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Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Chronic Illness (Summer 2011)

If you deal with chronic illness or know someone who does, consider joining Benedictine oblate Judy Smoot this summer to form an online community to explore the ways monastic spirituality can support the journey. . .

*If you are interested in joining this program, please register soon so that we can determine if we have enough participants to move ahead*

This 8-week online course facilitated by Judy Smoot, OblSB , offers participants an opportunity to share with others who live with chronic disease or who support someone with chronic disease.

Some illnesses bring little long-term disruption to life.  We may feel that our network of support is sufficient, our way of connecting with God remains unchanged, and there is little internal shifting of attitudes and values.  Other times, however, we receive a diagnosis that, in a moment of time, causes our lives and those who are closest to us to take a radical turn.  After the initial shock settles in, we come to realize that our pattern of living must transition if we are to move forward.  Support systems may need to expand and deepen.  A connection with God may need to change and may even feel at risk during certain times.  Attitudes and values may shift as we enter this new land.  Previously fertile land may quickly seem parched and dry.

Using the book by Mary Earle, Beginning Again – Benedictine Wisdom for Living With Illness, we will explore how chronic disease impacts our physical, emotional and spiritual life.  Following the teaching of St. Benedict, who modeled living daily in a balanced manner with an ever-deepening awareness of God regardless of circumstances.  We will explore together how to apply these simple teachings for positive life change.

The program fee is $125 plus you are responsible for ordering a copy of the book.

Limited to 20 participants.

Click here to register>>

Here are some words from Judy Smoot about what draws her to this work:

As a facilitator for one of the Abbey’s upcoming on-line retreat offerings, I want to share just a bit of my story with you.  I am 56 years old and live in Central Ohio with my husband Roy.  We have one son, 28 years old, who is a newlywed and just finished grad school this spring. 

I am a spiritual director, retreat facilitator and founding director of “Always We Begin Again” (AWBA) – a ministry for those with chronic disease and their caregivers.   I was on staff with a church as their Director of Faith Development for six years before resigning last year to commit more time to developing this new ministry.  In the coming months, AWBA will offer on-line retreat experiences, spiritual direction, workshops and small groups for those impacted by chronic disease who seek to redefine and/or deepen their faith in a supportive community of others engaged in the same process.  Abbey of the Arts is one of the outlets for this particular on-line retreat, Benedictine Wisdom: Living With Illness. 

Having journeyed alongside those with chronic disease for the past 12 years – immediate family, close friends and directees, I have been deeply impacted by the  daily struggles of those living with cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, lupus, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.  I have also served a community hospice facility as an inpatient unit volunteer for nine years.  I have heard the heartbreaking stories while also experiencing the strength and courage of those living with chronic disease and those who support them.  Some aspect of my own story is always touched when I hear the story of another.  It is an incredible community of which to be a part.

I have chosen to adopt the values of the teachings of St. Benedict in my own life and made a formal commitment to the role of a lay Oblate of Mount Saint Benedict in Erie, PA in 2009.  The on-line retreat I will facilitate with the Abbey is based on Mary Earle’s book, Beginning Again, Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness.  Mary is a spiritual director and, as one who lives with acute pancreatitis, shares her personal experience of relying on the teachings of St. Benedict to help her thrive in the midst of the unpredictability of her diagnosis.  This book is honest and practical, and has served as a resource for many people I have supported in recent years. 

Those with chronic disease and their primary support often feel isolated in questions of faith surrounding their diagnosis.  It is not unusual for physical needs to force spiritual issues to a secondary place.  It is my prayer that this eight-week experience will provide an opportunity to build relationships that focus on spiritual care while in the midst of tending to physical and/or cognitive needs.  Our sharing about the book will be confidential within this group, and there will be opportunity to post prayer needs and celebrations with others who know the value of joining with others to empathize with their experience.  Reading is minimal and you may work through material at your own pace.  If summer travel and vacations are a concern, please know that you can cycle in and out of discussion at your leisure during the eight weeks.

If you or someone you support lives with a chronic disease of any kind and there is a hunger to invest time on the spiritual aspect of chronic disease, I invite you to join me and the words and wisdom of author Mary Earle for this eight-week journey.  With chronic disease, the invitation to “begin again” is constant.  The support of others helps many find the inner courage to make the best choice each time circumstances require that we begin again.

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