Whew, friends. It’s been a busy few months! Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to.
proudly holding my fancy diploma
Well – first and foremost! I finished my last semester at Harvard Divinity School, and graduated on May 30, among close friends, mentors, and family. Our multireligious commencement service was the embodiment of HDS’ beauty – students shared from their spiritual traditions and Cornel West preached fire from the pulpit. My last semester was the best yet, soaking up the community, taking great classes (“Spiritual Formation in Community”; “Contemplative Prayer in Christianity”; and “Religious Literacy, Journalism, and Media”), and even getting *a little* involved on campus. Some highlights include presenting one of my papers at the Krister Stendahl Symposium, hosting two Nuns & Nones events on campus, and growing closer with incredible mentors and life-long friends. To spend two years of my life focused on intellectual curiosity and spiritual growth is a gift I can never give enough thanks for – and to do so alongside students and faculty that I’m proud to know is the blessing of a lifetime. Because of this place, I’ve actually been able to live into my dreams, I’ve fallen in love with another community, and stretched myself beyond imaginable.
“Power Up” a piece by Sr. Corita Kent, dedicated to Fr. Dan Berrigan, who used to stay at Kirkridge while he hid from the FBI
Between finals and graduation, in my three weeks off during May, I went on four different retreats. The first was at Kirkridge Retreat & Study Center in Bangor, PA, where about 30 of us convened to discern and dream about the future of retreat centers – how we can both be lights to the world…and keep the lights on. Then, that weekend I went up to Scarborough, Maine, with the Boston Community Leaders Cohort – a group of colleagues and friends – for rest and play. The following weekend, I went to Mercy-by-the-Sea for a retreat led by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. There with my Nuns & Nones friends, we sang as we planted seeds, we talked with our kin (trees, plants, animals) outside, we watched the flower moon rise as the group recited poetry from heart, and we listened to what the earth is asking of us – to leap, to jump, to dive into a new way of being and living together. From Madison, CT, we ended this retreat-marathon with the Nuns & Nones crew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine, outside of Acadia National Park, where we mostly worked but also just got to soak up time with one another. May was a beautiful and challenging month – full of transformative conversations, quick transitions, and just a bit of stillness amidst the great movement.
My welcome card and welcome flowers to the monastery
And then! After a flurry of family time, graduation, and packing up my life — on June 2nd, I moved to Erie, PA, where I am living with the Erie Benedictine Sisters and am the 2019 Joan Chittister Intern for the summer (and watching a heck of a lot of beautiful sunsets over Lake Erie!). In this role, in addition to continuing my work I’m already doing like Nuns & Nones, I’ll be exploring creative, modern ways to bring monastic wisdom to spiritual seekers of all generations. One project I’ll especially focus on is the Foundress project, where I’ll be sharing stories of women religious foundresses as modern feminist archetypes we can learn from in our own times. Additionally, I’ll be co-teaching an e-course with Sr. Linda Romey, osb on “Seeking God in Community.” In it, we’ll explore questions like: What do our wisdom traditions teach us about community? In our increasingly digital age, can we find meaningful community online? And what is community for – what larger purpose does it serve in our lives and in our society?
(If you want to sign up – click the link of the text of the e-course!)
Finally … I think I have the heart-space to finally make this update-post because this past week, I had a real retreat – one I wasn’t facilitating, and I wasn’t working at – for the first time since starting divinity school. As a member of the community at the Mount for the summer, I got to join the Erie Benedictines for their annual Community Retreat.
one of the spiritual traits we explored was beauty – so I picked up watercoloring
It’s a time when Sisters, oblates, and friends come together for silence, prayer, rest, teachings, and spiritual formation. This year was a special treat because it was led by Erie community member Sr. Joan Chittister. Each of my days generally followed this structure: breakfast in silence; sitting meditation at 8:15; community prayer at 9am; lecture from Joan at 10am; lunch in silence; reading and a nap in the afternoon; lecture from Joan at 4:30pm; community prayer at 5:30pm; and dinner – no longer in silence. After dinner, we went back into silence, although most nights we found excuses to keep chatting, like taking walks down to the lake to watch the sunset. It was a restful rhythm, and full of stimulating and challenging talks by Joan. In each session, she told a story of a sister from Erie’s past, and she explored what quality that Sister represented, discussing its spiritual, psychological, and sociological aspects and implications. We were then given work books to reflect on how that quality shows up in our own life. So – 5 days / 10 Sisters / 10 qualities later – my spiritual formation in the monastic tradition is just a tad deeper. Between Joan’s teachings, and reading her 1990 book Woman Strength at the same time, I feel like I’ve just received a crash course in monastic spiritual tradition and Erie history. All you holy women, come and be with us… All you holy women, thank you for letting me be with you this summer.
On Rachel and I’s drive to Erie from Boston – we went to a rest stop off the Mass Pike and picked up a Sunday edition of the NYTimes to see our friend Sarah’s face right there on the cover of the Style section.
In the meantime, Nuns & Nones is keeping us busy as ever. We were featured in the NYTimes, the third installment of the Global Sisters Report pieces came out, and Duke Divinity did a Faith & Leadership story on us. And we also launched the loveliest social media campaign: #SurpriseWereSoulmates. We’re writing blogs on there for the first time – which can be followed here. More and more and more is happening every day, it feels like, so truly – I’m just trying to keep up with it all right now.
Ah – deep breath – here I am. Amidst life’s excitement, I am grounding myself in this magical, monastic community for a couple months. Seeing what happens – following the spirit. I’m hoping to soak it all in – joining for community prayer and meals, hanging out for game nights and bonfires, volunteering at their events and saying ‘yes’ to any invite I get from a Sister. I’m not planning on blogging personally too much – would rather let it all live within me first. But I do hope to be able to share with friends through letters and certainly over coffee-dates in the months to come.
Sunset over Lake Erie – a (nearly) nightly ritual for me here
Thanks y’all for being interested. What a life, what a dream.