Global Support Team for English-speaking Practitioners of Centering Prayer Outside the United States

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In August 2018, Pat Johnson asked me to serve as the team leadfor English speaking practitioners of Centering Prayer outside the United States. With that request came another request- to form a team! In September 2018 four others agreed to serve as part of this global team: Elizabeth Norton-Amor from South Africa,  Jill Benet from United Kingdom, Niamh Brennan from Ireland and  Rose-Anna Trestrail from Trinidad. In September 2019, our team was joined by Ragneidur Jónsdóttir from Iceland. You can read more about them below at the end of this article.

International Outreach is part of a wider international community that was served graciously by Sr. Fionnuala Quinn, O.P. as international co-ordinator since 2014. Fionnuala’s role has now been divided between four team leads dedicated to serve people who practice Centering Prayer outside the United States in different languages, English, French, Polish and Korean. I am the international contact for English speaking countries, Helen Ulm for Korea, Yvan Cloutier and Christophe Dupin for French speaking countries, and Fr. Wojciech for Poland.

As we accepted  this request to serve, we had a sense of being in a space about to change greatly with Fr.Thomas Keating moving towards his death and with the appointment of Denis Sheehan as Administrator to succeed Pat Johnson.

On October 25, 2018, the news of the death of our beloved teacher Fr. Thomas Keating reached the worldwide community. As we embraced the silence that he taught us and reflected on his legacy, we all sensed that we had reached a threshold and felt a strong call to service.

The team meets by Zoom Conference call every two months. Our meetings  were attended by Denis Sheehan and Pat Johnson and more recently by Marie Howard and sometimes Pamela Begeman. They include many time zones Trinidad, South Africa, England (sometimes Spain), Iceland and Ireland, as well as two zones in the United States. We will now add Alberta, Canada to our list with the arrival of Mary Jane Yates as our new Administrator who will also attend our Zoom calls.

The experience of meeting across the globe in the Zoom online room has been one of workability and connection. Having members of the Board present has facilitated the sharing of information between our communities.

Some of our initiatives:

  • Making connections with new practitioners of Centering Prayer. This was perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of our service - the ability to support and make connections for people who were searching for information regarding Centering Prayer. It must be acknowledged here that Pat Johnson’s corporate expertise in this regard was invaluable as she shepherded us to the “right“ person to contact in each  country for each person seeking support. We were thus able to provide answers for practitioners from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Jamaica, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  • New contacts have been identified for Czechia, Slovakia, and Ireland. Their names have been added to the website.
  • Translation of the Centering Prayer  brochure. Teresia Viera Hasanova, our contact for Czechia, has  translated   the Centering Prayer booklet for the Contemplative Outreach community in Czechia.
  • Defining the purpose and possibility of this global team. Where to go from here? How can we best connect and support our diverse community which crosses continents and cultures in an inclusive manner?. We continue to ponder those questions as we evolve.
  • International Contacts on website: Some emails addresses for contacts listed on the Contemplative Outreach website bounce back and are not delivered. We inform the Contemplative Outreach office regarding updating those email addresses on the website as we became aware of changes. We are grateful to Pamela and Donna who are making sure that the contacts on the website are current and active.
  • Partnership with the Contemplative Outreach Lectio Divina Service Team:  Using the video conferencing capabilities of Zoom, the Lectio Divina  team is currently offering Lectio Divina training for Commissioned Presenters.  we hope  that those trained will be able to offer Lectio Divina via Zoom to our global community.

 

Considerations for our global community members:

  • Connect with any team member if you have something that you wish to share or questions about resources (see below).
  • From time to time the team will search for new team members to serve. Consider expressing your interest in this type of service by having a discussion with one of the team members about what is expected from those who serve.
  • Would you like to participate in Lectio Divina training via Zoom? Please contact us and we will include you in this training when it proceeds.

 

With love and respect,

Lesley O’Connor

On behalf of the global team for English speaking practitioners of Centering Prayer outside the United States

 

Elizabeth:

When Lesley asked me to join the COL International office, I was excited at the prospect of being part of something on an international scale - my attendance at the 2017 Conference had given me a sense that Contemplative Outreach was beginning to look outward and that the growing global community was really important to the Board.

I think I expected that the Team would be a point of liaison for English-speaking Centering Prayer practitioners outside the United States, and I feel that we have achieved that, but we have been so much more. 

It has been wonderful to form a small community and to be able to foster relationships with one another that have borne fruit outside of our meetings. 

I have really valued the opportunity to get to know Denis, Pat, Marie and Pamela and to feed back to my local community their news of developments at head office. 

It has been interesting to explore where we see our Team going in the future and to see how our role has developed organically as we have become aware of the needs of the community we assist. 

I am looking forward to serving the team in a new way as I take over from Lesley as team lead in May 2020.

Email: nortonamor@worldonline.co.za

 

Jill:

Looking back, I am grateful to have been invited to be part of this "Global team".

