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June 16, 2023, Kingstree, South Carolina – For 36 years, Sister Trina McCormick, OP, has had a profound, often transformational, effect on countless women religious and other spiritual seekers through the sabbatical programs she organized at Springbank Retreat Center for Eco-Spirituality and the Arts.
Last month, family members, friends, staff, and board members of Springbank showed their appreciation for Sister Trina, her dedication, and her gifts. They gathered for an afternoon of tributes, gratitude, and music to celebrate Sister Trina and her ministry.
Now bearing the title Founding Director granted by the board, Sister Trina asked in September 2022 to be relieved of her responsibilities as Executive Director – while staying at Springbank to serve in any way she can. Sister Anita Braganza, IBVM, the current Executive Director, was introduced to Springbank while on sabbatical.
“It’s been a very good 36 years,” Sister Trina said in an interview. “I felt so honored and so appreciated, and it made me grateful for the privilege of being here and serving here. It tapped into all of my talents.”
For Sister Trina, a highlight of the celebration was having “family members come and celebrate with me with music, song, and music.” Members of her very musical family came from throughout the United States: sister Veronica, brother-in-law Peter, their son James and his partner Hannah, Sister Trina’s niece Wilmie and partner Elisa, brother Michael, and brother Francis and sister-in-law Kathleen. In addition, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, her Chapter Prioress, added to the music of the celebration.
Sister Trina appreciated the assistance of the board members, who worked in the background to keep the celebration running smoothly. In addition, she expressed her gratitude for the support she’s received over the years from the Adrian Dominican Congregation through grants from its Ministry Trust. Most recently, a Ministry Trust grant covered equipment for the “reimagining” of Springbank. Through a boost in technology, her brother John was able to join the celebration through Zoom.
The May 6, 2023, celebration was organized by members of the Springbank Board, including Rosemary Martin, an Adrian Dominican Associate.
In addition to lots of music, the celebration also included tributes to Sister Trina. “A number of people talked about Trina and her impact,” Rosemary recalled. She also heard about Sister Trina’s impact through feedback offered through the years by participants in the Sabbatical Program. “Some referred to it as a transformative time,” Rosemary said, explaining that many of the Sabbatical participants are religious Sisters who have completed terms of leadership and are discerning what they might do in the future. “That time has been powerful for them,” Rosemary said. “I’m sure for many Sisters, it’s opening new vistas."
Attending the celebration are, from left, Associate Rosemary Martin, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, and Trina McCormick, OP.
Ministry at Springbank
Reflecting on her years at Springbank, Sister Trina noted that she has always kept the center’s Dominican roots. The center was given to Dominican Friars and established in 1961 and, in the 1970s, was involved in outreach to the local community, especially to the African American community. It closed in 1978 but reopened with the arrival of Adrian Dominican Sister Betty Condon, OP, and a group of Dominican Friars and Sisters.
Sister Trina and the late Sister Ursula Ording, OP (1934-2013), were living out their own dream of running a retreat center in Cohasset, Massachusetts, when their Chapter Prioress, Sister Ellen Robertson, OP, told them of the need for help at Springbank. “I didn’t want to leave Massachusetts, but we decided to look,” Sister Trina recalled. They began their new ministry at Springbank in 1986.
“I grew to love Springbank,” Sister Trina said. “I saw just how I could beautify the place and the land and the grounds and buildings, and I got excited about that.”
Sister Trina’s first role was to establish Springbank as a center for spirituality and the arts. “It was very important to me that it be a place of awareness of what’s happening to the planet and for people also to realize the vastness of the universe and the planet, and what brought us to today … It took 13.7 billion years for it to come into being.”
Sister Trina also served as Springbank’s Aesthetics Director, “designing the grounds and buildings, creating the schedule, creating the brochures,” and blazing trails in the woods. In addition, she taught painting and – after Sister Ursula’s death – took on teaching pottery and leading yoga and breathing practices. “My creative work was Springbank – Springbank was my canvas and my palette.”
