Economy forces Sea of Peace retreat center to end its ministry

EDISTO ISLAND—Sea of Peace House of Prayer, a solitary oasis that offered a place for respite and reflection for 17 years, has closed.

Dominican Sister Sharon Culhane, who managed Sea of Peace since 2008, said the tough economy forced the retreat house to close at the end of July.

“It has been a difficult reality to end the ministry of Sea of Peace,” Sister Sharon said. “Over the years, many on their spiritual journey have had blessed experiences of a prayerful peace and quiet at Sea of Peace. It will be a missed experience.”

She said the retreat house, which is located on Palmetto Pointe Lane on Edisto Island, has been sold to new  owners. Sister Sharon is currently staying with fellow Adrian Dominican sisters who live in Beaufort.

Sea of Peace was started in 1994 by Dominican Sisters Betty Condon and Barbara Hubbard as an ecumenical house of prayer for individuals and small groups seeking spiritual nourishment. The first retreat house was on Jungle Road.

Sister Betty, who led the ministry for 11 years before retiring, called Sea of Peace a place for reflection, prayer and direction. She said over the years she and other Dominican sisters also offered days of reflection at other locations in the Carolinas. A local board of directors was established to assist the House of Prayer. The sisters at Sea of Peace also were involved in Edisto’s small Catholic community at Sts. Frederick & Stephen Mission, and worked with several local ministerial and ecumenical organizations.

“Sea of Peace was a time of grace for many people over the 17 years of its existence, and a blessing for those who ministered there,” Sister Betty said in an interview via email. “The surrounding area of water and marsh grass speaks to the wonders of God’s blessing for a time of renewal and rest. Looking back, I can say those years were a tremendous blessing for me, and I am grateful for all of them.”

Sea of Peace offered Catholics and members of other denominations a place to rest, meditate, read Scripture and rejuvenate their spirits surrounded by island beauty and wildlife. Deer, egrets, raccoons and countless birds were regular visitors to the grounds, which bordered a salt marsh. One of the most popular features was their prayer labyrinth, which allowed a chance for visitors to pray and meditate while walking  a circular path.

Sea of Peace offered a reduced schedule of retreats this past summer, and welcomed a few remaining guests in its last weeks. The prayer labyrinth remained open until the ministry’s end.