Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Carla Riach shares on a recent Women’s Healing Workshop at San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona.

Sister Carla Riach and the Women Healing Women team at San Xavier Mission hosted a unique workshop for women this spring. Since COVID prevented the summer weekend workshops, the team decided to offer half day events outdoors at Aldea Lewis’ home. All participants must show proof of vaccination.

The workshops begin with breakfast, introductions and a blessing. Participants are in a half circle in front of the horses’ stalls so the horses are a part of the circle. Next, we take a meditative walk through the desert with three stops. This time the women journaled at each stop. First stop: four things they were grateful for. Second Stop: four things I want to let go of. Third stop: four things that make me smile. The Fourth stop: four things I want in my future. The fourth stop is always at the sweat lodge.

The women had a break and then went into the Equine Activity. Candace Shelton facilitated half the women and Aldea Lewis the other half. Each woman had to lead the horse through three obstacles. At each obstacle they had to say aloud to the horse something negative in their life that they wanted to do differently. At the center they had to say aloud three good qualities about themselves. Then they led the horse back through the obstacles, but this time turned their negative statements into positive ones. The facilitators had them notice how the horse was acting as they do react to the women’s feelings. For example, if the woman walked around the obstacle the horse followed her. The woman acknowledged her tendency to avoid challenges to growth instead of facing them. If the horse did what it wanted instead of following the woman, they thought about who’s in control in their life.

The women then sat in a circle and processed their feelings as they did the walk and equine activity. The women shared openly about their struggles and desire to make a shift in their lives. Then to represent the “New Life” ahead each decorated a clay pot and planted a cutting from Philodendrons. Their homework is to nurture themselves as they nurture their plant.

The workshop always ends with a Talking Circle and each one shared their thoughts as they decorated their pots. Then each shared one word to describe how they were feeling and we closed with prayer. Written evaluations and lunch brought our time to a close.

The team is grateful to the Oakford Dominicans for a grant which supports the workshops along with San Xavier Mission.