A Complete Guide to Wellness: 2019

Life is a process that continues to grow….

Welcome to 2019

It’s the time of year for resolutions. Perhaps they’re about losing weight or maintaining a better diet, about praying more, or about spending more time meditating or journaling. The turn of the new year is the time for us to step back and ask what we can do better in the weeks to come.

It’s a noble process. However, for some, like Dominican Sister of Hope Jeanette Redmond, life is actually better without resolutions, per se. According to Sister, life is an ongoing work in progress, not a resolution to be made or fulfilled.


When we understand wellness as a lifestyle rather than a bulleted list of resolutions, we allow ourselves to see the interconnectedness of holistic living, a concept dear to us a a congregation and as sponsors and founders of Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center.

We believe that emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health are all very much connected. Each of these affects the other. And all of these affect us every single day. 

As we kick off 2019, we’ve created this guide to inspire you to prayerfully consider each facet of health as you continue on your path to greater wellness and wholeness. The text ahead is broken into four categories of wellness: physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. Within each section, you’ll find our take on its importance, examples of thought leaders, resources to help you improve, and table/charts to map out your own plan to improve your wellness.

Because wellness is, after all, a process. There’s no beginning and end but always a contribution.

Improving Your Physical Wellness

We are embodied people. There’s no question that God made us with our bodies; as Sister Jeannette Redmond puts it, “I am spirit living in a body, and my spirit works through my body.”

Our bodies are alive, experiencing all of life with us. Just as we should include our bodies in prayer, we should also prioritize keeping them healthy.

Sister Juanita Morales Tai Chi Chih Instructor

“I ran.”

This idea is dear to many of us. In 1998, when Dominican Sister of Hope Juanita heard of a tai chi chih (a particular style of tai chi) class near her home, she couldn’t get there fast enough. “I ran!” she remembers. Soon after, she requested to become a tai chi chih instructor. Nearly twenty years later, she’s still teaching. And while she credits tai chi chih with increasing her physical health (she also practices yoga daily and is sure to walk every morning), it also enriches her prayer life. She has a list of prayers that accompany every movement.

“It was another form of prayer and a way to pray with my body,” Sister Jaunita says.

Consider how you might pray with your body rather than just being resigned to it. Could a daily or three-times-per-week walk in nature help lead you to greater connectedness and physical health? What about yoga, tai chi chih, or an informal dance class?


We Are What We Eat:

The Importance of Interconnectedness

Interconnectedness is important for our community: we believe in purchasing and eating whole, organic, fair-trade foods. This is so critical to us, that we have planted community gardens at Mariandale and, as a community, have taken corporate stances on climate change and GMOs.

When we grow our own food (or source our food from local gardens and farms), we not only honor our bodies, but we also honor Earth. We habe two gardens at Mariandale: one that grows fresh produce for the retreat center and one that is tended by the greater Ossining community – whose harvest we share with the local food bank. Both are, for us, about interconnectedness.

“Our fragile planet is threatened by global climate change; it cries out for sustainability and reverence for life,” says Dominican Sister of Hope Louise Levesque. “We are arriving at a new consciousness about the evolving universe and its essential harmony. Everything exists in relation to everything else.”

As vines and bushes flower in the Mariandale garden to provide wholesome, nutritious meals for all who visit, her words ring more true than ever. 

According to Josh Arcaro, the Chef Manager at Mariandale and manager of the fruit-and-vegetable garden, the garden is all about sustainability. 

“We can’t rely on multi-million-dollar corporations for our produce anymore,” he says. “And we create a huge carbon footprint from shipping food across the country, or internationally.”

Research has proven that eating naturally can help restore the immune system and gut health, and it’s only better when the produce comes from right outside your window.


Here are some of the leading thinkers and influences in physical wellness:

Sister Madonna Buder (The “Iron Nun”)

As a member of the non-canonical Sisters for Christian Community, independent of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Sister Madonna Buder has had the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle. More than two decades later as Sister Madonna, she found her second calling: Running. 

