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Health & Well Being

“Circles create soothing space where even reticent people can realize that their voice is welcome.”  —Margaret Wheatley

We are responsible for each other. This is the meaning of community. We take seriously the idealistic notion that our future is dependent on each of us and if one of us is not free, or valued, or participating in a full life, then these are not possible for any of us. How long we live and how often we are sick are determined by our personal behaviors, our social relationships, our physical environment and our income. We are the people who can change these things, individually and with our neighbors.

Circles currently forming (If you would like to join a circle, click the contact to send an email request.)
Des Moines Contingent,
 contact Jean McCarthy
First Presbyterian Church, contact Ted Miller (faith communities reclaiming the language of transformation)
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, contact Randy Kasch
Integration of Medical and Complimentary Methods, contact Katherine Krage
Lanston Strategy Group, contact Dave Langston (self image and performance)
Marion Cares Inc., contact Joe Polzen
Mount Mercy University, contact Deb Oliver
North Liberty Community, contact Judy McRoberts
Retirement Planning Association, contact Sylvia Brim (help singles out of isolation)
Shelter House, contact Kari Dixon or Crissy Canganelli (ability of all people to afford to live in the community in which they work)
Sixth Judicial District Department of Correction Services, contact Bruce Vander Sanden
Sixth Judicial District Department of Correction Services, contact Malinda Lamb
St. Anthony Hospital in Carroll, Iowa, contact Ed Smith
United Way of East Central Iowa, contact Leslie Wright
     Adverse Childhood Experiences (April 30, May 28, June 25, July 30, Aug. 27, Sept. 24, 5:30–6:30 p.m.)
Increasing Well-being of Our Children (April 30, 5:30–6:30 p.m.)
University of Iowa Nursing and VA Nursing, contact Theresa Keller, FSPA
Waypoint Services for Women, Children and Families, contact Angela Kron


“Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.”  —Margaret Wheatley

Children become effective adults by being connected with community adults in their productive roles. The most effective local communities claim their youth and assume primary responsibility for their upbringing. “Where there are ‘thick’ community connections, both child development and school performance improve” (McKnight and Block, The Abundant Community).

Circles currently forming (If you would like to join a circle, click the contact to send an email request.)
Catherine McAuley Center, contact Gregory White
Catholic Charities, contact Stephen Schmitz
Cedar Falls/Waterloo Group, contact Don Walton
Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, contact Quinn Pettifer
Coe College, contact Kristin Hutson
Diversity Focus, contact Chad Simmons
Diversity Focus, contact Becky Lutgen Gardner
Grantwood AEA, contact Lisa Frey or Katy K. Lee
IowaTransformED, contact Trace Pickering
Kirkwood Community College, contact Al Rowe
Kirkwood Community College, contact Barbara Oakland
Kirkwood Community College, contact Steve Williams
Kirkwood Community College, contact Todd Prusha
University of Minnesota – Winona, contact Randy Schenkat
University of Northern Iowa, contact Dr. Jan Bartlett

Care for Earth

“Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.”  —Margaret Wheatley

The environmental movement has taught us a great deal about how everyday lifestyles and behaviors can have an impact on the quality of life on our planet. The types of transportation we use, how we heat or cool our homes, the types of clothes we wear and the food we eat all affect our quality of life. As global citizens we need to adopt environmentally responsible behaviors in the ways we live. We must consider the materials and energy we use, the cleanliness of water and air, habitat and land, flora and fauna, place, construction, settlement, emission and waste.

As we become more conscious of how central food is to our health, it draws our attention to the importance of food security. If we want to know how our food is produced, how it is harvested and handled, and how far it travels, this is best done through local production. If we want to be educated about the effects of diet and keep our health in our own hands, this is within the capacity of our local community.

Our way of producing and relating to food integrates many of the elements that are key to satisfaction. Supporting local producers and markets does our part to solve the energy problem caused by transportation of food.

