Eatontown, NJ – It was late spring of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly among the global community and for the United States, it was becoming clear that the pandemic was going to be impacting our lives for many months to come. Already, our educational communities were scrambling to adjust to the realities of online education and the cancellation of in-person events, such as graduations, events that had long served as rites of passage and touchstones for our Lasallian educational communities.
While administrators, educators and social workers were dealing with the various practical concerns of accompanying young people and their families another need was emerging, a need to attend to the spiritual dimension of coping with the pandemic. In conversations with members of the Lasallian family, people were expressing a growing sense of “disconnect from the community” and “feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
In response to the need for spiritual accompaniment, the Office for Mission and Ministry invited Lasallians to gather for Centering Prayer each Monday evening in June 2020. The Centering Prayer group was accompanied by me and Lori Dressel AFSC from La Salle Manor, of the Midwest District. For the month of June, Brothers and Partners from across RELAN and Francophone, Canada gathered for Centering Prayer. The one-hour format of silent prayer, reflection and sharing was resonating deeply with the participants, some of whom attended every Monday and for others, as their schedule permitted. However, when the group gathered for the last Monday in June 2020, it came as no surprise that the participants expressed the desire to continue.
An Unintentional Intentional Community
It was not planned that the Centering Prayer group would continue to meet but we had formed a community of presence, prayer, accompaniment, and trust. Toward the end of our original schedule time together, more than one participant expressed “we are a community we have to keep meeting!” In many respects, these two years have passed quickly, and we are now celebrating the beginning of our third year! We are looking forward to creating new expressions of what it means to be a Lasallian community. May the peace of Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit continue to accompany our Lasallian community on our journey.
Reflections from Centering Prayer Participants
“This group’s decision to stay together in prayer reminded me of the early teachers expressing to the Founder, “let us call each other Brothers.” It represents an organic movement of the Holy Spirit to be with one another and to recognize the community that grew from the seeds that were planted nourished by prayer.” Maryann Donohue-Lynch (DENA)
“Coming together on Monday eves over the past few years (with all of its celebrations and challenges) has been such a blessing. Just by bringing our most authentic selves, taking 20 minutes to anchor in the Silence of Love, and reflecting and praying together is simply nourishing to my soul. I am so grateful for the vulnerability, kindness and love that is shared by all who attend.” Lori Dressel AFSC (La Salle Manor, Midwest District)
“Centering Prayer helps me to prayer with the ‘eye of my heart,’ … no words necessary. It is my prime method. It is also good for me to ‘be’ in centering prayer with a group … to remind me that we never pray alone, especially when we think we are. We always pray with all members of the Body of Christ. The Love Energy in me is also in each member, the Universal Christ. We each consent to God’s Presence in us, and we consent to God’s Action in us. Our group is gift! It’s also very Lasallian … being in God’s Presence and doing God’s Will! Sometimes I have ‘senioritis’ and need to be reminded, but someone always gets me on board. Thanks to all members for loving energy extended.” Brother John McMahon, FSC (De La Salle Hall, NJ)
“After two years I am still challenged by Centering Prayer, but I keep coming back Monday after Monday because my faith and my spirit are nourished by our group. The sharing and the listening feels holy because being in the presence of our group makes the presence of God feel so real and so powerful.” Cecilia Gottsegen AFSC (Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School)
I joined the Centering Prayer group a year after it had started and wished I had found my way to it a year earlier. It provides a weekly moment of quiet and solidarity with fellow Lasallians in what have been very troublesome times; providing me with hope for the week between sessions. Kate-Ward Gauss (Legacy Lasallian, La Salle University)
The Monday Night Centering Prayer has been a learning experience for me from its start. Most of my “practice” in Prayer was heavily Western in its form. Recited Prayer(s) were a usual form and repetition was oral and spoken aloud. I shared often in the calming repetition of choral responses, especially the Psalms, with appropriate accompanying music. Music was especially inductive to its affect. It was outward.
In my experience, Centering Prayer is focused on an Inward Placing myself in the Holy Presence of the God who is already WITHIN me. Time spent in renewing this relationship has been invaluable and mostly healing for my real or imagined anxieties or worries.
Following two and a half years of Covid-19 and it’s diverse strains, I am learning anew to let them go and truly believe in the Presence of One greater than myself to resolve them. Time alone with awareness of such a gifted Presence has had a nurturing effect in my response to my worries.
The most important “quote” for me is:
Be Still and know that I am GOD.
Be Still and know that I AM.
Be Still and KNOW.
Having a support of others in my own “virtual” presence has made it that much richer.
Marianne Sheehan (Legacy Lasallian- Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School)
If you are interested in joining this prayer community or learning about how to begin your own Centering Prayer community based on Lasallian spirituality please contact Maryann Donohue-Lynch .