Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat responds to coronavirus

Congregation of the Humility of Mary staff member Brule Hampton and Communication Director Lisa Martin don beekeeper suits at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat in Wheatland earlier this year.

By Sr. Margaret Kruse, OSF
For The Catholic Messenger

The coronavirus has stopped all of us in our tracks, not only at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat, but throughout the world. We, at The Prairie, closed our doors to guests in the middle of March, but hope to reopen Aug. 1 if we feel it is appropriate.

Even though OLPR has been closed to the public since March 12, the facility has been “buzzing” with outdoor projects, including the addition of eight new beehives. Construction of the Sunrise Shop has begun, the garden areas and flowerbeds are being rejuvenated, and signs of new life are everywhere.

Although visitors have missed the blooming of the crab apple trees, daffodils, peonies, irises and much more, we are able to stay connected and share our seasonal beauty on our OLPR Facebook page. Please take the time to treat yourself to one of these 30- to 60-second Micro Retreat videos that have been saved to our YouTube channel. Links can be found at the bottom of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary webpage, www.chmiowa.org. While you are at YouTube, check out the UN World Bee Day video and see Marketing and Communications Director Lisa Martin as she dons a beekeeper suit and interviews our beekeeper, Bob Roe.

We are also using this down time as an opportunity to implement new guidelines and policies to keep retreatants and staff safe during this time of change.
The COVID-19 experience has forced us to meet with committees and attend many meetings virtually through Zoom and has taught us new ways to connect with family and friends around the world. In May, we experimented with a well-received online retreat and have plans for more in the future.

This time of the pandemic has shifted the way we connect and experience life. It has provided us with the opportunity to slow down, to take time to reflect and to give nature time to breathe and rejuvenate itself. In our slower pace we can see more clearly what is important — family, friends, nature, etc. — and consciously hold them with greater appreciation and reverence. We are being given the gift of time to strengthen our bonds with each other, to be creative in our time together.

This pandemic is calling us to be awakened to a deeper presence of God in our lives, listening to what God is calling us to do, and creating a world with more love for people most in need. Online meetings and religious services are opening more opportunities of a bigger world to us. We can attend liturgy anywhere, from the Vatican to Houston, Texas, to Africa. We can also explore different religious traditions — widening our vision and expanding our understanding of other cultures. The internet may be a sign of a development of a new consciousness on the horizon that can change our thinking, but most importantly our love for others.

We will not go back to the old normal after this pandemic — and many of us may not want to. This time is calling us to a new vision of thinking, being and living. Boldly we must go forward into the future, whatever it may be, whatever we are being called to do. We should use this opportunity to ready ourselves for this new challenge.

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