The Shrine will not be the same without Sandy’s presence, Shrine Spiritual Director Father Brian Cummings said. “She is able to read my mind and anticipate exactly what I am thinking or the direction we need to take. We are always on the same page and she actually manages me so that I could fill other leadership roles at different Edmundite apostolates. I could only do this knowing that the Shrine had outstanding administrative leadership in Sandy. I will miss Sandy very much but she will be local and I know she wants to stay involved as a volunteer in years to come. Thank God for that!”
Sandy said the best part of her career has been the ability to raise her family while growing spiritually within the Edmundite community. “In my heart God is first, then my family, then my job. That was always honored. This job fed my soul. It nurtured and helped me grow.”
She has been the constant through a long series of administrators and directors, ultimately assuming the role of Site Administrator overseeing all the day-to-day operations at the Shrine. She has worked to support the spiritual work of the Shrine through years of Father Maurice Boucher’s time as Director and continuing through the extraordinary growth in programming under Father Brian.
“Sandy’s knowledge of all aspects of the Shrine are only overshadowed by her love for and commitment to its works,” Edmundite CFO Steve Karcher said. “We will miss her daily presence on the grounds but look forward to seeing her smile and hearing her laugh as a regular visitor and volunteer going forward.”
Sandy said she “has never not worked” and that it took her two full years to reach the decision to retire. She sees herself continuing to be with the ministry of the Shrine in some capacity but her husband of 47 years, Bill, has been patiently waiting for her to step into the next chapter of life with him. He retired four years ago. While Sandy spends her days devoted to the Shrine, Bill is ready to do some traveling. Italy, and around the United States, is on the agenda. Concentrated time with grandchildren in Washington State is priority. The Kinneys have two adult sons and seven grandchildren. Sandy also wants to spend time with her siblings who are now out west.
Growing up with seven brothers and three sisters who were all altar servers and in the choir at St. Joseph’s in Isle La Motte, and devout worshippers at Saint Anne’s Shrine in the summertime, left a lasting impression on Sandy. “I have always felt at home in a church,” she said. “It calms me and recharges me. It feeds my body, soul and spirit.”
Edmundite Fathers conduct religious programming and liturgies throughout the entire year for all ages at the Shrine but devotion has changed over the course of these five decades, Sandy said. Years ago, large pilgrimage groups from Canada would visit these historic shores of the Shrine to attend Mass in the outside Chapel.
Saint Anne’s Shrine is a bustling hub of activity all year round because of the Edmundites willingness to change course, she said. “Once Father Brian started here as Spiritual Director he brought new life,” Sandy said. “He is current and fresh and he brought a lot of young people from Saint Michael’s College and beyond to the Shrine and breathed new life into the space.”
The number of residents in and around Isle La Motte triples in the summertime. It has always been a seasonal haven for many travelers. Because of this, young families of all denominations come to Mass at the Shrine because they are away from their home parishes. “You see more young people at Mass with the Edmundites,” Sandy said. “They bring a relevant, more current, relatable energy with them wherever they go. I think that is the difference. The Edmundites are wonderful stewards of this center. They are on a mission to feed people spiritually.”
The Saint Michael’s College students who spend time at the Shrine on weekend overnight retreats say it best. They tell her the Shrine is a place that makes you want to put your phone away and live in the moment. “It’s been my whole life,” Sandy said. “Now it’s time for something new. It has just been wonderful.”
Sandy models service as Christ taught us. “She has an incredible institutional memory for remembering the needs and challenges of our pilgrims from year to year or from one piece of correspondence to another,” Father Brian said. “She loves the people and gives so much of herself in serving them.”
Managing Shrine events and keeping the Edmundites and staff on track with the myriad of happenings that occur is no small feat. “The Shrine can be a frenetic place with people coming and going amidst a multitude of spiritual programs taking place, particularly now that we have overnight retreat facilities,” Father Brian said.
Most notably, Sandy successfully managed the transition from a five month seasonal ministry to a twelve month all year round operation. She was able to continue the traditional pilgrimage programs and help Father Brian expand them in the summer months while at the same time launching retreat facilities. Constructing seven cabins, a new maintenance building and a conference center was a time consuming and complicated undertaking but Sandy was able to provide leadership in this expansion of the Edmundite mission. The Shrine even added a beautiful granite Columbarium for the interment of cremated remains. Sandy always had the capacity to get the job done regardless of the situation.
“The most important thing in working closely with another person in the common pursuit of a mission is trust,” Father Brian said. “There is nothing I would not trust Sandy with because I believe in her integrity, work ethic, discretion and in her commitment she has for promoting our Christian faith among people. We Edmundites and all associated with the Shrine are blessed to have had Sandy’s service for so many years.”
Memorable job task:
One daily task in particular stands above the rest—opening the mail. Petitions for prayer and donations from people all over the world arrive regularly. “People love the Shrine,” Sandy said. “People hold this place dear.”
Her favorite spot at the Shrine is The Way of the Cross. “You can see both the water and the Chapel from there,” Sandy said. “It’s quiet and surrounded by trees. There is peace there.”
Sandy said she will miss Father Brian but knows they will be friends forever.
Insight on The Shrine:
“It is a church with no walls,” Sandy said. “From the lights on Our Lady of Lourdes to candlelit processions, there is always something spectacular to behold here. I believe people come here to renew, restore and strengthen their faith. You cannot help but be fed spiritually when you come into this area with the lake and the grounds and the flowers. It is quiet. What is special is the Chapel and the pavilion look as they did 50 years ago. This place is sacred.”
"Unfortunate many in the state do not recognize the historic significance and great importance of Saint Anne’s Shrine, Sandy said. More needs to be done to help the Edmundites maintain, preserve and honor this hallowed ground. At the very least, more appreciation needs to be given to the Edmundites for everything they do to maintain this important and historic property."
Advice for seekers:
"Try to see beyond surface judgements and look at people for who they truly are. Spend time in a place like Saint Anne’s Shrine. Listen to the Edmundites. Be grateful. If you were given the gift of faith, nurture it. It grows. It is a gift. Set that example. Practice your religion. Be yourself."