Meet the Core Team and Retreat Facilitators
While studying at Milltown Institute in Dublin for a degree in Theology, Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry, Niamh met Anne Mc Clean (Co-ordinator COI) who was also studying there and who introduced her to Centering Prayer and the work of Contemplative Outreach. Having been committed to contemplative prayer for some time, she found that sitting to pray with Anne each morning in the College Chapel, learning about Centering Prayer through studying the work of Thomas Keating and attending retreats at St. Aidan’s Monastery all supported her towards fulfilling what had become her deepest heart’s desire – “to grow in relationship with and be transformed in Christ.” From 2008-2009 she worked as Pastoral Development Co-ordinator at St. Aidan’s Monastery during which she was privileged to serve as Co-ordinator of COI. She has been very blessed to have had the opportunity to attend retreats at St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass in 2008 and again in 2009 where she learned from the wisdom of Fr. Thomas Keating and his student David Frenette.
Niamh is currently working as Chaplain at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin, having previously spent many years in education as a Primary School teacher and Post-Primary School Chaplain. On her present position Niamh comments: “I believe I have now found my niche in Healthcare Chaplaincy. Here I hope to be a contemplative presence in the midst of suffering; a presence which I believe is inspired and driven by my daily Centering Prayer practice.” Niamh continues to be committed to the work of Contemplative Outreach Ireland and is actively involved in supporting those who are attracted to the practice of Centering Prayer and in co-facilitating Centering Prayer retreats at St. Aidan’s Monastery.
Fr Tom Dalton
Tom is a priest of the Diocese of Ferns. He trained at St Peter’s College Seminary, Wexford, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Theology degree from the Pontifical University of Maynooth in May 1994. He was ordained to the priesthood in June 1994. Following a number of years as a Curate he was appointed Parish Priest to Rathangan /Clearistown in 2006.
Tom has always felt drawn to pray in a contemplative way. He “stumbled” into Centering Prayer through an organised Diocesan Retreat in September 1994. It was to be a life changing experience for him. The following year he was sent by the Diocese to Fr Thomas Keating at St Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado. Here he was to learn more about Centering Prayer with the hope of teaching it upon his return in the Wexford area. Shortly afterwards along with Sr Marie Dolores and a small group of others, Contemplative Outreach Ireland was born. On his own commitment and faithfulness to the prayer practice he says; “In a busy world and ministry Centering Prayer sustains me daily. It helps me to stay rooted in a God that loves and accepts me just as I am. Consequently, I can love and accept others more easily. I also know that it enables me to be more open to whatever God needs me to do.”
Tom is a trained Introductory Workshop presenter and a Centering Prayer retreat facilitator. He was awarded a Diploma in the Ministry of Spiritual Direction from The Milltown Institute, Dublin in August 2007. He teaches Introductory Centering Prayer Workshops and facilitates retreats at St. Aidan’s Monastery, Ferns.
For the past 10 years Eileen has been very drawn to Centering Prayer as a way of prayer. Over the years praying in this way has had a huge impact on her life, both in her own prayer life, deepening her relationship with God, and extending out into the work she is involved in daily life. Eileen has participated in a number of Centering Prayer retreats with Contemplative Outreach Ireland. Both as a retreatant and as a retreat facilitator. She also had the privilege of attending two 10 day Post Intensive Retreats in St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass in April 2012. In January 2012 Eileen did her Servant Leadership training in Ferns and Joined the Core Team of Contemplative Outreach Ireland in February 2012. In November 2012 she took on the role as Coordinator of Contemplative Outreach Ireland. In 2014 she completed the Vincentian Formation Programme for Spiritual Direction. Throughout her working life Eileen has practised as an Optometrist. About 15 years ago she became more involved with the voluntary sector and has been working in this area since. Eileen lives with her husband in Dublin. They have 3 children, all now embracing their lives with great energy.
John and Kathleen Ormond
John and Kathleen Ormond are a married couple who are parents and grandparents. They have four adult children.
They first learned about Centering Prayer in 1999, from Sr Marie Dolores, in St Aidan’s Monastery in Ferns. They were frequent visitors to the Adoration Chapel in the monastery and Sr Dolores was herself practising Centering Prayer and very committed to it.
They both took to the prayer from the start. At the time there were few certainties in their lives. John had completed intensive cancer treatment and the future looked very uncertain. Both of Kathleen’s parents had recently died, also from cancer. Sitting in the loving presence of God and letting go of thoughts was a good way to be. Even so it took a considerable length of time before they settled into a regular twice daily practice. The morning prayer was easiest. They set the clock for half an hour earlier. Establishing a regular evening prayer period was much more difficult.
They were involved with Contemplative Outreach almost from the start as Sr Marie Dolores gently led them by example. They worked for the retreats and eventually became involved in the running of them.
