing to the wholeness of their lives and to a healthy rhythm of prayer, work, and relaxation for the sake of mission.

In seeking to provide opportunities for annual retreat, the staff of Saint Mary by-the-Sea is committed to:

  • the mission of unity and the spirit of self-emptying love and cordial hospitality to which the Sisters of Saint Joseph are called;
  • a retreat atmosphere conducive to prayer through quiet, a climate of communal presence to God, and respect for individual privacy;
  • daily prayerful celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist;
  • a variety of styles of retreat offerings;
  • clean and comfortable accommodations and nourishing well-balanced meals, within the limits of affordability.
We live and work so that all people
may be united with God and with one another.
(Mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia)

General Information

RETREATS ARE OPEN to all people. On some retreats, there is very limited space for men. Saint Mary by-the-Sea provides opportunities for annual retreat for Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia; therefore priority is given to reservations from Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia.

GUEST ROOMS:   First, second, third, and fourth floors.

IMPORTANT: Silence is observed throughout the house on ALL directed and guided retreats, day and night, including meals. All guests are expected to honor this silence.

ELEVATOR: We are pleased to announce that we now have a small elevator. This will help get luggage up to the second and third floors, it will assist those who have trouble with stairs, and it will enable them to sit on our second floor porches and enjoy the incredible view. But this one small elevator will not make our facility handicap-accessible. To have a bedroom on the second floor, you must be sufficiently agile to manage one flight of stairs, in case of fire or other emergency or elevator failure. If you cannot manage at least one flight of stairs, please request a first-floor room.

Our beloved Victorian-era beach-front hotel is, in spite of significant recent improvements, physically inconvenient in many ways. Saint Mary is most likely not a good place for your retreat or vacation if you are not physically able. Please be aware that no health services are available on site, and the nearest hospital is fourteen miles away.

Retreat Descriptions

For you alone my soul waits in silence.
(Psalm 62:1)

Silence is that place just before the voice of God.
It is the void in which God and I meet 
in the center of my soul.
It is the cave through which the soul must travel,
cleaning out the dissonance of life as we go,
so that God who is waiting there for us to notice can fill us. 

(Illuminated Life, Joan Chittister OSB)

We deeply respect silence in order to provide an atmosphere of reverence for each retreatant’s encounter with God. Silence is observed throughout the house on all five, six, and eight day directed and guided retreats, day and night, including meals.

Saint Mary by-the-Sea offers both directed and guided retreats as well as spiritual enrichment programs:

  • A directed retreat is a one-on-one experience. A director meets with the retreatant each day to reflect on the interior movements of the retreatant’s prayer and to discern with the retreatant the presence of the Spirit. Silence is observed. The only communal gathering is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is requested that one have some knowledge and experience of a shorter silent directed retreat prior to participation in an extended retreat.  Requests for a particular director are honored as far as possible.
  • A guided retreat is based on a theme and may have one or several directors who provide daily input to the group.  Considerable time for personal prayer is included.  While silence is generally observed throughout the day, there may be some time for sharing.  Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated daily.  Some guided retreats include occasional times for private interviews with the director.
  • A spiritual enrichment program is based on a theme, has one or more directors, is usually two to four days, and allows for less structured silence and time for sharing.  Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated on Sunday with the possibility of other days as well.


Saint Mary by-the-Sea includes three buildings:

  • Saint Mary by-the-Sea – the large white building which houses the large Chapel,  Dining Room, Offices, and guest rooms, open from early June through early October
  • Queen-of-the-Sea – the tan building with guest rooms open nine months of the year
  • Saint Joseph House – the gray building with guest rooms opened year round


Porches with rockers line the entire inside and part of the outside of Saint Mary by-the-Sea on the first and second floors. Your room may not face the ocean, but much of the porch space does.

While You Are Here:

Atmosphere of Quiet: During retreat, please maintain quiet throughout the house. If you arrive or leave while a retreat is in progress, please respect the quiet of the house.

Parking: Parking space is limited during summer months, please seriously consider carpooling when driving to Saint Mary by-the-Sea.

Natural Beauty: Surrounding Saint Mary by-the-Sea are landmarks which have become an integral part of the experience of making a retreat or vacationing at “The Cape.” Lily Lake, a favored spot for reflective walks, is one such place. The history of Lily Lake extends back to the pirate days of Captain Kidd and to the American Revolution. Today, the lake is a bird sanctuary, a place of solitude and beauty, refreshing mind and heart.

At the very tip of the Point lies Sunset Beach, most famous as the final resting place of the concrete ship the “Atlantus.” Built as part of a ferry experiment, the ship was sunk in the Delaware Bay in 1926. Sunset Beach has become something of a tourist attraction with vacationers coming to see the ship and witness the magnificent sunsets which have given this place its name.    Stop by for the evening flag ceremony held daily in season (May through September). All the flags flown at the mast are veterans’ casket flags that have been donated by the families. There is nothing as thought provoking than to watch the sun set over the Delaware Bay while taps plays and Old Glory is lowered for the evening.

To the south of Saint Mary by-the-Sea is the  Cape May Point State Park  with its animal preserves, beach area, and the State Park museum. The history of Cape May Point is preserved here, especially its glory days as an elegant resort town. The Point hosted such impressive vacationers as President Benjamin Harrison, whose summer home was only one block up the beach from Saint Mary’s, and John Wanamaker, whose summer cottage is now the Marianist Family Retreat Center .

Perhaps most beloved of all these landmarks is the Cape May Lighthouse, which stands one block behind Saint Mary’s. Like Saint Mary’s, the Lighthouse is a symbol of fidelity and endurance. For centuries, sailors and fishermen have been guided and protected by its beam which has never been extinguished.

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