When the Benedictine Sisters of Erie decided to create “Monasteries of the Heart,” a spiritual community without geographical boundaries, Ohio Wesleyan University was invited to be the only collegiate member of the pilot project.
Last fall, Kelly Adamson, OWU associate chaplain and director of Catholic Campus Ministry, and six OWU students began gathering monthly in Adamson’s home with the Sister Mary Ellen Plumb of the Order of Benedictine Sisters for lunch, reading, and faith-sharing as the program took shape.
“Monasteries of the Heart is an incredibly rich experience,” says Adamson, a 2000 OWU graduate. “It speaks to the depths of the soul and creates a welcoming space for all participants to speak from them depths of their own souls.
“We have never called our gatherings ‘meetings’ because it is more than that,” continues Adamson, who will serve as a liaison for other colleges and universities seeking to join Monasteries of the Heart (MOH). “It is a gathering of soul-friends, each on a unique spiritual journey, coming together to share a bit of the road. MOH isn’t about doing something or accomplishment. It is about being in the world a bit differently. It is about being centered, rooted, comfortable with yourself, just as you are, comfortable welcoming others just as they are. It is about living ordinary life extra-ordinarily well, and transforming your corner of the world with a simple, rooted, welcoming, loving, and peaceful presence.”
During the monthly meetings, the OWU group read a book being written to support MOH. Adamson says the group received the then-unfinished manuscript one chapter at a time.
The book, “The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life,” is by Sister Joan Chittister, executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality. Chittister, an internationally known author and speaker, will present at Ohio Wesleyan in November as part of a conference being organized by the OWU Chaplain’s Office. The event, “Radical Gospel Living: Monasticism Today,” is expected to draw as many as 500 participants to campus, Adamson says. It will be held Nov. 4-5 and also feature Shane Claiborne, bestselling author of “The Irresistible Revolution” and coauthor of “Jesus for President” and “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers.”
Regarding Monasteries of the Heart, Adamson says, OWU’s students really impressed the Pennsylvania-based Benedictine Sisters of Erie.
“It was the experience of our students that convinced the community that college students are ready for this and will be an important part of this movement,” Adamson says, adding that their participation grew out of OWU’s ongoing relationship with the sisters, including spring break mission trips to help with a soup kitchen and other outreach.
One of the students who participated in the MOH pilot project is Colleen Waickman, a junior from Akron, Ohio, majoring in sociology/anthropology and women’s and gender studies.
“Monasteries of the Heart is a safe place to figure out the real tough questions that you can’t always find answers to in the catechism,” Waickman says.
Other OWU students who participated in the pilot project are:
- Megan Cook, a junior from Northfield, Ohio, majoring in pre-medicine and neuroscience.
- Meghan Finneran, a junior from Wooster, Ohio, majoring in international business.
- Alyson Michael, a sophomore from Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Jen Schmitt, a junior from Spring, Texas, majoring in economics management and geology.
- Kathryn Sweeney, a senior from Charleston, West Virginia, majoring in Spanish and sports science.