It’s spring, the garden and flowering trees are blooming, and members of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross are readying guest rooms at Adelynrood for summer retreats and courses. On a recent sunny day, about 20 women from throughout the Northeast were lugging linens, making beds and airing out the rooms.
Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center is set on a pastoral landscape in rural Byfield, 45 minutes north of Boston. Since 1914 when the first guest house was built, it has offered a place of peace for rest, renewal and reflection, as its website says. It also serves as the headquarters for more than 700 women, known as Companions, organized into 32 chapters from the U.S., Canada, England and India.
Adelynrood has intimate and large spaces for meetings, classes and retreats, equipped with Internet connectivity for streaming. Vestries have gathered there for retreats and quiet days. Individuals are welcome to come for private stays to pray, reflect and walk the large wooded grounds and hiking trails. Clergy discounts are available.
Adelynrood has a full line-up of summer programs, open to all; some are one day long, others run for two, three or four days. The schedule starts with "The Enneagram and Your Spiritual Journey," led by the Rev. Michelle Meech, from May 30 to June 2. There’s a quiet day, "Tending Your Soul," on June 7; programs for writers and knitters; three days in August offering "Time and Space to Create"; two and three-day programs on racial healing and moral revival; and a quiet day on Aug. 9 centered around Thomas Merton, among other offerings. Adelynrood also runs a School for Spiritual Direction that meets twice this summer.
As the season gets underway, everyone is welcome to come stroll the grounds during an Open House Community Picnic and Craft Fair on Saturday, June 3 from noon to 3 p.m., which will include family activities.
Adelynrood's facilities include cozy private guest rooms with desks for journaling; bathrooms are shared. There are four cottages on the grounds with their own bathrooms; one permits pet friends. Guests are provided healthy meals (with choices for gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and other special diets).
Adelynrood provides spaces for individual and corporate prayer: a small, sunny meditation room, small and large chapels and places to sit and pray on the grounds. There are libraries filled with religious and secular books (including mysteries from the library of Companion Lis Gordon of Beverly, who passed away in 2011) and lots of comfortable armchairs for reading.
Adelynrood is a quiet place to renew and recharge the spirit. Visitors may join the Companions in their daily "Holy Routine": 7 a.m. Canticle of the Sun, 7:15 a.m. Morning Prayer (Eucharist on Wednesdays and Sundays), noonday Intercessory Prayer and 9 p.m. Compline. Companions are there to greet visitors, help them settle in and feel at home.
About the Companions
The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross was established in 1884, as a group of women united by prayer and companionship, by Emily Morgan and Adelyn Howard, for whom Adelynrood is named.
Companions from all over come to Adelynrood each fall to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. That is when they remember those who have died during the previous year and make a procession to the memorial area that is marked by a wooden cross, called the Great Cross. Cremains of some Companions are buried there.
The Society is one of three women’s organizations in the Episcopal Church. It gave a voice to women at a time when women had no voice in the church, according to the Rev. Jackie Schmitt, Companion-in-Charge from Yonkers, N.Y.
“The Episcopal Church Women and Daughters of the King were established to support the church. We are a separate Episcopal organization that is not beholden to any bishop. Women could always speak here,” Schmitt said.
“What sets us apart are our aims–our commitment to prayer, social justice and simplicity of life. There is a dynamic vibrancy between prayer and social concerns,” she said.
Co-founder Emily Morgan wrote in 1926: “We pass from prayer into action for others, which, done with our Lord, may become sustained prayer and the gift of the human touch in relation to all our work of bringing happiness and release into other lives."
A number of notable women have been Companions, including author Madeleine L’Engle and civil rights activist Esther Burgess, wife of the Episcopal Church’s first Black diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Melville Burgess, who served as such in the Diocese of Massachusetts from 1970 to 1975 (and as bishop suffragan before that, from 1962 to 1969).
Deacon Ema Rosero-Nordalm from Brighton has been a Companion in 2016. She has brought Latina women on retreat to Adelynrood four times and has another retreat planned for the fall. Adelynrood is donating use of the facilities, including room and board.
“These retreats provide a chance to rest for women who never have that opportunity,” Rosero-Nordalm said. “Mothers get a couple of days away from children and don’t have to cook.” Women have told her, she said, “God is here and God is talking to us.”
She is one of only two Latina Companions in Massachusetts. Her dream is to recruit more and form a Latina chapter.
Rosero-Nordalm became a Companion because she loved the vows, she said. “To live a simple life–a life of prayer, a life of giving thanks for what we have. Intercessory prayer to pray for others. When I ask for prayers for others, I feel embraced by the prayers.”
She has a long list of people that she prays for every morning. The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross publishes a monthly booklet with intercessory prayers for each day, and Rosero-Nordalm wrote one of May's thanksgiving-focused prayers, which she offered in gratitude for the work she is doing with Latina women to build Beloved Community:
Dios de bondad, compasión, de amor infinito llenando nuestras vidas, presente mientras con gozo y entusiasmo compartimos quiénes somos, la sabiduría que nos enriquece, las ideas que nos inspiran a las luchas urgentes, nuestro caminar con corazones agradecidos escuchando la vida que se renueva a cada instante.
Cómo no agradecerte Dios amado a cada paso, en nuestros silencios, en las sonrisas y la luz en los ojos al hablarnos y abrazarnos, en las oraciones elocuentes, comunidades sintiendo tu tierna caricia al alabarte por la labor encaminada y realizada.
God of goodness and compassion, of infinite love filling our lives, present while with joy and enthusiasm we share who we are, the wisdom enriching us, the ideas that inspire us to urgent struggles, our walking with grateful hearts listening to life as it is renewed at every moment.
I cannot thank you enough, loving God, at every step; in our silence, in the smiles and the light in our eyes when speaking and embracing each other, in the eloquent prayers; communities feeling your tender caress, praising you for the work to be done and already completed.
--Deborah Gardner Walker