Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! Tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the many gifts of St. Benedict Center since 1997. At our celebration and blessing of our new labyrinth on Sunday, July 16, I shared the following words:

IMG_4788Some things change the trajectory of your life forever—getting married, having a baby, getting a new job, for some becoming a monk or a sister. For me, I add to the list coming to St. Benedict Center for the first time in June 2002. It was the beginning of a relationship that has changed my life in many ways.

First, the retreats that I’ve attended at the Center have nurtured my love of learning. The first retreat I went to was a Contemplative Prayer retreat, a 4-day silent retreat. I wasn’t sure if I would come back for a silent retreat again (it was hard!) but I knew I would be coming back to this sacred getaway soon. It started out that I came two or three times a year….and it gradually increased over time to be once or twice a month. There was one summer that I came every week and it was suggested that I build a little cabin out back. I’ve particularly enjoyed attending retreats given by the monks of Christ the King and by authors like Macrina Weiderkehr, Anselm Gruen, Helen Prejean, and Michael Casey. I have even come back for more silent retreats too, and I eagerly look forward to them now.

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Second, I am grateful for the relationships I have made at St. Benedict Center. I have met some of my best friends here—the monks and oblates, people I have met on retreat and those that have come to retreats that I lead. It has become a spiritual home for me, and now it can be difficult to find silent time because I run into so many friends and interesting people that I want to connect with.  If I have a friend that I didn’t meet here, you can be sure I have invited them to come with me. Which brings me to the next gift that the Center has given me.

I have a passion for sharing what I love.  If you know me, you know that when I feel passionate about something I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. If I read a good book, I want to tell everyone about it and start a book discussion. If I take a photograph that moves me, I feel compelled to share it with others. Fr. Thomas has given me the opportunity to put purpose and passion together by helping with the St. Benedict Center Facebook page and other social media marketing. It’s something I love to do and it’s helped me think more like a monk too; with everything I post I say, “What would a monk do?”

DSC_0625aBeing an oblate is another gift. From my first visit, I knew I wanted to be an Oblate, but it was 11 years before I made my final oblation in 2013. Fr. Volker was patient and encouraging all of those years. Dee Zywiec, not so much. One Easter, Dee said something like this to me—“You need to be an oblate. You really already are; you come here all the time. Just come next month. Good, that settles it.” I have never regretted it. The sense of community, the lectio divina discussions, the prayer practice and celebrating Eucharist together are something I look forward to every month.

Finally, through SBC, I have deepened my spirituality and renewed my faith in Catholicism. Through the years, especially in times of difficulty, I have met with Fr. Thomas and Fr. Mauritius for spiritual direction. I cannot say enough about the benefit of spiritual direction—to be challenged and consoled but mostly, accompanied, on the spiritual journey is a sacred and personal gift. I have learned so much from all of the monks about work and prayer, hospitality, stability, obedience and more.

DSC_0630aSt. Benedict, in his Rule, said, “Always we begin again.” St. Benedict Center has given me and so many others a chance to renew themselves when they visit, this chance to begin again. I’m overjoyed to be celebrating 20 years here, but it is just the start! It has always been my dream to have a labyrinth here (as Fr. Thomas will tell you). We know it’s not the place we pray or how we pray that really matters,  but all of us here know that when we come to Saint Benedict Center we are more able to enter into a connectedness with ourselves and God. Praying while walking the labyrinth is something new for the next 20 years. And “always we begin again.”

Written by: Jodi Gehr

Note: If you would like to share the gifts that St. Benedict Center has brought to your life or organization please send to jodigehr@gmail.com.  I will gather comments to share on Being Benedictine and on the SBC Facebook page. THANKS!! 

Related blog posts: 

Benedictine Spirituality, Hospitality…and My Favorite Monks

Bridges Photo Exhibit: 150 years, 93 counties, and my favorite place!

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