Written by Kristin Lewis, Editorial@antonnews.com Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
“What’s been given as a gift, you give as a gift.” This is the philosophy by which Sister Maria Regina Loures runs the Our Lady of Grace spiritual center.
The center was given as a gift to the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the 1940s. In her six years as a spiritual administrator, Sister Maria Regina worked hard to make the center more than just a retreat house. She put her efforts into making it a spiritual center, which offers people of all religions more than just retreats.
“We offer the center as a gift for the residents who stay here, our main goal is to maintain the spiritual mentality,” she said. “People come here to rest, pray, and connect with God, whomever that might be for them at this time. We want to provide that ambiance. While you’re here, this is your house.”
One way the center does this is by not allowing personal phones or televisions in the rooms. This is to assure that the center is not simply used as a hotel. With centers like these and its close neighbor, St. Ignatius, closing all over Long Island, many people are concerned about the remaining spiritual centers.
Sister Maria Regina remembers a time when there were many spiritual centers all over Long Island, which is in stark contrast to today, with so few remaining. Unfortunately, the main problem is the lack of financial support for these important centers. This pressure forces the retreat houses to become almost like hotels by supplementing their income with spa treatments and yoga classes.
However, Sister Maria Regina’s main concern is retaining the spirituality of the Our Lady of Grace center and abiding by its mission statement of using the house for educational, spiritual, and cultural purposes. She accredits the main success of the center to maintaining a balance of spirituality and business.
During her time as administrator, Sister Maria Regina has welcomed programs like Medical Alerts, which provide educational seminars to seniors. These seminars focus on the importance of sleep, how to properly take prescription drugs, and even “what doctors know and don’t tell you.”
The center also works closely with the DeMatteis Center, which sponsors a Lean On Me retreat for women in recovery from breast cancer surgery. The women partake in activities such as yoga, art, and group-sharing sessions. These types of programs are the kinds Sister Maria Regina would like to see grow in the future.
After all her time working in the center, she still says that her favorite things to hear are when people say that being here “feels like coming home.”
Above all, Sister Maria Regina has spent years working to make the center a community, a sacred place, and a home for all who wish to stay.
Within this coming year, she is retiring her position as spiritual administrator and returning to Harlem where she first worked as spiritual director. She said, “Living there [in Harlem] is a challenge to my own spirituality and I’ve learned so much from them.”
She enjoys the community and the neighborhood that she was able to watch develop with a similar hunger for God, and is happy to be returning. “I love being a part of someone else’s spiritual journey,” she added with a smile.
Sister Maria Regina will be a greatly missed member of the Our Lady of Grace community.