Buder is well known in the Triathlon community for her achievements in age group races. She has completed over 325 triathlons including 45 Ironman Distances. At the 2005 Hawaii Ironman, at age 75, the “Iron Nun” – as she has affectionately became known – became the oldest woman ever to complete the race, finishing 1 hour before the 17-hour midnight cut-off time.

Yoga rejuvenates the body, mind, and spirit through postures to strengthen the body, relieve tension, and encourage mediation. Experience a stretching, calming, soothing, stress-reducing session at Mariandale on Thursday evenings.


Here are some of the top apps we recommend for improving physical wellness in 2019:

Couch to 5k

If you’ve wanted to try running but never known where to start, Couch to 5K should be the next app you download. The free eight-week program gives users three workouts per week that’s been designed to get just about anyone from the couch to running 5 kilometers or 30 minutes in just 9 weeks.

Yoga Wake Up

What better way to ease into the day than with a quick morning yoga flow? Yoga Wake Up delivers a 10-minute sequence at your designated wake-up time. Each sequence is a little different. Some focus more on meditation, while others hone in on holding poses and setting intentions.


Fooducate makes grocery shopping surprisingly fun. Open the app, scan barcodes, and get a quick read on how healthy each item is. It also tracks sleep , mood, and hunger levels. Then Fooducate analyzes all of the information and provides feedback to help you meet your health and fitness goals.


Find yourself tossing and turning most nights? Perhaps the soothing, melodic voice of Andrew Johnson’s DeepSleep guided meditation is the solution you’ve been looking for! This application is a guided meditation designed to help even the most restless of sleepers overcome insomnia and get quality sleep.

Improving Your Intellectual Wellness

For us Dominicans, study isn’t just important, it’s essential. It’s one of the four pillars of Dominican faith. Study is even understood to be a form of worship.

If we believe that our minds are gifts from God, then expanding our minds is a way of using that gift to consequently bring more glory to God. Study can be a form of contemplation on God’s creation or even a contemplation on God wholly. Moreover, as it so often is for Dominicans, study can be used for others: to teach, to expand others’ conceptualizations of the world around them, and to alert others of the very presence of God. 

All of this is to say: our brains are pretty important. And it’s well worth our time to invest in keeping them spry. Developing and pursuing creative habits – such as writing everyday, painting once a week, or learning to code – are a few ways that we can keep our brains strong. However, simple puzzle-solving (many puzzles are easily available on apps and websites!) are good options, too. 


Here are some of the leading thinkers and influences in intellectual wellness:

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas’s most noted work is the Summa Theologica, in which he posits five arguments for the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas wrestled with the truths and engaged with them. He considered them, critiqued them, and put them together such that something with more truth came out in the end. In his spare time, he wrote music. He wrote Pange Lingua, among other hymns, many of which the Church still uses today. 

Studying, reading, writing, debating, and drafting major church writing might not be part of our call as people of faith, but getting creative can help us connect with God all the same.


Helen Alvare

Helen Alvare is a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, where she teaches Family Law, Law and Religion, and Property Law. She also serves as chair of the Catholic Women’s Form, as a consulter for the Pontifical Council of the Laity, and advisor to the U.S. Conference of the Catholic Bishops, and as an ABC news consultant.

Alvare also publishes regularly in news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Examiner. She writes on intellectual topics surrounding women, families, and religion.


Here are some ideas for improving intellectual wellness in 2019:

  • Come use writing prompts to help you create a poem, journal entry, or another collage of words. 
  • Let the surroundings of Mariandale be your inspiration to paint words into a poetic rhythm of lyrical language. We have prompts; you provide the wisdom. 
  • Start a new project of finally finish the one you’ve been meaning to work on at this crafter’s and quilter’s retreat. (Participants are expected to bring tools needed to complete your projects.)
  • Join in community for one session or all five in sharing your experience of Joan Chittister’s Essential Writings about justice, peace, feminist, spirituality, our connection with nature, and the joy of life.