“Springbank offers 80 acres of quiet beauty and warm hospitality,” Sister Trina said. “It’s a new way of presence, a way of being with others. It’s a presence with all of creation, a deeply respectful way of being, acknowledging God within oneself and God within everything else.”
But while transforming the grounds of Springbank was important to Sister Trina, she was especially gratified by the transformation that took place in the Sisters who attended the sabbatical program over the years. “After the one-, two-, or three-month program, you see visible changes in women’s health and well-being,” she said. “People who are so worn out and tired from leadership [change] with movement, dance, and doing beautiful pottery.” A quote from one of the participants speaks to this transformation: “I came a broken sparrow and I’m leaving a soaring eagle.”
Sister Trina also feels privileged to offer the sabbatical program to women religious from throughout the world – to participants from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as from countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Japan, China, Korea, Venezuela, and Peru. Many learn about Springbank’s sabbatical program through the Internet, but also through word of mouth.
The sabbatical program includes a variety of speakers – in person or via Zoom – on topics such as the new cosmology, the relationship between art and spirituality, and dreams. In addition, participants have the opportunity to practice various forms of art, such as pottery, painting, and weaving and to participate in short retreats or times of reflection. Many of these programs are offered simultaneously to people from outside the sabbatical program.
Over the years, Sister Trina hired many of the Sisters who participated in the sabbatical program, since their time at Springbank allowed her to get to know them. Among them is Sister Anita, the current Executive Director. Sister Anita, who came from India, was on the leadership team for six years for her community, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), or the Loreto Sisters. An accomplished pianist – with a degree in piano from Trinity College in London, Sister Anita also holds a master’s degree in counseling.
Challenges and Learnings
While Sister Trina sees her years at Springbank as a blessed time, she also spoke of some of the challenges she faced. “Probably the greatest challenge is the financial one, because you can’t charge [guests] what it takes to run this place – people wouldn’t be able to afford it,” she said. “You need to get grants and [send out] a bi-annual funding letter.”
She has also been challenged by hurricanes and ice storms. The 2016 hurricane was particularly devastating, breaking through a dam and flooding through the wetlands. Through a grant from the Ministry Trust and from the Wheaton Franciscans, Springbank will begin the process of reclaiming the wetlands sanctuary and adding a gazebo.
Her years at Springbank have taught Sister Trina never to lose heart or hope. She said she has also learned much from the speakers who were featured over the years. “I’ve learned that nothing beautiful ever hurries,” she said. “You can’t hurry it. You just nurture it along.”
“Things seem to come when we need it,” Sister Trina added. “I’ve always felt protected and guided by the Spirit, even when we’re going through these difficult times, and I’ve come to a place where I consult the Spirit at every moment.”
For information about the Sabbatical Program or programs offered to the public, call 843-382-9777 or 843-372-6311; email email@example.com; or visit https://springbankretreat.org.
May 4, 2023, Barangay Mining, Angeles City, Philippines – “Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord," the responsorial psalm on the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, captures well the song of our hearts last April 25, a special day of honoring Sister Evangelina G. Fernandez, OP, one of the pioneers of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Philippines.
It was fitting to thank God for the gift of 91 years of Sister Evangeline’s blessed life, as well as her Diamond Jubilee as a Dominican religious. It was a grace-filled celebration, attended by Sister Vangie's brother, close relatives and friends, and the Sisters.
The thanksgiving liturgy held before the Mass became a venue to affirm our love and gratitude for her generous sharing of faith and life with our community. The Eucharistic celebration itself was officiated by our ever-supportive Archbishop Emeritus, Apu Ceto, with Rev. Father Ramon B. Torres, a friend of the community.
Fellowship and meal sharing near the convent's meditation garden concluded this special celebration of God's generosity and fidelity!
Originally a separate Congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies was founded in the 1960s with assistance from Adrian Dominican Sisters in the formation of its founding members. The two congregations merged in 2011, with the former Congregation established as a Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.