Hearing and seeing the Global team on Zoom share their experience of Centering Prayer communities gave an "is-ness" to Contemplative Outreach’s worldwide network.

It has been enlivening and inspiring to learn the ways that each region is developing to support Centering Prayer and prayer-ers where they live. It has undoubtedly widened horizons for me.

It has been a forum which has kept us in touch, first hand, with the developments of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. at a time of change.

It is a gathering where we can air questions that have continued offline.

Our meetings pass so quickly and are almost intangible and yet a transmission, difficult to put my finger on, happens. It has a pulse of its own.

The first year set something in place, opening new possibilities for growth and communication. As we move through our second year, I experience a growing sense of depth and responsibility.

I would like to acknowledge with thanks the openness and encouragement that Denis Sheehan brought during his short term at Contemplative Outreach as host for the meetings,  and to everyone for their enthusiasm and good company.

Thanks go to Lesley for her stewardship in her role in as Global Team Lead. She kept the contact fresh and uncluttered throughout.

Email: jillbenet@hotmail.com

 

Niamh:

Sometimes when one is asked to be of service in any area of our lives we can find that we receive more than we give. This has been my experience in my involvement with this global team. It is a joy and a great learning to be able to have a teleconference every couple of months with kindred souls on different continents, especially when one lives on the small island of Ireland.  We realise over and over in our lives how connected we are, in our communication, in our prayer and now in our service to the global community of Contemplative Outreach.

 

I am grateful for the past year and though I feel sometimes that my contribution in the group is very small I feel it is a privilege to be part of a team of people who are committed to deepening our relationship with God through Centering Prayer and who so trust in the presence of the Divine in everything we do. This now challenges us to share with others the many gifts we have received through our experiences with Contemplative Outreach, in particular with English speaking practitioners of Centering Prayer throughout the world.

 

I hope that we may reach out in the year ahead to help others to feel the deep connection we all have in our global family.

Email: niamhiebrennan@gmail.com

 

Ragnheiður:

At the Denver conference in September 2019, I was asked by Pat Johnson to be a part of Contemplative Outreach´s Global Team for English speaking practitioners of Centering Prayer.

Coming from Iceland where we have had people coming over to us from Contemplative Outreach in USA, (Thomas Keating, Pat Johnson, Carl Arico, William Meninger and Therese Saulnier)  to support our work in teaching and establishing centering prayer groups, I could not but say "yes". 

It also meant a "yes" to being a representative and a participant of a bigger community  to which I belong. A "yes" to joining a group that might have something in common to share or be more clear about differences such as culture and to embrace that. 

I am Icelandic speaking - hoping my English skills will suffice - always with a dictionary at hand and an eager ear in listening.

Since I became a part of the group I have had the pleasure of getting posts from Lesley with material about what this all is about. So far I have been able to attend one meeting via Zoom, which is a new way of connecting to a bigger group on the internet - the Global team. What I have found out by reading and listening is that "it is all about relationship" as Pat Johnson once said. For me it is going slowly and I am still learning. I am open to share and open to what it is leading us to. My experience I hope will contribute to the outspread of Centering Prayer and make our world-wide community stronger.

Email: ragnheidur.jonsdottir@kirkjan.is

 

Rose Anna:

In August 2018 I was contacted by Lesley and asked if I would volunteer to be part of the Global Team Community for English speaking countries outside of the US.  I felt totally unqualified to help but said yes as I know how vital Centering Prayer has been in my life and I feel strongly that it is a method of prayer that many people would benefit from but is not well known.  So I accepted and thought I would do as much as I could to support spreading the word of this pearl of great value.

Meeting with the team was something I look forward to.  We connect with 5 minutes of silence and a sharing of our personal experience based on a connection question presented by one of our members.  It is always good to listen to other Centering Prayer practitioners, to know that you are not alone and usually have similar experiences. 

Keeping connected with Contemplative Outreach is something I value as I find the resources and leadership of people who have been practising for a long time to be enlightening.  They are like guides for the spiritual journey which is so difficult to describe or predict.   The reassurance and support of the Centering Prayer practice which Contemplative Outreach provides has encouraged me to persevere at times when I might have felt to let my practice slide.

Serving on the global team over the past year has been a rewarding experience.

Email: rosetrestrail@gmail.com

 

Lesley:

“God doesn’t need your leadership, He needs your Love and Humble Service”

 

These are the words of Thomas Keating which challenged me as I took on the role of Global team lead with this team. Fr Thomas’s words have served me well over the past nineteen months as I have been touched by the loving and humble service of this team and others in the Global Contemplative Outreach community. These are the words that have taught me to hold lightly to my role. I am ever aware of the gifts of others who are willing to respond to the Spirit as new leadership emerges and Contemplative Outreach continues to respond to those who are searching for silence. In May 2020 I hand over my team lead role with gratitude to the capable hands of Elizabeth Norton-Amor from South Africa. I will continue to take delight in and support the work of this global team as it evolves and responds to our community.

Email: lesleywaterford@gmail.com