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Sister Connie Messitt passionate about the Divine

Sister Connie Messitt doesn't wear a habit. In her thick Adirondack sweater and jeans, she looks more like a mountain woman than a nun. But when you speak with Sister Connie, what you will find in her sparkly blue eyes is her profound love for the Divine and her passion to share it with everyone she meets. Sister Connie Messitt along with Sister Fran Gilchrist and Mrs. Pat Mousaw run the Priory, a retreat house in Chestertown up in the mountains. This year will be Sister Connie's 21st year. "It's still new," she said during our interview this week. "I can look at the same tree for 20 years and see something different." For Sister Connie, the land is a living being, as is the whole cosmos, and everything in it is interconnected, even us. "Even the parts that we can't see, we have a connection with." Such is the mystery of the Divine. The Priory is a place for people to come and connect with the Divine. And when you drive up the mountain to get to this sacred place as I did this week, you feel the concerns of the day fall away. Though Sister Connie is Roman Catholic, she welcomes people of all faiths. As she said, "There are many different ways of experiencing the Divine." Sister Connie says she sometimes finds God in silence, by reciting a mantra or by praying. Other times, she finds God in nature, by communing with the sky, the trees, and also with herself and others, "Because we're apart of nature, too." She also finds God through scripture, which I learned is not only the written word of God, such as the bible. Scripture is also the story of all people's walk to God. "So, as I walk my life," she said. "I'm also somehow writing my scripture." Not the words I expected to hear from a nun! Sister Connie's path to God has been paved with mystery, miracles, and even doubts. "The path is not always clear," she said. "Even when you're on it." She says people often get frustrated when they question things. "But to question is a sign of life." Though she no longer questions her calling as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, there was a time when she did. In the 80's, after 17 years in the convent, serving her community of Cohoes as a teacher and principal, she felt there was something else she wanted to explore. "It was my mid-life crisis," she laughed. But even so, by listening to her heart, she was still following her path. On her hiatus, she became affiliated with Mercy Center in Madison, Connecticut, where she learned how to lead retreats, which prepared her for her present life at the Priory. There is a framed quote by St. Benedict sitting in one of the simple little chapels in the Priory. On it, it says, "Listen with the ear of your heart." I bet many of us have a yearning in our hearts to connect with the Divine. How fortunate we are to have Sister Connie and the Priory in our very own backyard! For more information about Sister Connie Messitt or the Priory, visit www.prioryretreathouse.org.

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