In 2009, for their 30th wedding anniversary, the travelled to Snowmass in Colorado to do a Post Intensive Retreat and returned there again two years later. These trips were very special as were their meetings with Fr Thomas Keating. During one such meeting, John remarked that he, Thomas, had devoted his entire life to prayer. Fr Keating laughed and said “I have, and wouldn’t you think I’d be better at it by now!”
God has a most wonderful sense of humour and, if we allow Him, He will lead us to places we never even dreamed of.
Alan is a Methodist minister and Counselling Psychologist who was born and bred in Ballymena, Co Antrim. Alan considered himself a Protestant atheist and then a hedonistic agnostic in his teens and twenties until a number of personal crisis led him to Christian conversion and a commitment to following Jesus Christ. Alan was greatly influenced by the Charismatic/evangelical traditions but found himself looking for something more in the early 1990’s . He came upon the Jesus Prayer and the Orthodox contemplative tradition and this became part of his devotional life. On returning to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT), he was introduced to Mindfulness-Based CBT, which was shown to help people with long term depression. Alan trained in Mindfulness- Based CBT while researching it from a Christian perspective as part of a PhD in Pastoral theology. This research led him to explore contemplative spirituality in Christianity and to the discovery of Centering Prayer through the work of Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating and Cynthia Bourgeault.
In June 2012 Alan was appointed a Pioneer Minister by the Methodist Church in Ireland. He is currently working in the Carlisle Circus area of North Belfast at a centre called well.com. This is a fresh expression of church where psychotherapy and Christian spirituality are integrated and rooted around a rhythm of daily prayer. Centering Prayer is a vital spiritual discipline for Alan personally and in the rhythm and outreach of well.com.
Alan completed the Servant Leadership programme in Jan 2012 and is a member of the Core Team of Contemplative Outreach Ireland.
COI Retreat Facilitators
Siobhán lives in Dublin with her husband Bob. They have three grown up children. She qualified as a chartered accountant in the1970’s, but was very happy to leave the business world on the birth of her first child. Now that her children have flown the nest, Siobhán volunteers in the community and in Blackrock hospice.
For Siobhán her spiritual awakening happened in 1994 with the death of her mother. Her search started immediately and over 20 years later she can now say that her Mum’s death was a major turning point in her life. “There really was no search, because it seems that everywhere I turned God was there. Whether it was by somebody handing me the right book or me seeing a notice for the right course … God was certainly leading, caring for and carrying me”
In 1994 Fr Paddy Cusack S.J. was giving a course locally on Ignation Contemplation which Siobhan attended and from here her love of prayer grew. Fr Paddy also, over the years, introduced the group to silent prayer which Siobhán now recognises to have been Centering Prayer. When Fr Paddy died Siobhán continued her spiritual journey by completing a diploma in Theology in the Milltown Institute from 2001-2003. But her prayer life had lost its rhythm and she yearned to taste again the peace and silence she had experienced under Fr Paddy’s guidance.
In 2008 seeing a notice for a course locally in Centering Prayer Siobhan attended and realised to her delight that she had found what she was looking for. “I found the method of prayer very easy and uncomplicated and within a few weeks of practicing the prayer, I realised the practice of “letting go” in prayer was spilling over into my daily life”.
Siobhán has had the great privilege of meeting Fr Thomas Keating in 2009 while he was presenting at a conference in the United Kingdom. She has attended and facilitated at many Centering Prayer retreats around the country. She completed her Servant Leadership in 2013 and has presented the Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop to a number of groups.
Broken by a relentless driven-ness and perfectionism Anne found herself in early 2004 at a crossroads in her life. It was a time “when I begun to ask the big questions and I wondered what life was all about.” In what she now describes as “a God instance” she found herself one evening following a dinner party, listening to a conversation about Centering Prayer. With a compelling urge to listen intently, she felt totally drawn to the explanation being given on the method of Centering Prayer. She began the practice the next day. Through solitude and silence she eventually found her inner voice, that she now says, “carried me into the mystery of Contemplative Prayer and the tenderness of God’s love”. Shortly after beginning the prayer practice she was introduced to the Contemplative Outreach Ireland group at St. Aidan’s Monastery.
In 2007 she travelled to St. Benedict’s Monastery in Colorado where she spent a grace filled ten days praying and learning with Fr. Thomas Keating during a Post Intensive Centering Prayer retreat. Later that year she took a career break from her full time post as a Director of Nursing to deepen her practice of Centering Prayer and to go on what she refers to as, “the long journey inwards.” She also began her studies with the Jesuit Community at the Milltown Institute in Dublin and graduated in 2010 with a BA Degree in Theology, Spirituality & Pastoral Ministry. Continuing her spiritual education with the Jesuits, she completed a two year Diploma in Spiritual Direction in 2012 at The Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality in Dublin. From September 2009 to October 2012 she acted as Co-ordinator of COI, a ministry she lovingly held close to her heart. She works in a full time position as Director of Nursing for the HSE, while continuing to play an active role in COI. She is married to Kevin and they have two grown up children.