Improving Your Spiritual Wellness

Many of us rise every morning before the sun to spend time in silence with God, and then continue to pray throughout the day. Prayer is essential for spiritual wellness. Connecting with God everyday, throughout different circumstances, leads to a stronger prayer life on the whole, which enriches every other aspect of our lives.


Here are some ideas on how to establish a prayer routine that works for you or how to enhance one that you already have.


We’ve written before about the benefits of silence. Waking up early ensures the chance to pray in complete silence and sometimes even in darkness. By choosing a time when your neighbors aren’t up and your phone won’t ring, you are guaranteed peace and quiet that you can’t get at other times during the day.

Sister Juanita Morales takes this tradition seriously, waking promptly at 4:30 am everyday. She says that she learned from her mother to love silence.

“I remember my mother sitting on the back porch in quiet every night after supper, and I used to go out there and sit with her,” Sister Juanita recalls. “She was praying; I could feel it. So I learned to pray in silence, maybe from that experience.”

No doubt, finding silence is tough (and waking up that early can be even tougher!) but Sister says that it’s absolutely worth it. “You don’t hear doors banging or people walking extra help.


“I like to pray in the dark always,” Sister Jaunita shares. “To be quiet with your God, it’s just neat. I enjoy that.”


Once You’ve begun to get into the groove of prayer, it takes discipline to keep up the habit. It is crucial to assign yourself a specific time every day to pray and to honor that time commitment. The good news is that it doesn’t have ti be a long stretch. Five minutes is a good starting point; you can always increase the length of prayer from there.


Journaling daily is a key way to track progress in one’s spiritual life and to identify patterns that can help inform prayer. Journaling might seem daunting, but you don’t have to start out with a blank slate. We recommend Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, which is a guided journal with an accompanying reflection book.


For many of us, tai chi chih, yoga, or other movements enhance our prayer. Like Sister Juanita, Dominican Sister of Hope Janet Marchesani wakes early in the morning and goes to a private room where she prays the Our Father with bodily movements. She then does yoga and a sitting meditation.

“I firmly believe that God made us body,” Sister Janet explains. “We are embodied people. Therefore, when we pray, why not use our bodies? When you get excited, your whole body comes alive. Why can’t you bring that to God?”


Sister Joan Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace, and
equality — especially for women world-wide — and has been one of America’s visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years. As a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, Joan Chittister has focused her life’s work on the development of contemporary of Benedictine life for seekers today, and justice for the oppressed and marginalized, particularly those in prison. “When I’m cooking, I’m praying for the people who have farms and till the earth, and those who get the goods to me, and the stores. I pray for all those people,” Sister Juanita says.


Certainly, there are steps we can take to help us focus more on prayer. Yet, like any good habit, the only sure way to improve your prayer life is to embark on the task. Whether you’re praying for others, praying with your body, praying in stillness or praying in the dark, the important part is that you pray. There’s never a better time than right now.


Here are some of the leading thinkers and influences in spiritual wellness:

Dominican sisters of Hope Nancy Erts and Bette Ann Jaster

After working together to legalize beekeeping in the Village of Ossining, Sisters Nancy and Bette Ann then welcomed two beehives onto Mariandale’s campus. They are also involved with gardening for the local food bank, facilitating nature-based retreats, and landscaping naturally to promote the health of butterflies locally.
This spring, they join together to present Bees, Blossoms, and Butterflies: Gardening as a Spiritual Exercise at Mariandale. New and seasoned gardeners are invited to explore and accept the abundant graces that emerge from within us during an experience of gardening.


St. Catherine of Siena

“I always pick the rose from your thorns,” Saint Catherine of Siena hears God
say. Catherine was never schooled in scholastic theology; she learned to write at the ripe age of thirty. Although she
Thomas Aquinas, she is still a Doctor of the Church, and an important one, at that.

She is a Dominican saint, and she is widely revered for her writings and wisdom. Catherine teaches us that the best way to talk about God is from our own theology. Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Dominic produced manifestos –both in writing and in leadership– from their formal studies. Saint Catherine, alternatively, produces gems of wonder from her own experience, and they are just as godly.

