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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

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


Garden of Eat’n

Have you noticed the many changes happening around the Prairiewoods Center? We’re working with Backyard Abundance to create new permaculture landscaping that features edible landscapes (with lots of veggies and herbs for snacking), a Healing Garden, a mushroom growing area and Outdoor Classrooms. These are all part of the Garden of Eat’n that began this spring.

Edible landscapes surround the Center with fruit, vegetable and herb plants. You can eat your way through the walk—look for signs that explain what you’re eat’n!

A Healing Garden between the Center and Guest House features a sitting bench, St. Francis statue and willow angel, as well as edible herbs and fruit.

A mushroom growing area just outside the kitchen is complete with inoculated logs that will soon produce shiitake and chicken of the woods mushrooms.

Outdoor Classrooms allow facilitators to lead hands-on workshops on everything from holistic gardening practices to container gardening. Come learn in this fun environment!

—Emy Sautter, Prairiewoods staff

Posted Aug. 3, 2017



Some Favorite Prairiewoods Critters

Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Whenever I see Prairiewoods Artist in Residence Joni Reed Cooley, she has a camera in her hands. She snaps, snaps, snaps pictures of me, of the trees, of the other critters that call this land home. Here are some of her favorite pictures from this holy space …

One of the many joys at Prairiewoods for me is the opportunity to take some special nature photos. I love to watch for the critters around Prairiewoods and capture their personalities in photos. From many hours with my trusty point-and-shoot camera in the woods and through the Guest House window, these are some of my favorite photos of Prairiewoods animals.

Deer in Winter_Joni Reed Cooley

While I was sitting on the swing by the labyrinth on a late winter afternoon, this group of deer ambled by. I just love how you can clearly see each deer’s personality. The ringleader, the watchful scout, the shy one—can’t you just imagine what they are thinking? And just what do you imagine the ringleader is saying?

Praying Groundhog_Joni Reed Cooley

During a summer retreat in the Guest House, every day was “Groundhog Day” as I rushed to the window each morning to look for the groundhogs. They were frequently very busy grazing outside my window and keeping a watchful eye out. I enjoyed watching them suddenly rear up and stand motionless to check for danger, and then quickly go back down again. I later learned that their eyesight is not so good, hence the need for frequent upright checks. I always imagine this groundhog as the greeter, proclaiming “Welcome to Prairiewoods.”

Turkey_Joni Reed Cooley

Walking to the bench overlooking Dry Creek one summer day, I saw a lone turkey heading down the path behind me.  As I came to the bench, I wondered if he would continue coming toward me. We looked at each other and he apparently decided I was no threat to him. As I grabbed this photo, he continued down the path with his jerky turkey gait and walked past me into the grasses. Later while sitting on the bench, I was amused to think about the implications of the turkey and I on the same path.

Rabbit_Joni Reed Cooley

This special rabbit rested next to my Guest House window one spring afternoon. I felt sad about her ear and I wondered if she had been in a fight or maybe had it caught in something. But it had healed well and she seemed fine. I marveled at all of the colors in her fur, something I had never noticed before. I was inspired to paint her portrait before I left my retreat that week.

Nursing Deer_Joni Reed Cooley

If you attended Prairiewoods’ wonderful Spirituality in the 21st Century event, you have seen this photo. But did you know that it was taken from a Prairiewoods Guest House window? I spied this majestic doe standing across from my window one dusky evening, and I hurriedly focused on trying to get a good close-up photo of her. Then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, and fortunately I drew back to see the fawn with her! I was so amazed by what I was seeing that my hands were shaking as I tried to capture this incredible scene. Wow, did I ever feel privileged to have witnessed this beautiful, intimate tableau. And to think that I almost missed it!

Deer - spotted_Joni Reed Cooley

The last photo is that same fawn making its getaway after acknowledging me in the Guest House window. I love how she is so stretched out, so you can see all of her spots. To me, she looks like she is smiling and saying, “Gotta run—see ya later!”


—Joni Reed Cooley, Artist in Residence


The Stunning Seasons at Prairiewoods

Otis & Friends 1I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Joni Reed Cooley is a human who helped me understand just how kind and gentle humans can be. Armed with her camera, paint brush and charcoals, she truly sees all of us who call Prairiewoods home, not just the two-legged ones. Here are some of her best photos that capture the changing seasons on these 70 acres of woods and prairie …

Each of the four seasons at Prairiewoods is spectacular! Capturing the changes of the seasons with my camera is one of my favorite pastimes. Each season shines with its own colors and textures. Can you recognize the spots at Prairiewoods where these eight photos were taken? (By the way, I once took a number of photos in the woods at Prairiewoods after a major snowstorm and showed them to Sister Nancy Hoffman. She easily identified the exact location of each snow-laden tree!)

