New Venture at Monasteries of the Heart

Sister Mary Ellen Plumb is used to giving retreats. She's directed dozens for students and for adults. But the Monasteries of the Heart retreat she led for twenty-four deacons in Dallas, Texas was a first for her and a new adventure, a new possibility for members of Monasteries of the Heart.

"I was behind my desk in Erie and they were gathered in a meeting room in a retreat center 1,300 miles away," she explained. "SKYPE brought us into the same space but our even deeper connection was a mutual interest in Monasteries of the Heart, a new movement for a new world.”

The deacons, who minister throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas meet annually for a day of reflection and renewal. Their archdeacon, Jim Webb, has been an active member of Monasteries of the Heart for over a year and recently took part in the yearlong online course The Heart of the Rule on this website. This experience inspired him to ask Sister Mary Ellen, a member of the MOH support staff, to use the retreat day to introduce the MOH movement to the deacons in Dallas.

Sister Mary Ellen opened the retreat on Friday evening with an invitation, a presentation challenging the deacons to explore together through prayer and reflection some of the concepts captured in The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, by Joan Chittister, the initial formation text for MOH members. The group went on to share a number of reflection sessions on Saturday led by Jim with excerpts from the book and reflection questions posed by Mary Ellen to provide the retreatants with a taste of the MOH experience. The retreat day closed with a second session during which Mary Ellen facilitated a dynamic and engaging conversation, including questions and feedback.

Mary Ellen thanked the group during the opening session for their trust, for “treading new ground with all of us at Monasteries of the Heart with the very first Skype MOH reflection day”. The deacons, for their part, responded at the end of the retreat day, “What a wonderful retreat we had this weekend…Our group became so much closer as a community as a result of living into this experience. We felt you were in the room with us, so Skype proved more a bridge and not a barrier. You opened a new world to us, and we thank you for it.”

Such is the power of this new movement, Monasteries of the Heart, of the longing for a deeply meaningful life and of the gentle invitation all pilgrims share on their way to God.