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Did you find the labyrinth or did it find you?
The labyrinth found me. While I was employed at the Hampshire County Jail in Northampton as a Community Relations Coordinator, I received a flyer about a labyrinth walk at the Spiritual Center in Westfield. I went to the event and fell in love with the process. That was when I first met Lorry Villemaire, S.S.J. (Sister of Saint Joseph), who led the labyrinth walk. It was indeed the beginning of two significant relationships for me.
Tell us about your responsibilities and the jail itself.
I came to the jail with a background of nursing and teaching. In the position of community relations, I was able to bring complimentary programs to the incarcerated men. These included art projects and exhibits, yoga, tai chi, reiki, creative writing, and meditation practices. Hampshire County House of Corrections houses four levels of security: pre-release, minimum, medium, and maximum. Population includes both male and female clients. However, the female clients are held only until trial and then transferred to other facilities to serve their sentence. The men selected for our Labyrinth Program are enrolled in a Life Skills substance abuse treatment program.
How did you bring the labyrinth and the inmate programs together?
Shortly after my first walk with Lorry, I asked her, “Can you come to our jail?” She came and brought in a canvas labyrinth and did some workshops with the inmates. The men loved it. We decided to continue and expand the program. I asked the sheriff for permission to transport pre-release clients to an outdoor labyrinth. He agreed and in fact joined us on this trip. Lorry guided the men through the labyrinth. Soon thereafter, the question arose, “Why can’t we build a labyrinth at the jail?” The sheriff quickly said “Yes.” to this request. Hampshire County Jail is situated atop the gently rolling hills of western Massachusetts with beautiful surrounding vistas. A perfect place for a labyrinth.What labyrinth programs do you offer the inmates?
Lorry originally designed a six-week curriculum. At the request of the incarcerated men, this has now expanded to twelve weeks. Topics include: Positive Thinking, Inner Peace, Forgiveness, Self Esteem, Meditation, and more. The workshop process follows these steps:
A documentary of this work is available for viewing with the following link: Pathway to Change: The Jail Labyrinth Project. It is available on DVD as well. Lorry has also published a book, which includes the twelve-week curriculum. The curriculum is universal and may be used with any group in leading a labyrinth walk. Both the DVD and book may be purchased by contacting Lorry at: email@example.com. All profits from this project are donated to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts.How did the Labyrinth Connection of Western Massachusetts get started and how does it work?
About six years ago, after our first venture working together with the prison program, Lorry contacted me about forming a local labyrinth group. She had met with Rosann Scalise, who wanted to build a stone labyrinth at Camp Shepard for the Westfield YMCA. Lorry and Rosann thought that other people in the area might be interested in the labyrinth. We began with seven people and now have nearly 20 paid members from many towns, including Shelburne Falls, Amherst, Westfield, Brattleboro VT, and New York. LCWM is growing, so we are now exploring the possibility of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We meet monthly on the 2nd Thursday at 4 PM at Mont Marie Senior Residence in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Each month we discuss ongoing projects and new endeavors. We offer labyrinth education and programming throughout our state and have recently completed a program at a nursing home in New York.
What dreams or visions do you have for your labyrinth work in the future?
I want to keep on doing labyrinth walks and keep up to date with the contacts extended to me through LinkedIn and other resources. Opportunities continue to come to our attention. Lorry recently visited the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Leeds, Massachusetts where they have funding and are planning to construct a labyrinth on their grounds. Goshen, Massachusetts, home of Three Sisters Sanctuary, has an interest in putting in a labyrinth on their grounds. The town of South Hadley has approached me about the possibility of installing a labyrinth. I want to continue doing this work and bringing the labyrinth to wider circles of people.
What is it that you love about them?
I am a person who has difficulty sitting still. Meditation is difficult for me. I find walking the labyrinth is a moving meditation. When I need to work through a problem or make a decision, I’ll walk around a nearby lake. The combination of walking and being in nature calms me and clears my mind. The labyrinth opens these doors for me. I’ve also seen how the labyrinth calms children. I especially enjoy combining music with the labyrinth. We have done several deeply touching walks set to the music of a live viola artist.
by Rita Canning, Development Coordinator
My volunteer work in the office made me realize that the office and the needs of the office are there all the time, and I wanted to be there all the time, too. I couldn’t do that in person but by making a regular monthly financial gift, I could support the valuable work of Veriditas all the time.
– Tina Margason
I believe that each of us needs a way to quiet our minds and open our hearts and I can’t think of a better tool than the labyrinth. It’s very important to me to spread as many labyrinths around as we can.
– Judy Powell
It’s a way of acknowledging the profound work that Lauren is doing and all of you are doing in the Veriditas office. It’s my small way of being a part of that community.
– Jay Newburgh
I donate because I think I really need the labyrinth and I want to make sure that it is there for everyone.
– Diane Jones
I think we need more labyrinths on the planet, that they are very important. We need more people to hold the lantern and show the way to how the labyrinth works in the community and for peoples’ personal journey. Veriditas is the leader in the field
– Emily Simpson
We need money to keep the doors open, and I want those doors to stay open for myself and for other people. I’ve seen what the labyrinth can do for people, and I think that Veriditas provides labyrinth experiences in a unique and high quality way.
– Lee Matthew
I donate out of thanksgiving for what I’ve received from Veriditas and its network. Veriditas helped me grow so hopefully my giving will allow others to have the same opportunity.
– Kitty Caldwell
We are all God’s children and earth is His classroom. And the labyrinth is one of His tools that He likes to use the most. It’s worked so well for me that I just think that it’s something that needs to be taken all around the world, which it has been.
– Lisa Hilliard
I believe that Veriditas is a really important way to give people access to the holy and without people who are intentionally supporting and promoting this work, empowering
– Rev. Karin Mitchell
This is what life is really all about – to put one foot in front of the other. Very simple. And the labyrinth exemplifies that and
– Claudia Miller
I donate so that Lauren and Veriditas can continue to fulfill the mission of expanding the global knowledge of the labyrinth.
– Pam Riggs
I know that all people seek the divine mystery in the world, looking for peace in life. The labyrinth offers
– Brenda Wivell
I donate to Veriditas because
– Kathy Mansfield
These are quality people that are doing a great job of putting the labyrinth out in the world.
– Mary Ellen Weber
I was so deeply moved from my experience at Chartres that week
– Kathleen Pilus
Deer Heart Labyrinth at Earthrise. Photo by Lars Howlett
Why do you contribute to Veriditas? Please share your thoughts with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chartres finger labyrinth crafted in a red stained maple which really pops the contrast on the labyrinth. Comes with a Chartres tote bag. Available for personalization. Engraving on the back of labyrinth.
We are gathering your stories of how the labyrinth has changed you or your life. These stories will be shared on our website in the months leading up to our celebration, and in a book celebrating Veriditas' 20th Birthday. To submit your story for inclusion, please click here. Thank you for being a part of our Veriditas Family!