Shannon Frank-Epp is the communications and Companions coordinator at the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD).
My main duties include overseeing and maintaining the Sisters’ website and general online presence as well as coordinating, facilitating and journeying with the people who join the Companions program in both their residential and online forms.
The Companions program is offered in two forms: the original residential or “in-person” program where the Companions live and work and pray with the Sisters at the convent, and an online form which we have called “Companions Online.”
Companions Online is an 11-month program that has been developed specifically for people who are working, have families or who are in school. In this program, Companions have the opportunity to become “monastics in the world,” living a Benedictine rhythm of prayer, work, study and recreation within an intentional online community. Online Companions learn to develop practices that support and nurture their spiritual life from their homes.
The residential or “in-person” Companions program invites women aged 21 and up to live with the Sisters for 11 months to explore an expression of contemporary monasticism rooted in the Anglican tradition. The Companions develop a rhythm of life that includes public and private prayer, engage in service to others, and learn to live in intentional community. They also cultivate an appreciation for the values of prayerfulness and service, deepen their rootedness and spiritual intimacy with God and each other in community, discover a personal path to spiritual growth and transformation and discern individual gifts and vocations.
There are many parts of my job that I enjoy. I’d have to say that the best part for me is working with the Sisters and other staff and journeying with the Companions. I wouldn’t call this a challenge, but let’s just say it was an adventure moving the tail-end of last year’s residential Companions program over to Zoom!
I was born in Alberta and raised in the foothills, on the threshold of Kananaskis Country, amid farm animals and mountains, rivers and wheat fields. Having discerned a call to religious life in early adulthood, I joined Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, where I had the great privilege to journey with many of the poorest of the poor throughout the U.S.A. and Mexico. Upon my leaving the order, I moved to Toronto and earned my Master’s degree in Theological Studies. Soon afterward, I began working for the Sisters at St. John’s Convent.
Growing up surrounded by nature was foundational to my faith life. I resonate deeply when the Psalms say that “Creation declares the glory of God.” Creation does indeed declare and impart wisdom, and I have been richly blessed because of it. As Celtic spirituality so beautifully puts it, I have been schooled in the “Book of Creation.” In addition to nature, my faith has been deeply formed by the liturgy and contemplation, especially on the Mysteries of the Incarnation and the Eucharist. As to important people along the way… there are too many to mention. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity is certainly one, my childhood parish priest is another, as well as many friends and family.
Five years from now, I will hopefully still be working at SSJD!
I actually don’t have a favourite Scripture passage.
Both Companions programs offered by the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine are free of charge. More information about the program in both its forms can be found by visiting the Sisterhood’s website, www.ssjd.ca, and searching “Companions Program.”