The Grail in the USA

CALL FOR ARTISTS: A Celebration of the Grail in the US

In celebration of The Grail in the U.S.’s 80th anniversary and the upcoming centennial of The Grail worldwide, The Grail has issued a Call for Artists to interpret The Parable of the Old Woman written by Ruth Gallant.

There is no age limit or restriction, or entry fee, as this Call is open to anyone that aligns themselves with The Grail’s goals and vision statement. Submissions must be wholly created by the artist and specific to this Call. No professional background required. Call for Artists can be found here.

Selected pieces will be displayed at The Grail’s Oratory in Loveland from November 28, 2019 through the New Year. Category winners (8 in all) will receive a $50 award and their winning art will go on limited tour to Grail communities in across the US in 2020. For more information, please contact the Grail at or call 513-683-2340 extension 1.



Advancing its Mission of “Renewal of the Earth”

Loveland, Ohio, August 9, 2018—Grailville—a center of The Grail in the U.S.—announces that 40 acres of land has been placed into conservation easement and purchased by Clermont County Park District through a Clean Ohio Fund grant. The grant requires that deed restrictions be placed on the acreage that prevents it from being developed. The Park District plans to manage the land as natural area with hiking trails. The area will be open to the public once the trails and access are developed. The 40 acres of this sale raises the total placed in conservation easement and sold to The Park District to 113 acres in Miami Township just outside the City of Loveland. The initial sale—enabled by the Trust for Public Land—was for 73 acres in 2017. For the full press release click GRAILVILLE Conservation Easement

A Statement from the U.S. Grail Council:

“The Grail in the US is dedicated to peace, justice and the renewal of the earth. We stand with those targeted for their peaceful resistance to hate and exclusion in Charlottesville. We recognize that the racism and anti-semitism that fueled the violence this weekend is systemic not isolated and we encourage efforts to eradicate it at all levels.“

The Grail at the United Nations, CSW-57


This past March, for two weeks participants from The Grail attended the 57th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations.

So, what exactly is the CSW and why is the Grail involved?  Carrie Bowling, Membership and Outreach Coordinator for the Grail explains,

During the two weeks of CSW, the United Nations has ‘main’ events, where the delegates from nations around the globe discuss the theme – this year it was prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. The delegates start with an opening session, then continue through the week with discussions until a document of ‘agreed conclusions’ is established. While these sessions are taking place at the main UN buildings, NGOs offer side events, also known as
parallel events, in buildings near the UN.  Some of these events explain what a specific organization is working on; provide helpful skills and knowledge about a specific topic; or they can just simply be informative. The Grail hosted two side events, cosponsored several others, and Grail members participated as panelists in others.”

This year, the Grail brought more than 20 participants from various countries such as Brazil, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and USA. For two weeks we were participating in various events in different ways such as being part of some panels; contributing on the writing of the girls’ and young women’s statements; sharing experiences and giving testimony about their life and work; organizing our own parallel events; following the work of outcome documents; lobbying in some mission delegations and engaging with some communities. Together with other NGOs, the Grail co-sponsored some events.

The Grail organized two parallel events as a result of the activities that we are doing in various countries. One parallel event was presented by girls between 16 and 18 years old. The title was: Challenges and Responses…Making Their Voices Heard. The girls from Brazil, El Salvador, Mozambique and USA, spoke and shared their struggles and stories that demonstrated that whatever the statistics, their daily experience causes devastating consequences. The event showed that violence against girls cuts across ethnic, racial, class, religious, educational and international borders.

Another parallel event organized by The Grail was: Changing Systems that Hurt…the Role of Girls and Young Women. The presenters, girls and young women between 16 and 24 years old from Brazil, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and USA, are involved in their communities in advocacy and awareness campaigns regarding the empowerment of girls and young women to take responsibility for all matters affecting their lives.

As always, attending this kind of event makes us take in both the breadth and depth of issues explored and in the commitment, passion, and talent of those present. We consider CSW the lead champion of the global campaign for women’s and girl’s equality and empowerment; a place of reporting progress on women’s and girls’ advancement in their own countries and opportunity for NGOs sharing their challenges and lessons learned.


To learn more about The Grail’s participation at the United Nations, click here.

Longmont, Colorado Anti-Fracking Group: People of the Year!


