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Peace Prayer of St. Francis

We are less than one week away from Christmas, and the wish from Prairiewoods this holiday season is that we all may find it in our hearts to be instruments of Peace. When we encounter intolerance and division, may we be sources of love and understanding, shining for all to see. In this season of stillness, may we find comfort in the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

—St. Francis

Posted Dec. 20, 2017

Got Hope?

Following Prairiewoods’ Spirituality in the 21st Century conference with Ilia Delio, OSF, and Sara Thomsen in May 2017, a number of people felt challenged to continue finding hope in things going on in our community. Seven Hosting Hope Circles are forming this fall around topics like Health Care & Education and Peace & Restorative Justice.

One Hosting Hope Circle of particular interest to me is the Storytelling, Art & Music group. Together, those of us who make up this Hosting Hope Circle would like to offer you a bit of peace or respite from your busy day. We invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on the beauty of our planet in Tom Chapin’s song This Pretty Planet through links we have provided below. We all need to remember to take care of our planet, and perhaps this brief uplift can inspire us in our part of keeping our world viable and beautiful!

The following videos feature three different version of This Pretty Planet. Each is only a few minutes long. The first has stunning photos accompanying the song; the second offers Chapin’s thoughts on the song’s meaning and impact; and the third features a children’s choir, full of giggles and wiggles, and sure to bring a smile to your face.

For a lovely bit of inspiration and peace, click on the links below. Enjoy, and keep hope alive!

Song with Beautiful Photos

Tom Chapin’s Insights

Children’s Choir

(And If you would like to join us in finding hope for a better future through storytelling, art and music, please email Andi Lewis. We welcome your creativity and hope!)

—Joni Reed Cooley, Prairiewoods Artist-in-Residence

Posted Dec. 5, 2017


Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers

Our Knitters & Stitchers group is getting a reputation it seems! It’s a good one though.

Here is one story we experienced recently. A woman named Debbie does the collections for Salem United Methodist. She is already on our list for this year’s distributions and will be picking up a box of donations on the 14th. She said she takes them to schools.

Because we add tags with “Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers,” a second woman at Salem called the Prairiewoods office requesting children’s mittens, hats, and scarves for Kenwood School. She remembered the tags last year. Sheryl is part of the Kenwood Neighborhood Association. Well over half of the pupils there qualify for free lunches and she is acting on their behalf.

Getting requests is great for us. We pack up our yearly items in November and distribute them to many local places. This includes Olivet Neighborhood Missions, Homeless Veterans, Mission of Hope, Young Parents’ Network, and HACAP.

We have given to many other groups over the years and it seems to vary each year. We have also given monetary donations to food banks, weekend backpack programs (now through HACAP), SPRINT (a Wellington Heights program), as well as Prairiewoods. This money is from the profits of the Holiday Bazaar.

We appreciate the use of a beautiful, peaceful location. The notices in your newsletter have been appreciated because they bring in many new knitters plus an overwhelming amount of donated yarn. All of our items are made from these supplies.

Thank you, Prairiewoods, for taking us under your wing. We have made many new friends, shared tips, taught techniques to beginners, and created a supportive group of companions.

—Diane Olsen, Prairiewoods Knitters and Stitchers

Posted Nov. 21, 2017

Did You Know-vember …

When we are out in the community, we often encounter people who have no idea that Prairiewoods exists. We also meet those who think we are a convent, a nursing home or a private club. To ensure that the greater community knows about all the resources Prairiewoods has to offer, we have embarked on a campaign called Did You Know-vember. Each day in the month of November, we are posting a new Prairiewoods-centered fact to our Facebook page.

Like us on Facebook to see each post and to join in the conversation. And in case you aren’t on Facebook, here’s a complete list of our Did You Know-vember facts. Is any of this information new to you? Let us know in the comments below!

Did you know …

that Prairiewoods was founded in 1996 to further connect spirituality with care for Earth? It was created in the spirit of theologians and writers such as Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, and it has developed at the forefront of eco-spirituality over the last 21 years!

that Prairiewoods was founded in the Franciscan tradition? St. Francis of Assisi is known for his love for and kinship with the natural environment and for his beautiful canticles in praise of Creation. People of many faiths are drawn to St. Francis through our shared love of the environment!

that Prairiewoods offers about 400 programs and retreats each year to help you explore ecology, spirituality and holistic health? For a current list, check out our events on Facebook, visit or read our newsletter!

that the Prairiewoods Guest House and Hermitages offer a place to unplug and experience quiet, reflection and prayer at the low price of $55 per night? Book now to get away for a few relaxing, rejuvenating nights!