Dew on Grass_Joni Reed Cooley



The dew on the blades of grass was an exquisite sight during my early morning walk on this day. The photo was taken near the bench overlooking Dry Creek.

Swing by Pond



Such a restful place! This scene by the pond always makes me wish I was sitting there—I can hear the frogs now!




Fall Trees_Joni Reed Cooley



I love the different colors of the fall leaves against the dark tree limbs in this photo. This beautiful tableau was near the path coming down the small hill from the Center, looking up to the side.

Milkweed_Joni Reed Cooley



The milkweed pods were opened when I walked by them, making me want to take a big breath and blow the puffs away! This beauty was growing near the parking lot in front of the Guest House.


Winter Trees 1_Joni Reed Cooley



Walking the trails at Prairiewoods in the winter is a special treat! The woods are especially beautiful after a heavy snow. I headed out to the woods on an exquisite blue-sky morning after it had snowed all night. Everywhere I turned, the sights were simply awe-inspiring. These branches were along the trail heading down to the creek from the labyrinth.


Winter Trees 2_Joni Reed Cooley

Another beautiful morning after a major snowfall! I loved the patterns of these clouds, and to me, there are few things lovelier than fresh snow on the pines. These glorious trees greet you along the entryway to Prairiewoods.


Butterfly 24_Joni Reed Cooley



The gardens of Prairiewoods are always so lovely! And the efforts to provide a habitat for butterflies have been wonderful. This monarch posed prettily in the flowers in front of the Guest House.


Swing by Kitchen_Joni Reed Cooley


This swing scene looks so peaceful! Perhaps you have enjoyed sitting here outside the kitchen (our friend Otis’ favorite territory). I had a wonderful time creating a painting of this scene during an art retreat.


So perhaps these photos have inspired you to take your own tour of the seasons at Prairiewoods. Treasures await you!


—Joni Reed Cooley, Artist in Residence


Adult Self Renewal Summer Camp

Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

One friend I have introduced you to several times here is Marianne Abel-Lipschutz, a program participant and planner here at Prairiewoods. She’s been working with several other volunteers and staff members to bring a whole new experience to the Prairiewoods community: summer camp for adults! Here’s a look at what you can expect at Adult Self Renewal Summer Camp …

New friends. Outdoor cooking. Adventures in groups. Campfires at night. Stories and songs. Shared devotions. Honest conversations. Freedom to wander in the prairie and woods, play a game, write a letter home, float in the sky chair for quiet time. Prairiewoods’ first-ever Adult Self Renewal Summer Camp, July 18–21, has these classic camp plans but adds an eco-spirituality boost. Essential oils and healing touch. Interactive arts and peaceful patterns of color and light. Songs of joy and laughter, cosmic rhythms and circular sound waves, deep silence in the presence of our Creator.

Adult Summer Camp_squareMany people trace some of their most significant spiritual growth to a camp experience as a child. For many of us, Bible camp, Girl or Boy Scout Camp, or Vacation Bible School provided communal encounters with our deepest selves that put our feet on the path of a lifelong learning process. Retreats—or adult camps—relight that spark inside by reconnecting us to the sense of awe and wonder that energizes the spiritual journey. Keeping that vital connection to the Source alive in our hearts, minds and bodies empowers us to live more fully in the world.

Join with the Prairiewoods community to celebrate life at Adult Summer Camp, which is just over a week away. Each day offers activities to learn and grow together with others in a festive atmosphere. (Monday focuses on holistic health, Tuesday on nature, Wednesday on music and Thursday on art. Come all four days or choose the days that speak to your soul!) We won’t blast Reveille from a loudspeaker at sunrise or listen to Taps played with a bugle at sunset. We will sing our hearts out into the Prairiewoods neighborhood and create memories that will last. Sign up on the Prairiewoods website. Give a gift of a day at camp to a friend or loved one. Spread the news and share the fun. Hope to see you at camp!

