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Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

We would like to feature work that is being done by alumni in the world, illustrating how the teaching and practice of the Living School has enabled and focused that work for the betterment of others. We invite your stories, photos, video clips, or other ways of sharing how the Spirit is moving you to love and serve, wherever you are on the planet.

We also welcome alumni reflections on how you are integrating contemplative practice with daily living. How do you respond to the myriad situations which confront you without falling into defensive modes, ego-investment, reactive instincts which divide the world into “us and them?”

You might explore one or more of these questions:

  • How has what you learned in the Living School shaped your life?
  • How are you continuing to learn and grow in the ways of contemplation and action?
  • What has been your “growing edge” or a challenge as you seek to live what you’re learning?
  • How has your prayer life and active life changed?
  • If someone reading this wanted to help—supporting a project or your personal journey—how might they do that?

Please submit brief reflections to [email protected]. Selected submissions will be posted here as well as shared in the Living School alumni newsletter. By submitting material you acknowledge that you have permission to share the content (including music, images, poetry, etc.). Feel free to include a link where we can learn more about your work. Written submissions should be 500 words or fewer; audio or video recordings should be no longer than 10 minutes.

Image by Helen FitzgeraldHelen Fitzgerald shared with us the risky work of building relationships of real caring between supposed enemies. In November 2015, Helen travelled to Israel and Palestine as part of an international delegation to practice Compassionate Listening. Compassionate Listening is a process of transformative listening in the midst of adversarial relationships. The group participated in listening sessions with the hope that in the vulnerability of each person-to-person encounter, wounds could be healed and seeds of peace could be planted. For Helen, the trip helped to bridge her contemplative practice and her work for social justice.
Click here to see more photos and learn more about The Compassionate Listening Project.


Paul Tratnyek

Paul has been working with the World Community for Christian Meditation to introduce children in Ontario’s Roman Catholic schools to Christian Meditation. They have created a resource manual and are developing a model for contemplative retreats for principals, teachers, and support staff. Paul will be sharing his experience at the Catholic Education Summit in June 2016. He says: “The experience of the Living School has shaped my response in intentionally bringing the contemplative practice of meditation to students and staff in our Catholic schools throughout Ontario and other parts of Canada. The openness and desire for contemplative prayer and its natural flow into compassionate action is a sign of the spiritual hunger of our times. The Living School has been a prophetic voice in responding to this hunger.” Watch a short video about Christian Meditation with children.


Jan Elfers

In January 2016, Jan was called to be the Executive Director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO). EMO is a state-wide ecumenical and interfaith organization dedicated to direct community service, advocacy, and theological education and dialogue. EMO’s programs include the Northeast Emergency Food Program, an HIV Day Center, Russian Oregon Social Services (focused on women’s health and domestic and sexual violence), Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees or SOAR (one of three refugee resettlement organizations in Oregon), SOAR Legal (providing legal assistance to immigrants and refugees), Circles of Support and Accountability (a restorative justice model for re-entry support after release from prison), Second Home (matching unaccompanied high school students with families who can provide a home though high school), the Patton Home (single unit housing for low-income seniors) and an Environmental Ministries Program which includes the Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns, Oregon Interfaith Power and Light, and Food and Farms. In addition, EMO does grass roots organizing and advocating in Salem, Oregon’s capitol, addressing the underlying and systemic issues that create and perpetuate poverty, injustice, and violence in our society. All of these efforts are grounded in deeply held theological values—ethical and moral foundations that are based on a commitment to be compassionate, to alleviate suffering in our world, and to be bridge builders and reconcilers.


Gabrielle Stoner

Brie has launched a website, Becoming Ultra Human, an exploration of the teachings of Teilhard de Chardin. In Brie’s words: “It’s hard for me to explain why this man’s life and work has so captivated me. When I read his writings I somehow understand the landscape of my own soul and recognize the same passion that I too would dedicate my life to.

“Maybe some of my particles were swimming around the drapery of that tiny apartment that day . . . and maybe the snow that’s falling outside my window are made of his last breaths. Maybe deep down we all remember being one with each other and these types of resonant connections exist to remind us of what we’ve forgotten.

This short video was part of Brie’s Living School project. Brie calls it “my own ode to Teilhard and my own effort and dedication toward making his work more accessible.”


Be the change image. Be the Change
At the 2015 Living School Symposium, student Tasha Wahl, 2016 cohort, hid a beautiful butterfly on the grounds of the Hyatt Tamaya. Debonee Morgan, 2015 cohort and now alumna, found the butterfly and chose to donate the prize money to the Living School scholarship fund. Thanks to Butterfly Effect and Debonee for helping us make the Living School program accessible for students regardless of financial ability! You can learn more about donating to the scholarship fund here.






Alana Levandoski CD cover image.Behold I Make All Things New
Alana Levandoski’s music CD, Behold, I Make All Things New, was part of her integration process for the Living School program and is now available for order at Alumna Julie Ann Stevens contributed the artwork for the album. Enjoy a full track from the CD: “The Christ Hymn,” a collaboration of poets inspired by the cosmic Christ hymn from Colossians.





Healing from Religion's Wounding cover image.Healing from Religion’s Wounding
Alumna Teresa B. Pasquale’s book Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma, with a foreword by Richard Rohr, will be published in October. Brian McLaren writes: “So many people have been wounded by religion. So few understand the personal, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of these wounds. As a pastor and a professional therapist, Teresa Pasquale is the first person I would go to for help in processing spiritual pain.”