that the items in the Prairiewoods Gift Shop are carefully curated to provide you with current and classic spirituality books, fair trade and eco-friendly items for your home, and cards and gifts that feature local images? Check it out any time the Center is open!

that Prairiewoods has more than 2.5 miles of wood-chipped walking trails that are open to the public and pets? You are welcome to walk the trails any time you need to get outside, connect with nature or commune with God through this great Creation!

that the labyrinth is a prayer and meditation tool found in medieval churches as well as at Prairiewoods? We have a beautiful outdoor stone labyrinth that all are welcome to walk, as well as an indoor labyrinth available for rent.

that Prairiewoods has several meeting spaces for rent that accommodate 2 to 70 people? Your business, church or other organization can host workshops in the natural beauty of Prairiewoods with a variety of extra comforts, like healthy meals made on-site and overnight lodging.

that the Prairiewoods Art Room is stocked with a variety of art supplies? You are welcome to grab some pastels, markers or paints and get creative, either in the beautiful natural light of the Art Room or on one of the many benches that dot our 70 acres of woods and prairie!

that Prairiewoods has 100 solar panels that provide about 45% of the electricity we need in the Center? The sun’s power also heats the water used in the Guest House, powers everything in the Hermitages and even heats a Hoop House in our Green Prairie Garden!

that three of Prairiewoods’ six foundresses are still on staff 21 years after they started this retreat and conference center? They offer a wonderful continuity of vision to our mission-focused offerings, such as retreats, programs, spiritual direction and holistic services.

that the Prairiewoods Media Center is a full lending library, currently offering 3,783 different books on topics ranging from ecology to women’s spirituality, theology to Pope Francis? Check it out the next time you need a good read or a great resource!

that Prairiewoods hosts an annual Holiday Bazaar on the Saturday before Thanksgiving? This features handmade gifts from a number of local artists and is a great way to kick off the holiday season. Join us this Saturday, Nov. 18, for this year’s Holiday Bazaar!

that the Prairiewoods staff is comprised of both lay people and sisters? (At this time, twelve lay people of various spiritual backgrounds and six Catholic sisters make up our staff.) We welcome people of all faiths, at any point on the spiritual path!

that Prairiewoods partners with Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) to tend our huge Green Prairie Garden? Together, we harvest about 2,000 pounds of produce each year! This food is used in meals for our guests and given to families in need through the MCO food pantry.

that almost 200 volunteers donate 5,000 hours of their time to Prairiewoods each year? They help with office work, special projects and mailings, kitchen cleanup, housekeeping and laundry, hospitality, outdoor land maintenance and gardening. Call us to get involved!

that Prairiewoods offers more than 800 holistic services each year, including massage, reflexology, healing touch and guided meditation? If you can’t choose just one service, join us for our popular Day of Self Renewal—a full day of pampering offered each month!

that Prairiewoods’ six trained spiritual directors offer more than 1,500 spiritual direction sessions each year? Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian tradition that provides you with a companion on your spiritual journey, someone to listen and ask questions. Call to see how it can help you!

that Prairiewoods has a traditional sweat lodge on site and works with local Native Americans to offer frequent Sweat Lodge Ceremonies? This ceremony predates recorded history and is focused on prayer, purification, recognition and healing.

that Prairiewoods has on-staff chefs who prepare meals for our guests, mostly from local, organic ingredients? In fact, you can feast on a fabulous holiday harvest meal at the Y.O.L.O. (Your Other Lunch Option!) Lunch on Wednesday, Dec. 6!

that Prairiewoods’ 70 acres are home to a huge variety of wildlife, including birds, snakes, insects, rabbits, squirrels, owls, turkeys, red foxes, groundhogs and our beloved deer? Take your family on a walk through our trails and see how many species you can spot!

that Prairiewoods offers about 25 organized group retreats each year? These range from week-long silent directed retreats to weekend forays into writing, social activism, yoga and meditation. Find a retreat that calls to you at!

that a number of groups host their annual creative workshops at Prairiewoods? Our meeting spaces and Guest House witness the creativity of everyone from quilters to yoga practitioners, embroiderers to writers. Come see how these grounds encourage your creative side!

that Prairiewoods has a beautiful Meditation Room? The floor-to-ceiling windows facing the woods encourage contemplation, prayer and meditation in a quiet, serene setting. You are welcome to write your intentions in our book for continued prayer by our staff and volunteers.

that Prairiewoods was founded on a deep love for Earth? Because of that, we take ecology very seriously! Our extensive green features include solar panels, green-cleaning practices, a solar-heated hoop house and a holistic land management approach.

that the Eastern Iowa Heirloom Quilters Guild created the stunning quilts that grace the Prairiewoods Guest House? Thanks to their generosity with their time and talents, all 33 beds in the Guest House are warmed by their loving creations!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Nov. 7, 2017

Harvesting Relationships

Fall is the time of harvest, of reaping what has been sown. It is a time to delight in abundance and to be grateful for all that the Universe provides. Here at Prairiewoods, we are astonished by all that we are honored to harvest—from the hearty squash to the sweet plums to the caring relationships that are ever-evolving with Earth, Spirit, self and others.