Circles currently forming (If you would like to join a circle, click the contact to send an email request.)
Cathedral of St. Paul (Episcopal),
 contact Cathleen Bascom
Grannies for a Livable Future, contact Barbara Schlachter
IA River Friends, contact Mel Schlachter
Indian Creek Nature Center, contact Jan Aiels
Indian Creek Nature Center, contact Jean Wiedenhelft
Living Water UMC, contact Lisa D. Schroeder
Matthew 25, contact Jerry Oakland
Metro Catholic Outreach, contact Christin Tomy or Barb Kane
Solstead, contact Tim McCoy
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Chuch, contact Linda Manatt
St. Timothy’s of Cedar Falls, contact Linda Butler
Trees Forever, contact Joann McNiel
Unity Center, contact Jan Griffith

Art and Creativity

“In these… times we don’t need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.”  —Margaret Wheatley

Take time to learn the ways in which different cultures give expression to the human spirit—engagement and identity, performance and creativity, culture and art.

Circles currently forming (If you would like to join a circle, click the contact to send an email request.)
Cedar Rapids Neighborhood,
 contact Carol Sindelar
Indian Creek Nature Center, contact Jean Wiedenhelft
NewBo Books, contact Mary Ann Peters
Pieceworks: An Art and Healing Ministry, contact Kristi Christensen
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, contact Linda Manatt
Voicebox Poetry, contact Carl and Jan Christian Roth

F. John Herbert, executive director at C.S.P.S., invites any of the circles to meet at the Legion Arts Building. If your circle would like to meet there, please contact John.

Engaging Community

Save the Date for Engaging Community, Narrating Change Phase 2!
Wednesday, November 20, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

Tens of thousands of people build community, not because it is their job, but because of who they are! The hope of all who engage associational life is to bring into conversation the collective wisdom present within each and every individual and organization within the community, co-creating restorative, sustainable, abundant community.

Exciting changes are being narrated in our communities since the April Engaging Community, Narrating Change conference. A number of partners—both individuals and organizations—are convening six conversations inviting forth possibility, accountability and commitment of citizens, and creating collaboration and a greater sense of belonging.

On November 20, Peter Block returns! Author of many books to help citizens imagine an alternative to the patriarchal beliefs that dominate our culture, Peter’s work is to bring change into the world through consent and connectedness, rather than mandate and force. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on November 20, he will assist in lifting the learnings and initiatives arising from the circle conversations.

Singer/songwriter and musician Barbara McAfee will blend practical content, sassy music, useful wisdom and sophisticated humor as we deepen our commitment.

Peter also has offered to meet with individual circles via conference call. If your circle is interested, please contact Ann Jackson, PBVM, at or 319-213-3384. Please keep us posted on what’s going on in your circle!

Engaging Community, Narrating Change Phase 2
Featuring Peter Block and Barbara McAfee
Wednesday, November 20, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
at St. Pius X Catholic Church
$40 if purchased by October 31 ($45 after October 31)

To register for this Phase 2 event, click here.


“We face a crisis about the common good (today) because there are powerful forces at work among us to resist the common good, to violate community solidarity, and to deny a common destiny. Mature people, at their best, are people who are committed to the common good that reaches beyond private interest, transcends sectarian commitments, and offers human solidarity.” —Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good

Can you feel the growing movement? It’s happening across the world! People are convening locally to pursue a common vision for the common good. Sustainable, self-organized communities occur when individuals and organizations recognize their interdependence and evolve in ways that support the diversity and viability of all. These communities are marked by mutual relationships, resilience and capacity to create a shared vision on which participants feel impassioned to enact.

Prairiewoods is committed to the creation of restorative, sustainable, abundant community. As a catalyst of sustainable community, we seek to bring into conversation the collective wisdom present within each and every individual of a community. Conversation facilitates collaboration among residents, churches, local civic organizations and institutions. The fruit of these conversations leads to a greater sense of belonging and comprehensive, asset-based community development. Several partnerships with various communities are launching six conversations that will offer people powerful tools and strategies of possibility, accountability and commitment.

