Dearest monks and pilgrims,
Now that the pandemic seems to be (at least temporarily) subsiding many of you are looking for meaningful travel opportunities.
We decided early on in 2022 to cancel all of the in-person programs we had scheduled. There were several reasons for this — it takes an enormous amount of work to plan for these pilgrimages and to keep having them delayed the last couple of years hasn’t been sustainable for us so we have chosen to focus our energy in other directions for the time being. The pandemic is still ongoing and new variants can emerge at any time. We consider your well-being a sacred responsibility and are not yet prepared to navigate what it means to gather people traveling internationally together in ways that feel truly safe. I myself am immune compromised so am proceeding very cautiously.
During our Jubilee Year (2019-2020) we were discerning at the time whether we could cut back on our in-person programs. We love leading them, but the energy demands was getting to be more than my body, with an autoimmune illness and fatigue I need to honor, was able to manage. We weren’t sure we could make things work financially with only online programs and then of course the pandemic hit. Everything went online and we discovered not only were we fine because of our amazing community who continued to show up for one another, but the rhythms of teaching from home in small chunks of energy output suited my body’s needs much better.
We are listening a lot these days. We experimented with so many different programs and possibilities these last couple of years. Novenas, mini-retreats, virtual pilgrimages, guest teachers, contemplative prayer services, yoga classes, poetry readings, and more. We continue to discern what is sustainable for us given both my body’s needs and my heart’s desire for long open spaces to pray and write. I know my greatest teaching is the one I live out through my own practices and choices.
So for the time being – at least through 2022 and likely beyond – we will not be gathering pilgrims together in person. It will be a while before we figure out what would work best for us. Perhaps it is leading a single day of reflection in Galway and pilgrims gather and build their own trips around that. The financial risk has been too great for the longer programs. It is not only having to cancel five programs in one season because of the onset of the pandemic, but all the costs that go into planning, preparing, and communicating and then having to change everything.
I have been invited by other institutions to lead some upcoming programs. At the moment I am tentatively returning to Chartres, France with Veriditas to lead a retreat on Mary at the end of September 2023 pandemic and health-allowing.
We are unable to help you plan your own trips to Ireland. As summer approaches we get dozens of these requests and it is not feasible for us to reply to them all. What we will offer is a list of Ireland travel suggestions we sent out to our pilgrims. There are some wonderful guides you can hire to help you with your journey too.
While I’d love to meet every single dancing monk who passes through Galway on holiday or pilgrimage for tea and a hug, that also is not feasible given the number of requests and my own needs for large amounts of quiet for rest, prayer, and writing.
We ask you to understand these demands on our time means we have to set a firm boundary. Any requests for travel advice or getting together will receive a link to the details shared above.
With a deep bow of gratitude for each of you, truly I give thanks every day for this community of such beautiful seeking souls.
Sending you the warmest blessings from Ireland,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD