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From the New Administrator for Contemplative Outreach
To all who serve Contemplative Outreach and to all practitioners of Centering Prayer, bless you!
After receiving news of being selected as Administrator for Contemplative Outreach, I am struck silent. How fitting. Considering the community I am addressing and serving, I am humbled beyond the ability to describe my emotional state. I know many of you have given decades of time and service supporting the growth and expansion of the Centering Prayer movement, so I struggle with feelings of measuring up to a standard I can’t possibly achieve. That said, here is a little information about me.
My name is Denis Sheehan and I live in Phoenix Arizona with my wife of 27 years, Manuela. We have three children and two grandchildren, all of which have contributed significantly to my formation. I hold an undergraduate and graduate degree in business administration and have received my certificate in Spiritual Direction from Christian Formation and Direction Ministries. I have served in a variety of positions during my working career and semi-retired three years ago to practice spiritual direction.
How I ended up as Administrator is an interesting tale that I would like to share with you.
About nine years ago, a friend of mine handed me a copy of Fr Thomas’ book: Open Mind, Open Heart. As I read, something mystical began happening within me. The best way to describe what was occurring is that Centering Prayer seemed to be the answer to a prayer that I didn’t know I was praying. Centering Prayer provided a method of going beyond the surface activities of my existence, and tapping into something much deeper. This deeper existence seemed to nullify all other activities, or at least put them in their proper place. I couldn’t get enough silence, and when I would share my experience with others, they seemed to look at me with a bit of skepticism. After attending my first 10-day intensive retreat, my brother thought I had fallen off the deep end. Who in their right mind would spend ten days in silence? Not only me, but better yet, there was a whole community of like-minded individuals that had been invited to this rich practice as well.
My Centering Prayer and desire for silence continued to develop with additional retreats and finding a local Centering Prayer community. As the draw to interior silence continued to grow, my external activities were affected as well. By letting thoughts go downstream time after time during Centering Prayer, I naturally became less engaged with external activities that had previously defined me. This shift was the beginning of an end.
In August of 2012, I was promoted to Safety Supervisor for the City of Phoenix. This was the most prestigious position that I had during my full-time working career. I had everything I thought I wanted -- a good wage, great benefits, and a prestigious position among my peers. I had the responsibility of overseeing employee safety for an organization of more than 14,000 people. I was at the top of my game and I expected to remain there for the duration of my working career. Then God began to stir the waters of my soul.
In early 2014, I began getting more and more dissatisfied with my current position. This was the job I had hoped for most of my working career and yet it no longer provided the satisfactions it once did. The job didn’t change, but I was changing. God was letting me know that I wasn’t going to live forever, and I was becoming more and more aware that the time I had left was important. I had been offered the option to retire early and it seemed as though the decision had already been made for me. I left the best job I had ever had in order to pursue a life contributing to something I deemed meaningful. The problem was, I didn’t know what that meaningful life was going to be.
A few months into retirement, I received a call from a friend of mine who is an Episcopal priest asking me to consider becoming a spiritual director. There just happened to be a two-year training program starting in a few months. Since this invitation seemed to come out of nowhere and at just the right time, I assumed this was the direction God was calling me, and it was. After completion of the program I began offering spiritual direction to individuals on retreat, as well as providing group spiritual direction to veterans affected with PTSD. This new chapter of my life has been richly rewarding and I once again settled into the idea that this is what God had intended for my duration.
Last November, I was working with my wife on her work budget and realized that I missed budgeting and administration work. I had spent many years performing these duties and realized that I have a natural ability for this sort of work. As I felt the emptiness of my incomplete life, I began to pray that God would fully utilize me with all my gifts, abilities and talents.
In February, I received notice of the Administrator’s vacancy from Contemplative Outreach. The alignment of Contemplative Outreach’s Vision, Theological Principals and Guidelines for Contemplative Outreach Service and my personal values are a wonderful match. When I first applied for the position, I was focused on what I could bring to Contemplative Outreach based on my education, experience, skills and talents. What I found after spending time with our Governing Board is just how much growth potential would be available to me just by association with these wonderful people. I can tell you first hand that we are fortunate indeed to have the leadership team of Contemplative Outreach serving the needs of our ever-growing population. To work for an organization that is Spirit-led, contemplative by nature, and in the business of transforming people’s lives in a deep and meaningful way seemed too good to be true; but we all know that God is in the business of making the “too good to be true,” true.
In conclusion, I am reminded of God’s promise found in Jerimiah 29:11-14:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.
In His and your service,
And a note from Denis' friends:
We are thrilled that Denis S., who is our friend in 12-step recovery and part of the 12-step Centering Prayer and Contemplative Outreach community in Phoenix, accepted the Administrator position. He is someone we admire very much and believe is a perfect fit for this position. Denis is a down-to-earth person who is relatable, honest, self-reflective, inclusive and inspiring. Most importantly, he does not take himself too seriously.
Over the time he has been practicing Centering Prayer, Denis has tried to live his life in a way that reflects his deepening relationship with God. This shows up in his service to others, his values and character. He is an excellent communicator and takes time to listen to understand before responding. We have a slogan in 12-step recovery, “Walks the Talk” – which definitely describes Denis.
A funny thing Denis told us was “he never thought he’d use his time in 12-step recovery on a job application!” In this rare case, it was very relevant. As Denis begins his new journey, our prayers are with him and our hope for the community is that you will come to know and love Denis as we do in Phoenix! We know he will work with the board and our contemplative community to continue the transformation and evolution of an amazing organization!
Therese W. and Dave D.