A new era is beginning at Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer in Jamaica as the Heralds of Good News — a religious order of priests with members serving in the Diocese of Burlington — takes the reigns and assumes ownership of the 80-acre property.

That property — a former horse farm in southern Vermont— includes overnight accommodations, a large gathering space, two chapels, outdoor Stations of the Cross, an outdoor rosary walk and a replica of the Blessed Mother’s last home in what is now Ephesus, Turkey.

“They are the happiest group” of priests, said Mary Tarinelli, who with her late husband, Don, founded Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer. “They’re young. They’re energetic. They’re a beautiful example for all.”

Thanks to the efforts of the Tarinellis, the house of prayer was dedicated in 1994 with a non-profit corporation to oversee it formed five years later. Over the years there have been numerous special events there including annual celebrations of the Feast of the Assumption, living nativities on the Sunday before Christmas, outdoor rosaries, retreats and speakers.

Eight bedrooms can accommodate 16 guests; some of the guest rooms were converted from horse stalls in the former barn.

The Bishop Marshall Chapel, named for the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, can seat about 30 while the St. John Chapel seats up to about 300.

There is room for about 30 to attend Mass in the replica of Mary’s home, located down the hill from the main facilities. The replica, funded by donations, was dedicated in 2006.

Since 1994 the property has been used as a house of prayer; it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who wants to visit and pray.

Mary Tarinelli’s devotion to Our Lady of Ephesus grew from that of her mother, Elizabeth Fraser, who had a vision of Our Lady of Ephesus and had a portrait done from that vision.

Fraser died in 1990, and the following year — the 100thanniversary of the rediscovery of Mary’s House in Ephesus — Tarinelli and some of her mother’s friends made a pilgrimage to Turkey to see the house. That was the first of 37 such pilgrimages Tarinelli has led to date.

Ever since the founding of Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer, she and her husband planned to donate it to a community that would run it. When the idea of turning the house of prayer over to the Heralds of Good News arose, she “felt they would be a perfect match here.”

Herald of Good News Father Agnal Samy, administrator of St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls, Our Lady of the Valley Church in Townshend and Chapel of the Snows at Stratton Mountain, celebrated his first Mass in the United States at the house of prayer when he was new to the Diocese in 2018 and assigned as parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Brattleboro; the Mass was for a parish group.

Father Samy suggested the idea of the Heralds of Good News assuming ownership of the property to the superior general of the missionary society of nearly 500 priests and 300 seminarians serving in 13 countries and founded in India; the general council approved with the support of officials of the Diocese of Burlington.

There are currently about 150 priests of the order in the United States; three in Vermont.

Two Heralds of Good News are expected to arrive in the United States and take up residence at Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer by summer to form a religious community there; one will serve as director. They will be available to hear confessions and for ministry there as well as in area parishes.

“For us to have daily Mass here will be wonderful,” Tarinelli said.

Several of the Catholic churches in the West River Valley have closed: in Dummerston, Wardsboro, Saxtons River and Putney. Some of their pews, statues and sacramentals were donated to the house of prayer.

According to Father Samy, the charism of the Heralds of Good News “is to go wherever there is a need.” Members also are involved in helping the poor and needy in rural areas and run several schools and orphanages.

The community’s presence in the West River Valley will provide a place to train priests to “be sent out,” to be a “be a vibrant message of Christian hope here,” to provide catechetical programs and, he hopes, to generate local vocations. It also will be a gathering place for members of the community serving in New England.

And “what Mary has been doing here will go on in the same way,” Father Samy said.

He said the Heralds of Good News are trusting the Holy Spirit “completely” as they embark on this new endeavor.

The superior general from India visited Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer last year and symbolically received the “key” to the property.

—Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.