One of Saint Catherine of Siena’s most powerful prayers is the one in which she asks the Holy Spirit to come into her heart. What humble but powerful words!

“You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea. The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you.”
– St. Catherine of Siena


Fr. Richard Rohr

Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy— practices of contemplation and self- emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

Fr. Richard is academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Living School is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.


Here are some of the top apps we recommend for improving spiritual wellness in 2019:

My Life Organized

When you start meditating regularly, your priorities typically start to shift. To keep from reverting to conditioned behaviors, try keeping track of your new priorities. MyLifeOrganized gives you a box where you can dump your thoughts and projects. Then, at the right time, pick and choose what you’re going to do about them, both when and how.


PrayerMate brings all your prayer points together. Whether its your personal prayer points for friends and family, regular updates from some fantastic mission organisations, or the latest PDF prayer letter that just arrived in your inbox, PrayerMate puts it all together in one place and helps you get on and pray.

The Mindfulness App

Fooducate makes grocery The Mindfulness App is one of the most accessible meditation apps, offering a decent catalogue of meditation tracks with and without narrators, ranging from three to 30 minutes in length. It’s one of the highest rated meditation apps ever!


The most popular and most comprehensive free Catholic App on the iTunes store is Laudate. Laudate has a plethora of traditional Catholic prayers, stories of the saints, and guided faith-based meditations.

Improving Your Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness is being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whether they’re positive or negative, and then responding in an honest, productive way. Rather than denying your feelings or even aspects of yourself, the call to emotional wellness requires each of us to consider who we are each day, who we want to be (with God’s help), and how we might bridge the gap.



“Every morning is gratitude,” Dominican Sister of Hope Mary Headley says. “I get up every morning grateful for what the world is and everything that can be that day. Eyes that can see. Ears that can hear. We have so much.”

For Sister Anne Marie, taking the time to appreciate nature enriches her life everyday.

“Just think of spring!” Sister says. “To see the new blossoms come and all the leaves and all the flowering trees: they’re all part of God’s plan. The sunrise and the sunset are free. And they’re signs of hope and God’s tender love and care for us.”

We already know that hope and joy comes in the small things in life. Even when we’re not feeling especially positive, there’s always something for which we can be grateful. Journals like this one (https://www. minute-journal) can help you to record your gratitude in writing each day. Committing to a simple daily prayer of thanksgiving can also be a way to express gratitude.



In so many aspects of our lives, community is key. This is equally true for both vowed religious and laypeople. Just as our congregation serves as a source of community for us, so, too, do our lay families and friends.

Although solitude is sometimes necessary for deepening our spirituality and overall wellness, we can’t achieve emotional wellness alone. Support from friends, family, and a greater community can give us an honest perspective of our strengths and weaknesses, and help us to be healthier all around.

As Dominican Sister of Hope Veronica Miller says, prayer is one way to maintain or increase emotional wellness. But so is community.

“Talking [concerns, questions, fears, even strengths] our with somebody can be a help,” Sister Veronica says. “Maybe it’s somebody that doesn’t know you, but somebody who is competent enough to help you listen and form some questions in your mind.”

As Sister says, there’s no shame in paying for professional guidance. In fact, a as counselors and therapists. Prayer helps us center ourselves and grow emotionally, but so can talking through issues with either loved ones or paid professionals.

Dominican Sister of Hope Anne Marie Bucher stresses a similar point:

“Find someone who can help you through on a [regular] basis,” Sister Anne Marie advises. “Sometimes it’s a family member; sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it has to be someone outside of your family.”

As Sister says, taking care of ourselves can be a “very lonely journey.” There’s no need to go through it alone.



Oftentimes, we live according to our schedule, not God’s. However, being patient with ourselves and forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes are all part of living and growing, no matter how old we are. Trust yourself, be patient with yourself, and give yourself room to make mistakes.


“I think you have to trust yourself,” Sister Veronica says. “Some of us learn by our mistakes. That’s not a bad thing. When we make mistakes we realize ‘That’s not what I need to do with my life.’”