Last month, Judith Blackburn told us about the successful anti-fracking electoral campaign the group “Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont” waged this fall, to stop fracking inside their city. In late December, the group was named Boulder Weekly’s People of the Year. “It was strength in numbers that made it possible for the group…to overcome a $440,000 campaign launched by oil and gas companies in an effort to defeat the charter amendment banning hydraulic fracturing within city limits. More than any other single group or individual, ‘Our Longmont’ had a transformative effect on the discussion of perhaps the most important issue of the year…It is historically conservative, rural, Republican Longmont—not its liberal brother Boulder this time—that the county, state and even nation has to thank for its leadership on this important environmental issue.” Indeed!

The Grail in Tanzania, written by Marian Schwab

Mount Kilimanjaro looms over the landscape in northeastern Tanzania: the largest free-standing mountain in the world, rising up like a volcano out of the flat, dry plains. Its snows are half the size of what I remember from 40 years ago, and it’s not my imagination: I am told the water from mountain streams runs in trickles these days.

Roaming Maasai tribesman are silhouetted against the horizon, flowing purple robes fluttering in the wind as they carry long staffs and drive forward the few scrawny cattle still alive despite the never-ending drought. Women trudge quietly along the road carrying great bundles on their heads, as the Maasai men and cattle weave in and out. Outside the city, few people have vehicles, so the Grail’s white van usually has the road to itself, red dirt roads as hard as concrete with potholes.

The week in Tanzania was a side-trip for me. The group of ten of us who had met in Uganda to plan the IGA had disbursed. One of the ten was Margarita Shirima from Tanzania, so I could conveniently accompany her from Entebbe to Kilimanjaro. It was an opportunity especially to see St. Teresa of Avila school.

The silence of the mountain pervades the air all through the Kilimanjaro district and lends a quiet intensity to the secondary school. I had imagined a much smaller place than the substantial compound that I found. Here there were highly professional faculty members and hundreds of teenagers concentrating on their studies with a focus I had never witnessed in an American school – amid skyrocketing mid-summer temperatures and no air conditioning. Future leaders of their country must excel.

• Biology, chemistry and physics every year, in addition to English, Kiswahili, history, geography, commerce and math.

• Standards high – the best in the Kilimanjaro district so far – but that means that students have to leave if they fail to maintain a 70% average.

• Four Maasai teens (14- and 15-years-old), wearing uniforms like everyone else, explaining that if they were not at St Teresa’s, they would surely be married by now.

Having heard about the need for dormitory space, I was not surprised to see perfectly made bunk beds packed into what would otherwise be classrooms, lined by straight rows of flip-flops and an array of brightly colored plastic buckets for carrying water. Outside, as I half expected, was the outline of a foundation and piles of concrete blocks, for a “hostel” soon to rise.

But the multipurpose building that I thought was still a dream – efforts to raise money still clearly in progress – there I found workmen ready to put the roof on a building designed to hold a thousand. A thousand people in a building the size of a church! No money yet for windows or floors, but if the roof were on, at least the building could be used. Down the hill, Maria Goretti Semvua pointed out, was where faculty housing would go eventually.

Among the Grail women of Tanzania, there is an amazing confidence and determination, despite the lack of money, the scarcity of water or the absence of external funding. The extent of development at St. Teresa was only one piece of evidence. The dispensary at Mwanga I had always pictured as a room-sized clinic. Instead, I found a whole hospital. Maternity, malaria, HIV-AIDS: those are the real areas of medical need. An empty building next door, recently purchased by Cecilia, the Tanzania Grail doctor, stood ready to become a maternity ward. We joked about “only 26 million” needed to implement the plan. The amount sounded enormous until translated from Tanzanian shillings to dollars ($20,000).

Meanwhile back at Kisekibaha, the 8-acre national center of the Grail in Tanzania, the whole community revolves around the training of (nine this year) young women as committed Grail members: prayer and drumming early in the morning, then tasks (sweeping the walks, carrying buckets of water for the tiny plants in the nursery, grinding maize for porridge, picking fruit, feeding the pigs and goats and milking the cows) all before classes start.

The spirit of camaraderie among the young women is apparent, as is their respect and affection for every Grail “Dada” who lives in the community with them. Hortensia, Justina and Mary organize courses; Honorata heads off for work with the Maasai elders, Rosada organizes meetings with community leaders about pre-school, Margarita (national leader) camps out in the office before the day’s heat makes work there unbearable.

Imelda is still at Rau, delighting in the antics of tiny children enrolled in the interfaith pre-school; and so is Edeltruda, helping young women learn a trade so they can support themselves. The bookstore in Moshi, staffed by a whole set of competent Grail women, is packed with customers as soon as they open the doors.

