Like so many churches and other businesses throughout the pandemic, the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine has been creative in staying connected with family, friends, Associates, Oblates and neighbours near and far.
Due to the pandemic, the St. John’s Convent guest house was frequently closed from March 2020 to March 2022 for in-house personal and group retreats. But this didn’t stop the Sisters’ ministry. In fact, there was an increased demand for spiritual direction and silent personal retreats. The Food for the Soul program, in collaboration with retreat leaders, created online workshops and retreats, to great success.
In March 2021, John Bell of the Iona Community led “The Spirituality of the Psalms” online retreat, where he focused on the poetic imagery of the psalms though reading and reflection. Also in March, Thomas Power from Wycliffe College in Toronto led a deep exploration on the Book of Kells entitled “The Spirituality of the Book of Kells.” In May, Cathy AJ Hardy delved into Psalm 23 through the artistic lens of music, poetry and mandala meditations in her retreat “Come to the Table.” Kathleen Norris, the New York Times bestselling author, suggested in her “Walking in Heaven: A COVID Year” retreat in early October that the pandemic gave us a unique opportunity to reassess our lives. Her second retreat, “A New Look at Formation,” focused on how spirituality is anchored in one’s local community. The Sisters offered silent virtually directed in-home retreats throughout 2021 and early 2022.
In addition to hosting online retreats, the community explored the possibility of rebuilding or renovating the guest house. After consulting with architects and reviewing feedback from guests and groups, the Sisters have decided to renovate. They are currently preparing to fundraise with the hopes of beginning renovations in August 2023. More information about the renovation project and fundraising will be posted on the website in the near future.
The guest house began to welcome back individual retreatants and various church and denominational groups this past March and has increased the guest capacity from 10 to 30 guests. Many post-COVID retreatants are thirsting for the interior space, solitude and silence that are hallmarks of making a healing and rejuvenating retreat. The Sisters rejoice in being able to offer hospitality to those searching for something more in their relationship with God.
Directed retreat listings and registration details can be found on the website at www.ssjd.ca/retreats-programs-retreat-calendar/retreat-calendar. For personal retreats, contact [email protected].
Submitted by the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.