As you grow older you might have less energy, but you might have even more passion. According to Sister Anne Marie, this is a time to consider what nourishes you. What feeds you?

In Sister’s case, she’s invigorated by social justice. She spends her evenings reading up on issues and signing petitions for healthcare, immigration rights, and climate change, just to name a few.

Whether it’s art, music, indulging in a good in hand, make sure to devote private time to the things that nourish you. Really, you deserve it.

In the evolving wellness journey, keeping your faith life vibrant is crucial. Don’t forget about your personal relationship with God, which is at the center of our very being.
“Faith and belief is very important in all of this,” Sister Anne Marie says. “My faith has carried me through many things,”


Here are some of the leading thinkers and influences in emotional wellness:

Saint Joan Chittister

Sister Joan Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide — and has been one of America’s
visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years. As a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, Joan Chittister has focused her life’s work on the development of
of Benedictine life for seekers today, and justice for the oppressed and marginalized, particularly those in prison.

Here is a book she’s written passion at any state in your life. Finding your true passion and purpose is one of the best ways to improve your emotional wellness.


Christine Gallagher

The death of a loved one at any age and at any time presents a variety of challenges and can impact our lives in ways we had our emotional well-being. The experience of grief and loss can be overwhelming and isolating. Join us and Christine Gallagher Mariandale for a discussion on various ways to get the support and guidance you need.

Remaining Hopeful: Small Steps to Overall Well-Being

We’d be lying if we were to promote a formula for wellness. We’d be deceitful if we made it seem like a heavy chore, the way giving up sugar or committing to x-minutes on the treadmill can sometimes feel.

The truth is: there’s no right way to do this. There’s only a promise that you can make to yourself to simply be well and to renew that promise daily. Because our health and wellness shouldn’t be a burden, it should be a process on which we embark joyfully, in 2017 and in the years to come.

Here’s to keeping our bodies, and our minds, and our spirits well, always. Below are some short testimonies from a few of our sisters and a little bit about Mariandale Retreat Center — the Dominican Sisters of Hope’s center


Sister Jeanette Redmond

Sister Jeanette started out as an elementary school teacher; she then taught business at the high school level. After serving as a secretary in various capacities, Sister Jeanette Redmond found her home as the executive secretary in the administration where she’s served since 2009.

Sister Mary Headley

After serving as a hospice nurse for forty-two years, Sister Rainbow Home of Berks County in Wernersville, PA and then served as a consultant for Christa House, a hospice founded to give poor AIDS patients shelter and companionship resumed nursing.)

She now serves at Part of the Solution (POTS) soup kitchen, holds two Clinical Pastoral Education Catholic), and serves as a eucharistic minister and volunteer at Calvary Hospital where she once was head nurse. She has been to Haiti twice in the past two years to companion the people there and assist with various social and medical services.


Sister Janet Marchesani

After serving as a teacher for sixteen years, Sister Janet transitioned to Pastoral Ministry for the Deaf. She did counseling and religious education in a school for the deaf; she interpreted Mass and sacraments at the Pittsburgh Catholic Deaf Center. She now volunteers in deaf ministry, dances, and teaches yoga in her spare time.

The Mariandale Retreat Center

The Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center is located 35 miles north of New York City in Ossining, NY, in the lower Hudson Valley. Mariandale sponsors retreats and programs covering various dimensions of spirituality and contemplative practices, including private, guided, directed, and silent retreats.

Mariandale also welcomes nonprofit groups and organizations for day or overnight workshops, retreats, and conferences at the Center. Our guests enjoy the quiet, professional environment at the Center, as well as the beautiful, spacious grounds overlooking the Hudson River.

Mariandale is situated on 61 wooded acres on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, with beautiful views of the river and valley. It’s an unforgettable and peaceful setting for planning, teaching, training, studying, or meditating.

To arrange for a tour or to inquire about holding a meeting or conference here, email mariandale@ophope.org.

You can also add your name to our mailing list or request more information with an Inquiry form by visiting the Contact Us page.

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