Somewhere around 1975, Bishop John R.C. Adair of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church was at a crossroads in his spiritual journey.

That’s when he had a vision that he was meant to create a “welcome place for pilgrims.” That vision led him to Coyle, Oklahoma, where the former bishop built St. Francis of the Woods.

St. Francis may have stemmed from a church lineage, but since its start more than 45 years ago, it has become much more than that.

The “spiritual renewal center,” which is celebrating 40 years of being a nonprofit, is now considered more of a retreat center with a mission to “empower people to renew their spirits and transform the world through community, creativity and care for creation.”

“We strive to be a place for people to come to renew their spirit and to be in nature,” said Katherine Whalen, managing director for Gardens and Outreach at St. Francis.

The center’s annual Wildflower Festival approaching on Saturday is another way to do just that, Whalen said.

“It’s another way for our community to bring people together and for people to be part of our community,” Whalen said. “I like that it touches on all aspects of our mission. A lot of the event’s activities focus on nature, and there are different aspects of creativity in one spot – arts, crafts, live music. It’s just a fun, exciting day in one place.”

The event is being held 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis on Highway 33 in Coyle and includes food, a vendor market, live music, hands-on activities for adults and children, art demonstrations and a variety of workshops. and most of it is free.

“We are in the process of expanding our retreat space and building aircrete domes,” Whalen said. “We just finished a workshop called Domegaia where we learned to build using this method, so anyone who comes out to the festival will be able to see what that is going to look like.”

Workshops for the event:

  • 10-11 a.m. – Goddess Devotional Chanting with Haridas Heitz, $20 donation.
  • 11 a.m.-Noon. – Soap, Soak & Oil making class with Krystle Robinson-Hershey, $50.
  • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – The Divine Origin of Cacao + Cacao Ceremony with Kristen Arambula Hernandez, $27.
  • 1:15-1:45 p.m. – Nature Object Gazing with Sharon Bennett, $10
  • 2-3:30 p.m. – Forest Bathing with Sharon Bennett, $20
  • 3-4:30 p.m. – Awakening the Inner Body: Meditation Through Movement with Haridas Heitz, $25 donation
  • 3:30-5 p.m. – Collage Care: self-exploration as creative practice with KT Murray, $10 suggested donation to St. Francis of the Woods
  • 4:30-5:45 p.m. – Heart Connection with Tiffany Lenhard, Free (donations to St. Francis of the Woods welcome
  • 4-6 p.m. – DIY Dip Dye Macramé Wall Art with Jennifer Peterson, $15 (Children are free)

Parking for the event costs $10 in advance and $15 the day of the event. With parking at the event limited, Whalen said she recommends attendees buy their parking tickets in advance. To buy parking tickets or register for workshops or to learn more about other St. Francis events and services, visit the St. Francis website at stfrancisofthewoods.org.

After a hiatus of the event in 2020, Whalen said the 2021 Wildflower Festival was even larger than the first event in 2019 with people traveling from the two major cities.

“It’s a beautiful place. It’s over 500 acres, and we have walking trails and a beautiful chapel and a huge library,” Whalen said of St. Francis. “It’s just part of our community to want to host a festival to bring people together. This is a way to invite people to check out our space and be part of our community.”

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