The Byzantine Catholic Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was founded in Ukraine in 1892, expanded to help Ukrainian settlers in Canada in 1902, and arrived in the US in 1935. In 1941, they bought the large estate and mansion named Table Rock near Sloatsburg, New York, which had been completed in 1904 for William Pierson Hamilton and his wife, Julia Pierpont Morgan (daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan).
The Sisters operated St. Mary’s Villa Academy, a boarding school for girls, at the property from 1944 to 1978, and also used it as a summer retreat for the North American sisters during summers.
1954 was declared a Marian Year by the Catholic church, and to celebrate, the sisters conducted a pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Villa to honor the Mother of God on the feast of her Dormition. The number of participants in subsequent annual pilgrimages grew to several thousand by the 1960s.
Around 1965, the sisters had a Lourdes grotto and outdoor sanctuary built on the property, and the pilgrimages grew even more well-attended.
The sisters closed the school in 1978 and sold the mansion to a hotel company in 2021. But they retained the nearby retirement home they operate in the former huge stable building of the estate, St. Joseph’s Adult Care Home and the Motherhouse. The purchaser has agreed to maintain the grotto and to allow access to it by the sisters.
The pilgrimage is still held annually: the 69th Holy Dormition Pilgrimage will be held in August 2023 at the Lourdes grotto.