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Creative Compassion

Rooted in Compassion 2How does your creativity inspire you to be compassionate, and how does compassion inspire you to be creative?  Please share your poetry, photographs, art and reflections below.

Click here to see a recap of the Rooted in Compassion conference that sparked this conversation.

Rooted in Compassion 3

2014 Spirituality in the 21st Century Speakers Announced

Rooted in Compassion: Cosmology, Eco-Justice and Empathic Wisdom
March 28–29, 2014

Rooted in Compassion

Come and be energized by Marc Ian Barasch and Drew Dellinger as they inspire, challenge and accompany us in our spiritual journey to renew the face of the earth!

Marc Ian Barasch is the award-winning author of The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness, a national bestseller that inspired the film I Am. He also founded the Green World Campaign on principles of “green compassion.”

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is a performance poet with literary acclaim across six continents, known for his love letter to the milky way. He studied with the late Thomas Berry and celebrates the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is part of Prairiewoods’ Spirituality in the 21st Century series and will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cedar Rapids on Friday evening, March 28, and Saturday, March 29, 2014. For more information or to register, contact Prairiewoods at 319-395-6700.

Get in the Spirit of the Season at the Holiday Bazaar

Holiday Bazaar 2013The holiday season brings with it a sense of wonder, gratitude and generosity. Welcome the spirit of the season at Prairiewoods’ annual Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, Nov. 23. It will be a great opportunity to cross items off your holiday shopping list!

Our doors will open at 8 a.m. so that you can enjoy a wide selection of baked goods and gifts for family and friends. You will have until 1 p.m. to fill the Christmas stockings and the space under your tree.

Prairiewoods will offer special items from its Gift Shop and kitchen. Other vendors will offer an array of goods prepared by local artisans. You will have your choice of freshly baked breads and pies, Trappistine caramels, scarves, handcrafted aprons, jewelry, bags, baby blankets, mittens and much more. You also can enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee or cider, a homemade baked good or a made-rite at our Coffee Corner.

We hope you will join us for the official start of the season at the Holiday Bazaar!

Barasch and Dellinger Speaking at 2014 Spirituality in the 21st Century Conference

2014 PresentersPrairiewoods is pleased to announce that we will welcome Marc Ian Barasch and Drew Dellinger to the 2014 Spirituality in the 21st Century conference March 28–29, 2014. Marc and Drew will talk about compassion, eco-justice and hope for the world today.

Marc Ian Barasch is an award-winning writer, editor and producer. He is the founder of the Green World Campaign and author of The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness (2009). Marc’s work on compassion inspired the documentary I Am by Tom Shadyac. (Learn more about Marc at

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is an evocative speaker, poet, writer and teacher who has inspired minds and hearts around the world, performing poetry and keynoting on justice, ecology, cosmology and compassion. He also is a consultant, publisher and founder of Planetize the Movement. (Learn more about Drew at

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

Prairiewoods Garden to Grow Vegetables Year-Round

hoop house 5Imagine growing vegetables all through the winter … in a garden in Iowa. It may seem far-fetched, but Prairiewoods is doing it! On Saturday, October 6, twenty-five people from the community helped build a hoop house and install a solar-powered root zone heating system in the Prairiewoods kitchen garden.

Since 2010, the Prairiewoods grounds have housed a Training Facility for the Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew). This solar-powered Training Facility is off the grid, and it often has a lot of unused solar energy.

Prairiewoods, I-Renew and RJ Construction teamed up to put that solar energy to work in the garden, which sits adjacent to the I-Renew Training Facility. The solar energy now flows through tubes below the garden’s surface, heating the roots of the vegetables growing above it. This, combined with a new hoop house, is allowing Prairiewoods to grow fresh produce year-round.

Last year, Prairiewoods served more than 7,600 healthy, local meals to its guests.