Prairiewoods invites circle partnerships that are interdependent, adaptive, resilient, intentional communities of practice. We believe that whatever the problem, community is the answer! These “people circles” will demonstrate how local social innovation can co-create solutions to many of the world’s most intractable issues—such as community health, ecological sustainability and economic woe.

We invite leaders, neighbors and communities to connect to one another, nourishing relationships, sharing gifts and resources, learning, supporting and encouraging them to share their stories to illuminate examples of the future evolving now.

Circles of Sustainability suggest life is understood holistically across an integrated series of fields:

Click here for a printable document with details on how to host your own circles. (Or click here if you would like a list of resources related to Peter Block, John McKnight, Walter Brueggemann and topics of community engagement.)


Invitation to blog…
A culture is built through the stories we tell and what we choose to talk about—our narrative. A primary function of a family, neighborhood or community is to create its story. Telling the story gives body to the collective. Communities become competent when people tell stories that link to their gifts.

Please contribute examples of what’s possible, of what our new world could be like. Illuminating, making visible and sharing the stories of these efforts is vital as we encourage others to step forward on behalf of the issues that most concern them. These inspiring examples help to show that the future we yearn for already is coming into form in many places around the world. We invite you to use the “comments” section on this page and the circle pages to contribute to the story.

Find Outdoor Family Fun at Nature Fest on Oct. 6, 2013

Nature Fest - Logo_squareSt. Francis of Assisi was born in Italy more than 800 years ago, and his love of all creatures, joyful approach to life and unique way of following Jesus without limit or self-importance remain a wonderful example for us today. We invite you to Prairiewoods’ annual Nature Fest to walk in spirit with St. Francis on the path of peace, openness, mysticism, poverty, reverence for nature and love of animals. Join us as we honor St. Francis’s life and memory at Nature Fest on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 1–4 p.m. 

Celebrate with an afternoon of live music by The Deep Dish Divas and Bob Ballantyne, ice cream, face painting by Faceworks Facepaint, games, children’s activities, family photo opportunities with your pets, cosmic walks and lots more. And for the first time, Nature Fest also will include photo opportunities with live donkeys and a Castle Bounce House for children!

This pet- and family-friendly event celebrates our human connection with Earth and the Universe. Experience Prairiewoods in its natural fall splendor and know that we are all one with the Divine Creator. You may choose to wander our prairie and woodland trails or spend some quiet time on the labyrinth. And we hope you will participate in what truly makes this celebration of St. Francis unique: the Blessing of the Animals! (All animals—whether furry, winged, scaled or finned—are welcome.) As part of the procession of animals led by ministers from the local Christian community, St. Francis will invite you to introduce your pet and share what you love about him or her. Top off the blessing by taking a “family resemblance” photo of you and your pet.

We will honor a tradition that was part of Prairiewoods’ very first Franciscan Fest in 1997: a Gift Blanket Sharing ceremony. This ceremony comes from the wisdom tradition of some Native American cultures. A blanket containing a few gifts will be spread on the ground. You are welcome to take something from the blanket or leave a gift you make or bring for others to take. These gifts may range from a poem to a small token from nature, from a song to an item you no longer need. This ceremony serves several purposes: it allows participants to become conscious about breaking habits of accumulation, teaches lessons of abundance in the world and shows that all are part of ONE family in which each has something to offer.

In addition to a leash or carrying case for your critter, you might want to bring a blanket or chair for comfortable outdoor seating. Registration is not necessary. For more information, contact Prairiewoods at 319-395-6700. We hope you will join us for this free, festive celebration of life!

Nature Fest Schedule
1:00  Welcome & Opening Introduction
1:10   Live Music by Deep Dish Divas
2:00  Storytelling by St. Francis
2:10  Procession, Introduction & Blessing of the Animals with Music by Bob Ballantyne
3:00  More Live Music by the Deep Dish Divas, Games, Face Painting and Fun
3:50  Closing

2013 Garden Party Sponsors and Donors

The Garden Party is Prairiewoods’ largest fundraiser of the year.  We couldn’t offer the variety of spiritual and ecological programming our guests have come to appreciate without your help! The Prairiewoods board and staff would like to extend a special thank you to those who helped make tonight a success …

Special Thanks to
Cedar Ridge Winery for the wine
Daly Creek Winery for the wine
Mercy Medical Center for the use of the beautiful Hallagan Education Center
Chad Shepard for the auctioneering
The Summit Band for the entertainment

Garden Party Sustainers ($500 and up)
Mike Billett
Steve & Kay Jackson
Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community
Sisters of the Presentation
Carol Sudmeier
Don & Mary Thompson
Linda Toplikar

Garden Party Sowers ($250–$499)
Fred & Joan Althoff
Jim & Diane Daubenmier
Robert & Mary Ellen Dunford
Mercy Medical Center
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Anthony Regional Hospital
Elaine Young

Garden Party Seed Starters ($100–$249)
Daniel & Marianne Arndorfer
Cedar Rapids Toyota
Farmers State Bank
Fleetcare Service, Inc.
Max & Kathy Hawkins
Barb Lebsock
Bob & Louise McMaster
Patricia McPherson
Audrey Moeller
Dr. Linda Railsback, MD
Cindy Schreck
Ed & Vicki Smith
St. Pius X Catholic Church
Adele Ver Steeg
The Waldinger Corporation

Dan & Marianne Arndorfer
Judith Edwards
Patricia Gonder
C Jean Hayen, BVM
Stephen & Nancy Miller
Shirley Morris
James & Colleen Ann Nieman
Ron & Sue Reider
Vayla Waddington

In-Kind Donors
Lois Bartleme
Mary Ann Becker, RSM
Trendi Becker at Epic Salon
Alan Boyden
Sally Boyle & Rick Engelman
Dian Boysen
Dianne Brenneman
Deb Cannon
Cedar Rapids Bowling Center
Cedar Valley Embroiderers’ Guild
The Class Act
Cobble Hill
Cecilia Corcoran, FSPA, at the Christine Center
Michelle Cox
Jim Daubenmier
Kristian Day
Carol DePaepe
Dubuque River Rides
Helen Elsbernd, FSPA
Farmer’s Daughter’s Market
Franciscan Sisters
Joann Gehling, FSPA
Matt & Katie Giorgio
Cecilia Harmeyer
Laurie & Chris Harris
Ann Healy, RSM
Don Heires
Nancy Hoffman, FSPA
Indian Creek Nature Center
Eileen Jennings
Jeff Kaiden
Judy Kash
Patsy Keller at Patsy’s Crafts
Theresa Keller, FSPA
Kernels Baseball
Kirkwood Community College Continuing Education
Anji Kozikowski
Kay Landuyt & Larry Robinson
Dick & Carol Lensing
Linn County Conservation
Geneva Marsh
Matthew 25 Ministry Hub
McGrath Auto
Sandy & Larry Miller
Maggie Mills, Norwex Consultant
New Pioneer Food Co-op
Nichols Construction
Bobbi O’Connell
Clara Oleson
Orchestra Iowa
Peck’s Garden Center
Megan Pendergast at Epic Salon
Prairiewoods Wednesday Women
Shuva Rahim
Delores Riepe
RJ Construction
Suzanne Rubenbauer, FSPA
Mel & Barbara Schlachter
Science Center
Scott’s Family Restaurant
Sisters Health Club
The Sisters of the Presentation
Leanne Spacek
Sparkling Image Car Wash
Janet Specht
Jacki Tentinger at Epic Salon
Theatre Cedar Rapids
Arlene Thome
Mike Thome
Trees Forever
University of Iowa College of Nursing Faculty Practice
Karen Vanourney
Sara Volesky at Urban Trends Salon
Walt Disney World
Michelle Waterman at Urban Trends Salon
Jean & Gary Wenisch
Wildlife Habitat
Nikki Yeboah at Timothy Roberts Salon & Spa
Elaine Young
Jennifer Zach
Zins Restaurant

Garden Party Planning Committee
Sue Bergman
Dian Boysen
Katie Giorgio, Chair
Laurel Gladish
Laurie Harris
Theresa Keller, FSPA, Chair
Carol Lensing
Andi Lewis
Gina Sterk
Mike Thome

Prairiewoods Launches Phase 2 of Engaging Community, Narrating Change

ECNC Phase 2Building community is a complex and life-long journey with relationships residing at its core. Engaging Community, Narrating Change, Prairiewoods’ annual Spirituality in the 21st Century conference, held April 4–5, affirmed just that—relationships! Nearly 500 people “circled up” and leaned into synergetic conversations to find connections in the service of something greater than themselves. Their overall goal was to transform the current socio-economic and civic systems into a more ideal and equitable community-oriented reality.

Presenter/facilitators Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight and Peter Block and musician Barbara McAfee challenged and inspired eager participants by modeling the process to change conversations to engage others and narrate change for the common good. Conference attendees met in small circles to share thoughts around topics of need and interest, challenging one another to identify personal gifts and lift long-held dreams. In conversation on these areas of need, narrating positive change now seems possible!

More than 50 organizations committed to hosting six monthly conversations in their own locale between May and October. In November Prairiewoods will welcome Peter Block back to facilitate the culmination of activity, learning, challenge and next best steps.

We remain grateful for the overwhelming response to the conference, and now we are ready to focus on the next step. Do you want to be a part of it? If so, check back here soon … we will post details about how you can start your own small group or join an existing group.

Prairiewoods Awarded LEED® Gold Certification

LEEDPrairiewoods has been awarded LEED® Gold certification for existing buildings, making it the first nonprofit in Iowa with that honor. LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings and was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

Prairiewoods board and staff, area environmental leaders and politicians, and a representative of USGBC were all present for a plaque presentation ceremony on Friday, December 14. (See pictures.)

“We are proud to earn the LEED Gold Certification. This is a testament to the commitment and respect for the environment that the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration had when they built Prairiewoods in 1996. We look forward to educating and engaging families, schools, churches and businesses in our community on green practices they too can implement,” said Prairiewoods Director Laurie Harris. “Our eco-friendly practices not only protect God’s creation and provide utility cost savings, but also contribute to a healthy and comfortable space for our staff and guests.”

While many newly constructed buildings are LEED certified, achieving certification for an existing building is much less common. Only seven existing buildings in Iowa are LEED certified. Of these, only one other existing structure has received Gold, and Prairiewoods is the only nonprofit to do so.

Prairiewoods achieved LEED certification for energy efficiency; use of renewable energy; and green practices for lighting, water and material use, as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“Building operations are nearly 40% of the solution to the global climate change challenge,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “While climate change is a global problem, innovative organizations like Prairiewoods are addressing it through local solutions.”

LEED certification of Prairiewoods was based on a number of green policies and practices established over Prairiewoods’ 16-year history. These features include:

  • solar panels that generate 24,600 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of energy each year, which is 50% of the energy used in the main building at Prairiewoods
  • 100% of light bulbs, 48% of food, 73% of cleaning materials and 100% of ongoing consumables that meet USGBC criteria for green products
  • an Energy Star rating of 91 for energy efficiency

Prairiewoods to Host World-Renowned Thought Leaders Block, McKnight and Brueggemann

Engaging Community, Narrating Change
Thursday, April 4, 7–9 p.m. (at St. Pius X Catholic Church)
Friday, April 5, 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. (at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center)

Spirituality - 2013 Dates_TitleThe work of “building community” is a complex and life-long journey; relationship resides at its core. This work is challenged by our culture. Though individuals are very connected technologically, many experience enormous isolation.

