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Redwood Groves: Immersion in Simplicity & Spirituality

Friday, May. 2, 2014
Redwoods Monastery, 2014

Santa Clara is renowned for producing well-rounded students who live the life of the three C’s: conscience, compassion, and competence. The Ignatian Center’s Immersion program offers students, faculty, staff and alumni a chance to live out these three C’s and focus on simple living. Trips are held both nationally and internationally, introducing men and women to marginalized communities and promoting compassion and solidarity. Almost all of the immersion programs focus on simple living and helping participants recognize their spiritual discernment and vocational paths. Simple living may be seen through living accommodations or food, or it may focus on mindful practices such as prayer. These experiences are diverse in their locations, purposes, and outcomes for the communities they serve; however, they uniformly impact their participants in a positive way.

A new immersion trip was introduced this Spring - Redwoods. Simply put, the word "redwoods" was enough to attract many sign-ups. For one week, students mirrored the lives of Cistercian nuns at Redwoods Abbey in Northern California. Each day the students participated in the meditation, vigil, lectio divina (spiritual reading) and silence during their time at the Abbey. During the afternoon, students took part in manual labor such as gardening, flower gathering, and creaming honey. Simple living at the monastery was seen through the modest housing, simple yet delectable fresh, vegetarian meals, and the daily schedule. Situated in a phenomenal location with multiple redwood groves, participants walked, hiked, and meditated with the trees. On one of the final days, the students drove to the Lost Coast--famous for its sheer cliffs, black sand, and home to the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton.

Founded in 1962, Redwoods Monastery originated from the Cistercian Monastery of Nazareth in Belgium. Currently, twelve women live at the monastery, including some who traveled from the original Monastery in Belgium. Cistercian life focuses on seeing God in their monastic schedule, community living, and environmental setting. Many of these women have been crucial players in saving hundreds of acres of redwood trees and putting the land into conservation. The sisters believe that living in old growth redwood forests reflects the spirit of the monastery and promotes spiritual reflection. The concrete floors of the serene church building were cracked by redwood roots as they grew and intertwined with others in their grove. The Sunday Church service is open to the public and people are welcome to participate in retreats that the Monastery leads. Laypeople can even go and stay for the weekend and participate in the silence, meditation, and prayer with the sisters.

This year, ten Santa Clara University students participated in the Redwoods Immersion program. As a participant myself, I can say that every single one of us was impacted during our week. Living with the nuns for a week gave us an opportunity to live without the distractions of academic work, technology, and social pressures. We all gained a sense of tranquility and inner peace that I could never have imagined. I look forward to returning to Redwoods Abbey someday and taking part in such a rich spiritual tradition. When we returned to Santa Clara, each student worked to bring something back from the Abbey, including short meditation practices, lectio divina, or carving out time to sit and be grateful for the incredible lives we lead.

To learn more about the Ignatian Center’s Immersion Trips, click here. And to learn more about Redwoods Monastery, click here.

Contributed by Lynsey Cumberford-Palmer '14, Sustainability Intern, Employee Engagement

Tags: Centers of Distinction, Program Highlights, Spirituality



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