August 25-29, 2024
Listening for Whispers of the Holy Wild
Have you ever walked into a particular place -- a forest or spot along a shore or a whole region and suddenly, unexpectedly felt as if you were home? A homecoming that often brings irrational tears, a remembering without words or logic. Maybe it's the place you were born. Or the place where your ancestors lived. Often, it is even more mysterious than that. You feel as if you recognize an unknown place, or that the place somehow recognizes you. This knowing-and-feeling-known is a phenomenon of interconnected belonging.
"There is a mysterious union that happens when we enter into relationship with the wild and practice sacred conversation." Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred
Have you felt this? A bidding, a return of some kind, an alluring invitation to come closer, to listen, to enter into conversation. This is how the call of the sacred wild feels. When a place calls you quietly and persistently like this, I call it terra cognita: known territory. A territory of soul, connected to a particular land and sea.
This experiential offering is one of saying yes to that deep irrational even mythic call of the sacred wild to return to soul in Ireland. To listen with an open heart to the whispers of an alive and ancient world where we already and always belong.
If you find yourself seeking a more wild spirituality, consider joining a cohort of like-hearted friends at Ards Friary on the northwest coast of Ireland. Accompanied by two hundred acres of thick forest peopled by native oak and rowan, craggy stoned beaches and vibrant azul Atlantic waters, this is one of those life-changing experiences where you can feel your old stories restructure to make room for a new way of being human in deep relationship with a sacred and living Earth.
ARDS Friary Retreat Center
Letterkenny Donegal Ireland
Traditionally a Capuchin monastery and retreat center, Ards Friary is transitioning to become a Center for Contemplative Ecology. Brother Philip, the "Guardian of Ards Friary," is one of the kindest, brightest most humble humans you could ever know. His vision for the retreat center aligns beautifully with the mission of the Center for Wild Spirituality:
Our vision at Ards is one of a world that is naturally beautiful, bountiful, just and life-giving, where we are able to remember we are all interconnected and learn to live as brothers and sisters with all of creation.’
Fee includes lodging at the retreat center. Private single rooms with double beds and shared dorm-style bathrooms. Delicious daily meals that accommodate vegetarian restrictions as needed. What is not included is your transportation to the retreat center.
Flow of the Retreat
You can expect a slow, reverent and contemplative flow with lots of time for rest, deep conversations with like-hearted companions, wandering about the enchanted forest or swimming in the invigorating sea. The focus is to listen to the sacred voices echoing between you and the rest of the living and sacred Earth. This is the way of reWilding.
The Guides: The experience will be guided by people who have devoted their lives to the journey of learning and teaching pathways into deeper connection with the divine incarnate world. Victoria Loorz will hold the container for the week, providing invitations for wandering and a context for the flow of the week. Her sister, Valerie Serrels, will offer rituals and ceremonies to honor emerging meaning for our time together.
ReWilding the Land. Seán Ó Gaoithín, head gardener at Ireland's largest national park and author of books about the native trees of Ireland, is leading the effort to rewild the land surrounding the retreat center. He will invite us to embodied reverence while planting native species on the Ards land.
ReWilding the Soul. Dr Craig Chalquist, eco-therapist and depth psychologist specializing in how the land impacts our psyche, will offer stories and invitations to invite intimacy as we engage in sacred storytelling with the trees, waters, and beings this enchanted place.
ReWilding the Spirit. Diarmund O'Murchu, Irish theologian and social psychologist, will tie the ribbons of our experience into an emerging spirituality of sacred conversation, which is a spirituality of incarnation in deep inter-relationship.
Convener & Host
Victoria's passion to reconnect people with the sacred wild guides her work as a Wild Church leader, an Eco-Spiritual Director, founder & director of the Center for Wild Spirituality (aka Seminary of the Wild) and co-founder of the ecumenical Wild Church Network. Her book, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred, is an invitation to deepen our commitment to a suffering earth by falling in love with it--and calling it church. She is committed to the collaborative emergence of a new way of being human with a wild spirituality.
ReWilding Spirituality Guide
Irish theologian Diarmuid O'Murchu, author of 20+ books including Quantum Theology and the upcoming Ecological Spirituality, is a social psychologist and priest residing now in Dublin. He calls his adult theological perspective a "re-discovery" of the Celtic spirituality he was taught as a child, which stressed a deep connection between God and nature. As O'Murchu began to read Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry, their emphasis on the sacredness of the earth resonated with him and he began to articulate his own theology.
Seán Ó Gaoithín
ReWilding Earth Guide
Seán is a hedge druid who has had a deep connection with and respect for nature since childhood. He is master gardener at Glenveagh National Forest in Donegal Ireland, with keen interest in growing native trees, bio-dynamics, and foraging medicinal wild plants. He practices Gaia Touch Dialogue with landscape angels and nature spirits and is a follower of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn. Much of his journey has been focused Cultural Memory Recovery - the search for an authentic indigenous spirituality. He lives on the Irish coast near Falcarragh.
Dr. Craig Chalquist
ReWilding Self Guide
Craig is a professor and prolific author, who writes and teaches at the intersection of psyche, story, and imagination, with one foot in the academy and the other in the world. As a loreologist, Craig provides resources for exploring the limits and possibilities of the personal and collective stories that can reconnect us with the living Earth. Craig has been professor, provost, and dean for several depth psychology higher ed institutes. He sees his work in the world in service to creating and supporting the sustainable, just, and delightful communities of belonging.
Valerie is co-founder and current director of the Wild Church Network, founder/spiritual leader of Shenandoah Valley Church of the Wild, and an eco-spiritual director. She loves helping people see their own potential to live a soul-centric life, in deep connection with the rest of the living world. From a Celtic cosmology, she creates rituals and ceremonies that expand our capacity to enter into sacred conversation.
"...The retreat became a transformative space where I delved into my innermost longings and underwent a significant personal metamorphosis. I wholeheartedly recommend this once-in-a-lifetime trip to anyone seeking to step out of their norm and immerse themselves in sacred listening. Don’t miss the call to jump into your homecoming!”
Alex Balfour, Organization and Personal Coach
New York City
O, kindly, generous Irish land,
So leal and fair and loving!
No wonder the wandering Celt should think
And dream of you in his roving.
The alien home may have gems and gold,
Shadows may never have gloomed it;
But the heart will sigh for the absent land
Where the love-light first illumed it
stanza from"The Exile's Return, or Morning on the Irish Coast" by John Locke
Guided three full day and two half day retreat. Begins noon (lunch) on Sunday and ends after lunch on Thursday.
Lodging and delicious meals at Ards Retreat Centre. (single rooms with double beds and dorm-style bathrooms)
Travel to one outing during the week is included.
Not included: travel expenses