Please allow us to share some of what is being harvested here at Prairiewoods!

We harvest the creative ideas, plans and designs of the flower gardeners. Using God’s palette of colors, shapes and sizes, they lend their own unique talents to tend the flowering beauty that feeds our souls. Their commitment, energy, hard work and joy is a harvest of inspiration!





Weekly, we harvest a special crop with our Wednesday Outdoor Crew. Not only do they sweat while doing routine mowing and upkeep, they also suggest and carry out improvements that will make Prairiewoods flourish. Over years of service, they have moved from volunteers to special guardians of the land!


Over the last three years, we have been harvesting a mutually beneficial relationship with Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) via our veggie garden, known as the Green Prairie Garden. We provide the land to grow food for our guests and for the MCO food pantry, and MCO provides many of the volunteers that tend the garden. This relationship has harvested around 2,000 pounds of produce just this year!


A fairly new relationship that is plentiful in its harvest is our collaboration with Backyard Abundance, a nonprofit organization in Iowa City with a focus on edible landscapes and permaculture—a gardening style that incorporates the natural cycles of nature, making gardening a more joyful, connected experience. This harvest includes the creation of the Healing Garden, our ever-developing Garden of Eat’n and permaculture beds in the Green Prairie Garden. Jen Kardos and Fred Meyer, Backyard Abundance co-directors, love visiting Prairiewoods … and we love learning from them!


Although a number of our staff members have been at Prairiewoods for its entire 21-year history, we are growing and changing. On Aug. 21 (the day of the solar eclipse), Angie Pierce Jennings joined the Prairiewoods staff in the new position of Hosted Groups & Hospitality Coordinator. Angie has always felt welcome at Prairiewoods and is very excited to offer that hospitality to all our visitors! She has a great love for music and the arts, is a people person, loves nature, and is an advocate for education and environmental sustainability. We celebrate in harvesting new relationships with a growing and changing staff!


We are grateful for the many relationships that make Prairiewoods what it is today! In what ways are you harvesting relationships—with Earth, with our loving Creator, with yourself or with other people? Perhaps you are:

  • standing up for Earth by taking action for renewable energy (with an organization like
  • improving your relationship with God and God’s people by championing interfaith relations (through an organization like the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County,
  • getting centered and grounded in who you are as a person (through participating in Prairiewoods spiritual direction or programming like yoga, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, a Silent Directed Retreat or Wednesday Women)
  • helping your neighbors by committing to permaculture and pesticide-free lawn care (check out

Whatever you are doing to harvest relationships, we would love to hear your story! Please share it with us on Facebook.

—Nancy Hoffman, FSPA; Angie Pierce Jennings & Emelia Sautter; Prairiewoods staff members

Posted Oct. 24, 2017

Prairiewoods Holiday Bazaar

Saturday, Nov. 18, 8 a.m.–1 p.m.

Join us for Prairiewoods’ annual Holiday Bazaar to jump start your Christmas shopping and get in the spirit of the season! There is no entrance fee, and coffee, warm apple cider, breakfast items and lunch will be available for purchase. Visit the energy room for a holistic services open house!

The Prairiewoods Gift Shop offers:
Prairiewoods Tree-shirts (long-sleeve crew-neck and short-sleeve V-neck shirts featuring our original tree of life design)
Books on spirituality and ecology
Wind chimes
Fair-trade scarves
Critters beautifully carved out of tagua nuts
Gift certificates for holistic services, programming and the Gift Shop

Local vendors offer handcrafted items such as:
Mixed-media artwork
Baked goods
Knitted and crocheted items
Unique cards and notebooks
Handmade toys
Holiday ornaments
and much, much more!

This will be a great opportunity to cross items off your shopping list and get into the holiday spirit!

