In 1888, the Sisters of St. Mary, an Episcopal Order remembered as saints for their heroic ministry during the Memphis yellow fever epidemic, started a simple convent in Sewanee, Tennessee.

The Sisters soon opened a school for mountain children, for whom the county school was too distant and the road too difficult. As transportation improved, it became a boarding school for girls until 1968, then later a retreat center sponsored by the Order using the former school buildings.

When the Sisters moved to a convent nearby in 1988, the property was purchased by Robert Ayres, and he began an expanded ministry as a center for spiritual development, continuing the Sisters’ ministry.

For the last 30 years, St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development has welcomed individuals and groups from across the United States and around the world to a place to receive spiritual renewal and rest.

To find out more about the Sisters and what they are doing today, visit their website at