Simply by their stance in the world, the Grail women of Tanzania spoke powerfully to me of generosity of spirit, creativity and determination in the face of great odds. I was grateful to share their life, even for so short a time, and I am proud to be their sister.

International Grail Vision Statement

We are an international movement and community of women of different cultures, social backgrounds and generations. We trust in the Spirit of God, Mystery and Source of Life.

We are called to create a sustainable world, transforming our planet into a place of peace and justice.

We acknowledge that we are part of the whole of creation, striving  to live simply and to nurture a culture of care for all the earth.

We are determined to look for signs of hope in a complex world.

We are strengthened by the compassionate energy and creative action of women.

Born in the Catholic tradition, the movement is grounded in the Christian faith and challenged by the radical call of the teachings of Jesus. Today we are women of various religious traditions and on life-giving spiritual journeys. We recognize that in each of our Grail countries, our expressions of faith, religion and spirituality reflect our own realities and cultures. We respect and acknowledge these differences.

Recognizing the global realities we confront, we are committed to growing together and learning from one another’s wisdom, experience and spiritual search.

Approved by the International General Assembly, September 23, 2011

The Role of Folk Dance in Community and Village Life: Personal Reflections, Jay Williams

Grail member Jay Williams has offered folk-dancing classes and workshops at Grail national gatherings and retreats, as well as programs at Grailville and throughout southwest Ohio.

I grew up folk dancing in Yellow Springs, Ohio. As a little girl I was immediately taken by it — the entire town seemed to be dancing and I was swept up by the music, a light and lyrical Israeli dance. Without thinking, I jumped right in.

We are all familiar with social rituals that strengthen the integrity of a community. From singing our national anthems to cheering for our favorite sports team to our more private rituals of living with partners and families, these rituals enable us to interact with our world in a way that is safe and promotes well-being and happiness for ourselves and those around us.  The village folk dance is a social ritual in which the citizens set aside a time and place, (usually the village square) to join their neighbors and dance. Where gatherings for religious rituals bridge the world of the people with an understanding of Divine Presence, so the village dance bridges the individuals’ personal world with the larger community and sometimes with the surrounding landscape and natural elements.

Folk dancing creates a sense of well-being, not just because it’s fun and the music sounds great (especially when it’s live). When the individual joins the dance, the person becomes extended into a larger organism. The songs and dances cover the entire spectrum of human experience – love, joy, sorrow, the pain of unrequited love, lilting courtship, bringing in a harvest, mining, celebrating the coming of rain or honoring the power of fire. These are not the dances of the aristocrat; they come directly from the earth, the peasant people.

Some, like the Shepherds Dance that celebrates the winter solstice, are pre-Christian, giving folk dancing a feeling of timelessness. During large folk dance parties at which people dress in the style of different counties, it feels like the whole world is on pause and for that moment, has joined up and is dancing together. In some villages, the role of the community dance is as much a priority as going to church; taking time out for community dance was as important as taking time out for communal prayer.

This has been adapted from an article in the March 2011 edition of Gumbo.

American Madonna: Crossing Borders with the Virgin Mary, By Deirdre Cornell; a review by Marian Ronan

American Madonna: Crossing Borders with the Virgin Mary, by Deirdre Cornell
MaryKnoll, NY: Orbis Press, 2010.

 In her first book, A Priceless View, Grail member Deirdre Cornell returns to her childhood home, Newburgh, NY, to share the life of the burgeoning migrant community there. But by the last few pages, she knows that she will leave. And her prediction is fulfilled: in 2004, Deirdre and her husband Kenney and three children move to rural Oaxaca, Mexico, as Maryknoll lay missioners, to deepen their understanding of the migrant cultures surrounding them in upstate New York. In American Madonna, Deirdre welcomes us into that experience.

At the heart of Deirdre’s reflections is Mary, the Mother of God. Here in the U.S., what with women’s liberation and the assimilation of white ethnic Catholics into the American middle class, devotion to the ostensibly sweet, passive Virgin Mary would seem a thing of the past. Yet as Deirdre observes, pilgrimages to sites of Marian apparitions around the world have mushroomed in the modern period, while the Madonna, bearing the marks of her various local inculturations, helps huge numbers of Latin American migrants in their journeys across the border to a new life in the North. Indeed, as Deirdre makes clear, the Virgin Mary is an ideal patroness for our globalized age, crossing borders during her lifetime between Israel and Egypt, and in her Assumption, between earth and heaven, even as she has accompanied travelers, missionaries and migrants across borders over the centuries.