—Angie Pierce Jennings, Prairiewoods hosted groups & hospitality coordinator

Posted Oct. 13, 2017

Green Prairie Garden

Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) is a Cedar Rapids–area nonprofit that provides groceries to about 400 local families each month. Like most food pantries, they realized they were supplying their families with lots of canned and boxed goods, but very few fresh, healthy foods. In 2014, they began partnering with Prairiewoods to cultivate the vegetable garden at Prairiewoods, which we call Green Prairie Garden.

Through this partnership, Prairiewoods gets tons of volunteer help tending the garden, MCO is able to nourish a huge plot of land and the families who rely on MCO for some of their food get veggies straight from a local garden. It’s a match made in heaven!

Next time you’re at Prairiewoods, you’re invited to wander through the giant Green Prairie Garden, sampling the fresh produce as you go. Perhaps you can also say a little prayer for those who are nourished by the garden and for those at MCO who so graciously tend it!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Sept. 26, 2017

Images of Hope

After releasing the 2017 Retreats Brochure, Prairiewoods received a lot of positive feedback on the cover art, which was created by Dutch artist Coby van den Heuvel. The bright colors, mesmerizing spiral and intricate patterns from nature were captivating, and you responded. Thanks for letting us know how much you liked it!

Because of that feedback, we realized that the Retreats Brochure, which is delivered to 10,000 homes, is being noticed and read. So why not use it to feature a local artist and an image from Prairiewoods’ 70 acres of natural beauty? That’s where you come in8! Prairiewoods invites all photographers and artists to capture Prairiewoods Images of Hope!

Do you have an eye-catching photo or piece of art you took or created at Prairiewoods that shows inter-connection or hope? Have you captured a beautiful rainbow, an intricate spider web or intertwined trees? Do you have evidence of an inter-species friendship or new life? Feel free to think outside the box!

Submit your favorite photo or artwork to Prairiewoods for our Images of Hope campaign. The entry that we feel best captures hope or inter-connection will be featured on the cover of the 2018 Retreats Brochure. Even if your entry isn’t chosen, it may be used for future marketing efforts with credit to you as the photographer. Entries should be emailed to me as high-resolution images by Oct. 16.

So get creative, and capture Images of Hope!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Sept. 12, 2017

Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival

Come hear the voice of the land! The third annual Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival is coming to Prairiewoods Sept. 29–Oct. 1. This free, family-friendly festival includes live performances by internationally renowned musicians specializing in the music of Native American–style flutes and world flutes.

Unlike any other event in the Midwest, Sweetgrass offers abundant opportunities to immerse yourself in indigenous music, nature and mind-body-spirit wellness. Participate in a variety of workshops for the whole family to experience inner transformation, learning and fun! Then stroll through vendor village to find great food, one-of-a-kind crafts, handmade flutes, essential oils, nature-inspired jewelry and more.

The festival culminates Sunday afternoon, with Prairiewoods’ popular Blessing of the Animals. Bring every member of the family—even those with fur, wings, scales and fins—to this annual celebration in honor of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology. This family- and pet-friendly celebration honors our connection with animals, Earth and all of creation. Sweetgrass concerts, workshops and vendors will be available starting at 11 a.m., as well as children’s activities at noon.  At 3 p.m., join us for a tribute to Earth, our common home, as local organizations share positive stories about ways they are caring for Earth, followed by the Blessing of the Animals.

The festival features live performances by eight critically acclaimed musicians specializing in indigenous and world flutes.

Workshops will teach you everything from mandala painting to smudging, yoga to didgeridoo playing. Come play and learn!

Vendors offer handmade flutes, local food, organic and natural items, arts, crafts, jewelry, stones, essential oils and so much more!

Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals allows you to include your favorite four-legged, winged or slithering family members in the fun!

Friday, Sept. 29, 5–9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (Blessing of the Animals at 3)

Visit for complete details, including schedules for concerts and workshops. This unique, nature-focused music festival is one your whole family will love!

—Emy Sautter, Prairiewoods staff

Posted Aug. 29, 2017

The Ancient Tree and the Tyrant

When I see a tyrant,
Bloated with ego,
I must look beyond
His twisted fury
At the ancient tree behind him.

Then I remember what is real.
Those beautiful gnarled branches
Still creaking, reaching out
Providing shade, even to tyrants.

Her roots still pushing
Against rock-hard darkness
Deep in the ground
Under everyone’s feet.
Where they have been soaking in
The earth’s richness
Long before our time.

Have courage!
Speak out against hatred,
But not before admitting your own.
We are weak, but Love is strong.
All things are passing, but Love remains.

Roots seek water
Sap will flow
Sediment settles
Love is what I know.

—Jean Elliott Junis, Prairiewoods retreatant

Posted Aug. 15, 2017