There are a number of ways that Dominican Sister of Hope Mary Anthony Schmittauer, OP might pass an afternoon. She might help a neighbor in her building in Asbury Park, New Jersey. She might bike around Asbury Park, pedaling near the ocean through the salt breeze. Or she might be at Mary’s Place by the Sea folding linens, talking with visitors, and praying aloud with women who are suffering from cancer.
Mary’s Place is a non-profit respite home for women who are receiving treatment for all forms of cancer. The home, which services twenty-five guests each week on average, seeks to support women with cancer through empowerment and education for the mind, body and soul.
Most simply, it’s a house. The fully renovated home in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, offers guests private rooms with views of the ocean, healthy meals made to order, and a variety of services. Women who stay overnight or stop by for the day can receive services that complement their medical treatment including oncology massage, individual counseling sessions, nutritional counseling, guided meditation, reflexology, journaling, and yoga. Lodging and services are offered free of charge.
Sister Mary Anthony learned about the home when she moved to Asbury Park.
“I was still working in Toms River,” Sister explains. “I said to myself, ‘When I get the time, I’d like to offer my services.”
“When people come to Mary’s Place, they know that there are people out there who love them.”
Sister is now on her second year of doing just that. She goes to Mary’s Place throughout the month to help with whatever is needed. Sometimes, she strips beds or helps prepare lunch.
More often than not, though, Sister finds herself talking with the women on campus, offering them a shoulder to cry on or a hug.
“Sometimes, you sit with them and hear their stories,” Sister Mary Anthony says. “To hear what they have gone through; it’s very scary. There are a lot of people out there suffering that have no place to go.”
Soon, even more women suffering from cancer will have a place to go. Last November, Mary’s Place broke ground on a new house that will accommodate seventy-five women per week, rather than the current twenty-five. The bigger space will allow for cooking demonstrations, a larger living room, and more lodging accommodations, among other amenities.
At Mary’s Place, Sister Mary Anthony can see that the women visiting receive “a lot.” In addition to the myriad of complimentary services offered, guests also gain companionship and compassion. When asked if she plans to continue to volunteer at the home, Sister quickly answers “Yes.”
“As long as I can volunteer, I will,” Sister Mary Anthony says. “When people come to Mary’s Place, they know that there are people out there who love them.”