There are many different ways in which people can become an integral part of what we do here: friends, donors, retreatants, workers, short-term residents, and long-term residents.
Friends – We place a premium on genuine friendship and hospitaility. Anyone who simply wishes us well is greatly appreciated. Spoken words. Letters. Cards. Emails. Prayers. Intentions. Lighting a candle. We truly appreciate them all.
Donors – We value doing things for other people. We do those things because we enjoy being compassionate – setting ourselves aside, seeing the world through another’s eyes, and meeting their needs on their terms. All Christians are called to live that way toward all others. We do no insist that everyone in the world act that way. instead, we are out to build an extended community of people who want to learn how to do that, which is a life-long process. We are always humbled by people’s donations of materials and time because at those times people are reaching out both to us as well as to those whom we serve. Thank you for your generosity.
Retreatants – Over the years many people from a broad background have joined us here in this remote location for retreat. Their own needs have dictated how they have spent their time. We have protected some people’s privacy for uninterrupted periods of solitude, contemplation, and prayer. We have spent days in continuous contact with guests who just needed to talk. And then again we have taught others how to manually labour. Meals and sleeping accommodations are always available for free to any visitor, although they are very basic. Many retreatants find that physical labour compliments their spiritual practises/time in solitude – ask us how.
Workers – In season there is always work to accomplish on this farm. Some of the work is domestic: weaving, washing wool, processing food, cleaning, and starting plants. Some of the work is outdoor, energetic, and can be physically taxing: planting, pruning, tilling, harvesting, baling, woodlot management, cordwood, construction, mechanics. Physical work figures predominantly into both our Benedictine spirituality, as well as our Catholic Worker identities. The Parkland Worker is a farm where people of faith join together as a community both to learn to work, as well as to produce tangible goods that freely benefit others.
Short-Term Workers – We welcome people who come here to contribute seasonally to what we produce for the benefit of sharing with others who have the least access to food in particular. There are particular times of greater need. Please contact us to find out when those seasons occur and what is entailed. We welcome CW Houses of Hospitality to come for retreat, rest, involvement in food production, and to personally harvest, process, and transport our produce back home for their usage. We have limited, basic housing opportunities for short-term workers.
Long-Term Workers – While our ultimate goal is to build a community that includes long-term residences, we not able to accommodate longer-term residents outside of a window primarily between April and October. Our accommodations are simple and without utilities that are common in modern life; the climate here is severe in winter. Long-term facilities will become available over time as donations and our own labour is able to build these.
Speaking offhand, and following the Rule of St. Benedict, we ourselves read in the early-to-mid morning, and work from late morning through supper time, interspersed with breaks for rest and prayer. We would not expect more than this from any worker.
Friendship, compassion, and hospitality. These have been precious things throughout our lives. In order to best understand and appreciate the Parkland Worker experience it would be beneficial to any visitor to have read:
The Long Loneliness – the autobiography of Dorothy Day
Easy Essays – Peter Maurin
A Life-Giving Way – a commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict by Esther deWaal
Little Exercises In Learning To Live A Compassionate Life – a workbook that explores the concrete aspects of compassion by Craig Larson
On Spiritual Friendship – Aelred Of Rievaulx
The Wisdom Of The Desert – Thomas Merton
The Seven Storey Mountain – the autobiography of Thomas Merton
New Seeds Of Contemplation – Thomas Merton
Praying The Psalms – Thomas Merton
Contemplative Prayer – Thomas Merton
Practicing The Presence Of God – Brother Lawrence
There are no strangers here; all visitors are for us by definition guests; all guests are friends. We desire to develop and deepen common friendships into genuine friendships (Aelred) with all people of good-will. We assume that people who come here also desire to do so. Trusting relationships only develop over time. A good plan for deepening your friendship with the Parkland Worker starts with contact, progresses into a visit, separates and withdraws into reflection, reengages on a deeper and more prolonged basis, and mutually comes to flower in forming a community with other residents as well as with our extended community.
We also believe that it is wise for people who come to us to have had some experience in a Benedictine community. Benedictine monasteries offer the opportunity to experience the back-and-forth, mutual spiritual-physical nourishment, that happens in this interplay between prayer and work (Ora et labora). Our own practises of spirituality are deeply grounded in our remote participation with our Benedictine community as Oblates. Our understanding of being Catholic Workers is also much more for us than solely a modern social work or activist legacy. It is also tied in our case to the actual spirituality of Dorothy Day (who was herself a Benedictine Oblate), and which fed and supported her actions.
Lastly, our experiences if hospitality – hosting others – since 2000 has clearly shown to us that to come and live like we do, especially on a long-term basis, will definitely inflict severe culture shock, no matter how much this life sounds appealing. Many people have come for retreat which they thought would last several days, only to leave after a few hours. Voluntary poverty, renouncing your ego, solitude, physical labour, simplicity, and compassionate intimate participation in a CW community needs to be gradually, and respectfully lived into.
Please be mindful that if you are coming here from outside the country you may not ‘work’ while in Canada. But you may come on retreat, and as a part of your retreat, physical labour – strictly for your own benefit, such as weaving a scarf or harvesting and processing your own produce – is perfectly acceptable. You are learning a skill or picking your own berries. You are not ‘working’. Additionally, guests from outside the country do not have access to the Canadian health care system; you must provide for the event of your own hospitalization. And finally, by coming to visit us as guests visitors agree to not hold the Parkland Worker nor anyone who is a friend, retreatant, or worker legally liable for any misfortune they may encounter outside of criminal prosecution that can be initiated by a government and their representatives under Canada’s criminal code.