Rev. Jenny Gleichauf, ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA and pastor at Winnetka Congregational Church in Winnetka, Illinois, first discovered Holy Wisdom Monastery when she was a seminary student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Our own Lynne Smith, OSB, attended McCormick, and the community has fostered a relationship with the seminary for years. Jenny came here for a silent retreat, and always looks forward to her return visits.
“As soon as you drive up that drive, the rest of the world disappears,” she says about the turn off County Highway M and onto the 130 acres of prairie land at the Monastery. “The space is so serene. Some people think of a monastery as being stark and full of cement walls, but here you find a simple, homey place where people love the food and where prayer is done so well.”
Each January, Jenny brings female members of her church to Holy Wisdom Monastery for an annual retreat. The two-and-a-half hour drive from the Chicago suburbs is close enough to enjoy, but far enough for the women to truly leave behind the stresses and worries of their life. Women from 35 to 85 years old participate in the retreat. Some know each other well, while others are new to the group. It’s a way for women of multiple generations to bond and carry those bonds throughout the rest of the year at church.
With dozens of retreat centers in the Chicago area, why does Jenny continue to bring women from her congregation to Holy Wisdom Monastery? “It’s a great place to catch up on rest,” she says. “The healthy and really good meals are a big appeal, and the members of community eat with us. The sisters are so hospitable. I’ve gone to other retreat centers where there isn’t as much interaction, and where you don’t meet other members of the monastic community. It’s nice that members eat with us, and spend time with us.”
Interested in bringing your church retreat to Holy Wisdom Monastery? Contact Jerrianne Bland at (608) 836-1631 ext. 158 for more details. Meeting space for other groups is also available.