For those with a spiritual calling, it does not matter when in life it comes, only that it is heeded. As Cannon Beach resident Ann Fontaine discovered, answering that call brought her faith and her home full-circle.
Fontaine has lived in Cannon Beach full-time for two years since she and her husband, Jim, retired. Though the couple lived in Lander, Wyo. for nearly 35 years, they owned a house in Cannon Beach for nearly as long. Ann, a professional interim minister ordained in 1996, realized long ago that the heart of her spirituality lay at the Oregon Coast.
Early in life, Fontaine’s ties to the North Coast grew. “I grew up in Portland and spent all my summers with my grandparents in Seaside,” she said. “My uncles – Norwegians and Scots – all fished the Columbia River and put down deep roots in this area.” As an adult, she raised three children in Wyoming where her husband was a doctor. Whenever possible, the Fontaines made the trek west to their home in Cannon Beach. “We owned a home here for years and always knew we’d retire here one day,” she said. “It was always like coming home.”
Coming home is an apt description of Fontaine’s spiritual profession. At the age of 50, she went to seminary school at Harvard University, beginning a journey that would confirm and amplify her strong faith. “Up until 1974, women couldn’t be ordained ministers in the Episcopal church,” she said. “I had always been heavily involved in my congregation, whether it was teaching Sunday school or helping run the food bank. My husband encouraged me to take that next step and go back to school.”
Becoming ordained is a lengthy process that kept Fontaine busy. “There were all kinds of meetings and background checks with priests, bishops, and various committees,” she said. “On top of that was the school work and graduate exams.” In the end, Fontaine achieved her MA in Divinity and began her ministry career. “It was the culmination of my faith,” she said.
As an interim minister, Fontaine generally fills in for congregations that are between ministers. She filled that role in Wyoming, serving in congregations of all sizes. “I worked on the Indian reservation and in small worship stations where only five people showed up on Sunday,” she said.
The longest time she spent in an interim position was in Jackson Hole, Wyo. where she spent three years. The congregation numbered around 600 members and grew steadily in the 1990s as the area became a desirable destination. “I became very used to the idea that I wasn’t always going to see the same people at the service on Sunday,” Fontaine said.
Her North Coast interim positions have included a stint at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Manzanita in 2011, and her current position at Grace Episcopal in Astoria, one she assumed last Feb. 1. “I had taken retirement when I began at St. Catherine and told myself that was it,’” Fontaine said. “Since I love my work, I just kept going. I guess I’m not very good at retirement.”
Now, Fontaine is content to nourish her evolving definition of retirement, whether that involves tending to a spiritual flock or simply taking a walk on the beach. “This place has always been the home of my heart,” she said. “There’s an incredible spirituality to the beach and the ocean – something you just don’t find anywhere else.”
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.