by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A backyard, discipleship and the sweet sound of silence.
These are the staples of the prayer group at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.
The group meets every other week in the backyard of the cathedral’s convent to share in the journey of faith and spend 20 minutes in silence listening to God.
“This is a time when so many things are unknown,” said Sister Barbara Wieseler, SCL. “There are so many things that we have no control over.
“A prayer of letting go and letting God be God in their life is so powerful and full of grace.”
The group, led by Sister Barbara and Susan Carroll, a longtime parishioner of St. Peter, began meeting in 2018 after they hosted an “Introduction to Centering Prayer” workshop.
People who attended the workshop were invited to continue practicing contemplative prayer at the cathedral every other week and spend 20 minutes each day in silent prayer.
The workshop was so popular that the women hosted three in all before their efforts were interrupted by COVID-19.
“With every workshop we’ve given, it’s increased the numbers and the diversity of the people that have come,” said Carroll.
Around 15 people are involved in the prayer group and eight to nine attend each session.
Although the group stopped meeting for a while during the shutdown, they were able to resume again this summer in a safe way.
“We thought, ‘Why not just offer it outside?’” said Carroll.
Since starting up again, the group has met in the convent’s backyard and on its front porch. Both areas allow enough space for attendees to spread out while enjoying the fresh air.
Each session includes time for group members to talk about what’s going on in their lives and share any prayer intentions they have.
After that, the group often listens to the writings of an expert on contemplative prayer, like Father Thomas Keating, OCSO, a principal teacher of contemplative prayer for the laity. Finally, they spend 20 minutes in silent prayer and reflection before the session comes to a close.
The highlight is the much-needed silence that allows the group to forgo distractions and focus on God’s love, said Carroll.
“Surrendering to God’s will is a big part of what we consider in our prayer before entering into this silence and surrendering to the presence and action of God within each of us,” she said. “In that surrender comes peace.”
The impact the sessions have on those who attend is apparent.
“Every single person has expressed . . . that it not only is a very peaceful time to come together in a very powerful moment of the healing presence of one another’s faith, but [also in] the presence of God himself,” said Carroll.
“And that for the rest of the week, almost unexplainably, there is a slowed-down, less-reactive mode in our lives [when it comes] to the stresses and the unexpected,” she continued. “We’re able to better cope by just this sense of peace that continues to abide in us.”
The women have been gratified by the opportunity to pray in this vulnerable way with others.
“It’s a transformative experience,” said Sister Barbara. “A big part of it is being comfortable waiting and resting in God’s presence in silent prayer.
“It’s very enriching to be quiet.”
It’s also a blessing for those in the group to share their joys and sufferings with other people in a faith-based setting.
“There’s something cathartic when you hear somebody’s journey that resonates with your own,” said Sister Barbara. “I think it’s just like sharing the peace of Christ with one another.”
Although attending a workshop before joining this particular prayer group is encouraged, Carroll and Sister Barbara welcome those who are interested in the group to reach out.
“If there were enough interest,” said Carroll, “there’s no limitation to the number of people we would welcome.”
If you are interested in learning more about the prayer group at the cathedral, contact Sister Barbara at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (913) 680-9251; or Susan Carroll at: email@example.com or (913) 634-9840.