—Marianne Abel-Lipschut, program participant

 2016 Adult Summer Camp Schedule

20 Milkweeds for 20 Years

Otis & Friends 2I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Allow me to introduce you to Andi Lewis, who has served as Prairiewoods Marketing Coordinator for the last 5 years. She and her pup, Phineas, often walk the grounds at Prairiewoods and enjoy the presence of beautiful monarch butterflies. She wants to tell you about a new challenge she has for YOU …

Prairiewoods, which was founded in 1996, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. We are honoring this occasion by promoting the life and health of the planet, and we hope you will help us! Over the last two decades, we have been blessed to partner with a number of generous organizations, worship communities, civic entities, businesses and individuals. And we’re hoping you all will help us once again …

In honor of our 20th anniversary, Prairiewoods is planting milkweed, a plant that is necessary for the continued survival of monarch butterflies, which are necessary for the continued survival of all life! Will you help us celebrate by promoting the life and health of our Earth? Here’s the challenge:

20 Milkweeds•     We just planted milkweed in our new Healing Garden. (Check out the short video here or by clicking on the screenshot at right!)

•     Now we are inviting you—our friends and valued community partners—to also plant milkweed somewhere in the community in July. (If you don’t have land on which to plant the milkweed, feel free to plant it at Prairiewoods!)

•     Please take a photo or video of the planting and upload it to social media. (Include #20Milkweeds and #PrairiewoodsFSC so that we can track our progress!)

Will you help us plant 20 Milkweeds for 20 Years?

—Andi Lewis, Marketing Coordinator

Garden Party

Otis & Friends 4I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

On Saturday, June 4, Prairiewoods hosted its annual Garden Party fundraiser with more than 200 people (but no critters) in attendance. The people came together to celebrate Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary, bid on live and silent auction items, and raise money for this place of peace and transformation. This was the 12th annual Garden Party and the most profitable one to date. Thanks to all those who made it a great evening of fun, food and fellowship!

2016-06-04 Garden Party 1

2016-06-04 Garden Party 2

2016-06-04 Garden Party 3

2016-06-04 Garden Party 4

2016-06-04 Garden Party 5

2016-06-04 Garden Party 6

2016-06-04 Garden Party 8

The Ultimate Holiday Shopping Weekend at Prairiewoods

2015 Holiday Bazaar & Alternative Gift Market

Celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas with two unique holiday shopping opportunities at Prairiewoods! On the weekend of Dec. 5 and 6, you can get in the giving spirit when you buy your loved ones charitable gifts to local and global nonprofits or handcrafted gifts from local artists.

Alternative Gift Market at Prairiewoods
Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
For the first time ever, Cedar Rapids’ Alternative Gift Market is coming to Prairiewoods! Get ready for the holiday season with unique gift solutions when you shop the eighteenth annual market in Cedar Rapids. Instead of buying yet another tie for Uncle Mike, give a donation in his honor that will purchase a wheelchair for a disabled person in Ecuador or provide food for a family right here in Cedar Rapids. Uncle Mike will receive an attractive card describing the gift given in his honor, and you can rest assured that your gift has made a difference rather than collecting dust in a closet. This is a great opportunity to solve your gift-giving problems, help those in need, and learn about organizations making a difference in your community and around the world! The market has been held in Cedar Rapids since 1998. More than 45 local and global nonprofit organizations will be represented in this year’s event, which the whole family can enjoy. It is perfect for kids who want to share with needy children worldwide, for grandparents who enjoy socially-conscious gifts and for anyone who wants to improve the global society. (And it is ideal for those on your list who are hard to shop for!) Join us for this fun opportunity to give back to your loved ones and to the community. Admittance is free, and credit cards are accepted. Lunch will be available for purchase. For more information, visit

Prairiewoods Holiday Bazaar (Rescheduled from Nov. 21)
Sunday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
The holiday season is about love and kindness, generosity and gratitude. But sometimes the quest to find the perfect gift or host the best party leads to more stress than serenity. This year, kick off the Christmas season in festive style at the annual Holiday Bazaar at Prairiewoods (120 East Boyson Road in Hiawatha), which was rescheduled from Nov. 21. Find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list and stock up on baked goods for parties or last-minute house guests. Jump start your holiday season by visiting some of your old favorite vendors, as well as several new ones from the local community. The wide range of gifts you can choose from include pottery, assorted jewelry, scarves, fun socks, children’s books, Trappistine caramels, gourmet chocolate pecans and a variety of beautiful hand-crafted items. When you need a break from shopping for friends and family, enjoy a fresh baked good or sloppy joe in our Coffee Corner. This will be a great opportunity to cross items off your shopping list and get into the holiday spirit! Admittance is free and gift prices are unbeatable. For more information, contact Prairiewoods at 319-395-6700.

Are you willing to help us spread the word? Please click here to download a poster to hang at your church or other organization.

Make it the ultimate holiday shopping weekend by attending both of these unique shopping opportunities that allow you to give personal, meaningful gifts to your loved ones this season!