Deirdre organizes American Madonna around three different manifestations of Mary: the Virgin of Solitude, the mourning Mother at the foot of the cross who watches over the capital of the southeastern Mexican province of Oaxaca; Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose apparition to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1532 marks the beginning of the inculturation of Christianity among the indigenous
peoples of Mexico; and my own particular favorite, Our Lady of Juquila, whose diminutive triangular figure has protected hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at her shrine on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca since 1719. In all cases, the Madonna crosses borders with her devotés, whether they are the Spanish missionaries who brought her with them to the Americas, the pilgrims journeying over hazardous
terrain to reach her, or the migrants who bear her north and sometimes return home to her motherly embrace.

It would be a pity for you to conclude from this that American Madonna is a theological study of the Virgin Mary, however.  It is that, in part, but it is also much more. Indeed, what makes this book a wonderful read is the deftness with which Deirdre weaves together the multiple strands comprising the reality of the Madonna. The lives of Mexicans encountered on both sides of the border
comprise one such strand; the history of the various Marian apparitions and the communities they inhabit is another. A third is the complex figure of the Virgin herself, her ancient history, her sexist appropriations, the protection and liberation she bestows on her followers. Yet another is the anthropology of pilgrimage and community, rendered accessible by clear writing.

And pulling it all together is the lyric voice of the author herself, from the wonderful portrayal, in the first chapter, of her own journey away from and back to Mary, to the traditional benedición with which her Oaxacan neighbors send her and her family back to the US at the conclusion. Indeed, it becomes clear as one drinks in this book that the “American Madonna” of the title is as much the
mother who brings her high-risk twins to term in the middle of her time in Mexico as it is the Madonna with whom she crosses and re-crosses borders throughout.  Those of us still inclined to wonder how the Virgin Mary can inspire communities and individuals to resist their oppression have only to read Deirdre’s mesmerizing connection of the bonding process between mother and child–in this case, her own–with the solidarity engendered by devotion to the Virgin Mary in Oaxaca. As she asks, “Can we from the dominant culture catch new glimpses of our mother–even when she does not look like us–in images that originated beyond our borders?”

You can link to Marian Ronan’s blog, “An American Catholic on the Margins of World
Christianity,” at

Learn a little bit more about the Grail and Grailville!

Recently, Grailville, a center of the Grail in the United States hosted an open house!  They also sat down for the “Around Miami Township” series to discuss the Grail and Grailville.  Follow this link to listen to Grail members Becky Hill and Nina Naberhaus discuss the Grail and Grailville!    Interview with Becky Hill and Nina Naberhaus   *When you click on the link you’ll be taken to the Miami Township website.  Scroll down to the third interview and click on the orange link where you see Becky and Nina’s name.  This will take you directly to their part of the interview!

Taking a Stand in support of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

In response to the recent directive from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, The Grail in the United States is Taking A Stand in support for the LCWR.  Our letter to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is below. 

If you want to learn more about what is happening in regards to the Women Religious here are a few more links:

Recommended reading:

The History and Future of “Hope For The Flowers,” Una McGurk

Hope For The Flowers won the Christopher award for the most inspiring book of 1972 when it was published. Hope’s publisher in English, Paulist Press, has manufactured and distributed over 3 million copies in English. But, did you know that  Hope For The Flowers actually emerged from an earlier book written for the Grail?  The First book was a simple history and Theology of Hope intended to encourage Grail searchers who were experiencing the exhilarating but challenging changes of the 2nd Vatican Council.

Read more →

A Tale of Mentoring: It Takes a Grail Team or Two or Three, Plus….. by Sharon Thomson

On the night of January 17th, High School Senior Lena Cheyne made a presentation on The International Trafficking of Women and Children at the Cornwall Grail Center. Following are some of the steps it took for this shy teenager to arrive at such an important turning point in her life.        


In March, 2010 Lena Cheyne attended an Introduction to the Grail program at the Cornwall Center. She had been “persuaded” by her mother, Cindy Cheyne (who had just begun to do volunteer work atCornwall), to attend. Initially unhappy, Lena sat through the entire program beside her friend Kim whom she had “dragged along” (Lena’s words) with her.  Present at the program were a number of young international participants at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.