We have developed a dependence on systems and institutions to solve problems and meet needs, rather than engaging ourselves collaboratively with others. Currently, conversations about challenges in our neighborhood, workplace, church, city, state or country often start from what we do not have, what we lack, what we need. Such conversations have limited power to create lasting change.

Come, experience a conversation that will offer and inspire new possibilities! A new worldwide movement is emerging, made up of people with fresh vision. Leaders, as understood within this new movement, call forth a capacity to connect people with people in the service of something greater than themselves, and with an overall goal to transform what currently exists. They sense a calling. They are called. And together they invite us and one another to embody a culture of care that emerges by engaging conversations that can lead to an alternative future.

Sustainable, abundant community conversations shift the context from retribution to restoration; from problems to possibility; from fear and fault to gifts, generosity and abundance; from law and oversight to choice and accountability; from corporation and systems to relational life! Experience how together we can co-create sustainable environments, welcoming and tapping the gifts of all.

Through Spirituality in the 21st Century: Engaging Community, Narrating Change we will challenge and inspire people to change each and every conversation they have. We will weave new insights into community to awaken a new vision of what our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, faith communities and cities can be. Participants will experience these new conversations in real time and begin to understand how, as leaders, engaging everyone can help to transform community.

What will participants do?
The wonderful connections and collaborations established among people attending this event will linger long after and lead us each to something greater than any one of us can imagine. Participants will learn to:
•   invite and convene conversations so that others commit to the success of community
•   help others and ourselves declare new possibilities with the faith that we can live out our personal intentions and also serve the community
•   create ownership by moving the conversations from complaining and waiting for others to change to ones in which we realize we have helped create the very place we thought was owned and operated by others
•   focus on strengths, assets and capacity rather than problem-solving or deficiencies
•   hold a stance wholeheartedly while accepting the diverse stances of others

Why might this appeal to you?
This conference will appeal to anyone interested in creating more powerful partnerships with people around them. It is for individuals and organizations who are:
•   committed to helping neighborhoods grow
•   seeking pathways that promote connections and engagement
•   eager for new perspectives and approaches to advance communities
•   looking for ways to get started, gain momentum or renew
This conference is about caring for the whole, where the whole may be a community or family, government or education, nonprofit or for profit, church or volunteer association, or anything in between.

Who are the presenters?
This conference will feature internationally known speakers Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight and Peter Block—thought leaders from very different disciplines who have spent their lives illuminating a pathway toward creating a different future that emerges out of community, neighborliness and vision for the common good. Music will be provided by Barbara McAfee.

Peter Block is a consultant and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. His recent book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, and his work emphasize empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability and the reconciliation of community. Peter offers a methodology for shifting conversations from one of problems to one of possibilities.

John McKnight, emeritus professor of education and social policy and co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development. John offers practical wisdom and experience building communities from the inside out using local resources, capacities and relationship. Long-time colleagues and friends, Peter and John have walked numerous neighborhoods and communities to co-author The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods in 2010. 

Peter and John recently have become scholars of the work of Walter Brueggemann, a renowned Old Testament scholar and an important figure in Progressive Christianity, who most recently authored Journey to the Common Good. Through his passionate exploration of the Old Testament, he inspires a deeper understanding and commitment to neighborliness.

Barbara McAfee is a singer/songwriter, keynoter, author and voice coach who merges lessons from 12 years in organizational development with the transformative power of music. “She brings a quality to thinking and speaking that is fresh and accessible,” says Peter Block. “Few others have so integrated organizational insight and profound speech. Barbara gives great care to all she does.”

What resources are available?
If you are interested in more information about the presenters and theories behind the conference, more information is available:
•   Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008).
•   John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2010).
•   “Abundant Community” website,

Tickets cost $65 for both days if purchased by March 15 (or $75 after March 15). To register, download the registration form below or contact Prairiewoods at 319-395-6700 or