Also present at the program was Boston Grail member Mary Farrell (in her capacity as Cornwall connection on the National Leadership Team at that time).  When it was over—during a mix and mingle moment —Mary and Lena struck up a conversation about a book Mary was reading, Half the Sky, and a play dealing with sex trafficking that Mary had recently seen at Grailville.Lena was intrigued enough by the conversation to do more research and ultimately decided to make International Trafficking of Women and Children her Global Studies project at school. Read more →

A Grail Tale (of Activism), Judith Blackburn

I went home from the GA fired up to do something about fracking in my home community of Longmont, Colorado, just as our City Council was considering applications from Big Oil for leasing public land east of town for drilling.  Joy Garland and Kate Twohy had already given me a “heads up” about how tricky it is to oppose fracking, and I had seen the DVD Gasland.  But most of my neighbors and the majority of our seven city council members seemed woefully uninformed about what was going on.

Anyway the part of this tale that I want to share here is how appreciative I am for all the years of planning and facilitating meetings I’ve had, thanks to my work in the Grail.  A small group of us here in Longmont is just beginning to organize ourselves to oppose fracking at nearby Union Reservoir and within city limits.  We’ve had three opportunities to speak (for three minutes each) during city council meetings, and we’ve helped convince the council to enact a four-month moratorium on fracking.  However, the moratorium merely delays the drilling.  We’ve got major work to do in the interim.  Read more →

Guadalupe in New York, a review by Marian Ronan

In honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is celebrated today, I share with you below my review of Guadalupe in New Yorkthe splendid book by my friend Alyshia Gálvez. Gálvez is a member of the faculty at Lehman College here in New York and a rising star in Latin American studies.

For a lot of people, “globalization” is something smooth and shiny that makes better iPhones available.  For others, though, it’s an experience of displacement and being categorized as less than human.

In Guadalupe in New York, anthropologist Alyshia Gálvez zeroes in on one group strongly impacted by “globalization,” undocumented Mexican immigrants in New York City. Throughout the twentieth century, Latino New York was primarily Puerto Rican and Dominican, but since 1990, increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants have joined the mix. Some estimates put the current Mexican population of the city at 500,000. Up to half of these new New Yorkers are undocumented.

Guadalupe in New York conveys effectively the difficult situation of undocumented Mexican immigrants in New York, caught as they are between economic crises in Mexico and the increasing demonization of the immigrant labor needed to make the US function.   But primarily, Guadalupe in New York shows the ways in which devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe transforms the experience of undocumented Mexicans, instilling in them a sense of human dignity and of a trans-juridical, even cosmic, citizenship. Read more →

Why I Fell In Love: Bonnie Hendricks

Why I Fell In Love

Now that I have your attention, here’s the rest of the sentence:

with the Transition [Town] Movement

Those who were at the GA on Thursday afternoon heard my spiel about the Transition (Town) Movement.  (For those who missed it, the PowerPoint and audio are online in the member area of the Grail website, or click here.)

A one-sentence summary/refresher: Transition is about building stronger and happier communities while transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence.  There is a lot packed into that little sentence, and there is much to say about how Transition is playing out; one such aspect is story-telling.  So I thought this month I’d tell a bit of my “how I met Transition” story.

It was just about a year ago now.  I was still inAustralia.  Mostly lounging (walking, really) on endless, sunny beaches.  And beginning to cast about for “what’s next?”  The Transition (Town) Movement had spent a few years on my (very long) list of “things to look into, when I have time.”  The time had finally come.

I was still in a state of high discouragement re: the-state-of-the-world.  So I was quite surprised to find myself becoming increasingly excited, the deeper intoTransitionTownmy exploration went.  What had me so captivated?  Quite a bit, actually, but I’ll name just a few.  (I’m setting aside for the moment all the cool projects Transition Initiatives around the world are doing.)

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”                           Buckminster Fuller

Read more →

Grail Work in the World – in the 99% and one of 900, by Lucy Jones

I am one of the 99%. Along with thousands of other supporters, Grail women among them, I celebrate the spirit that is moving in the protests asking the powerful 1% to be accountable to the 99% of the masses. On October 23, I joined other United Methodists to join our voices with the Occupy Wall Street folks at Zuccotti Park, to remind us all that Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple and said the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I’m glad our gathering and an interfaith gathering afterward could remind all that have ears to hear that God is in the midst of this world—to scatter the proud and bring down the mighty, to fill the hungry with good things and to send the rich away empty. Read more →