Bridgefolk Newsletter
November 2002 - no. 1

Welcome our inaugural issue!

While the newsletter will continue to change and evolve with the organization, its preliminary goals are to:

  • Facilitate communication between the steering committee and conference participants
  • Share conference information
  • Provide a place for people to find out about the Bridgefolk Movement
  • Alert you to new articles on the website
  • Report on and share information from conferences
  • Share reports, papers, stories and resources on issues of particular relevance to Bridgefolk
  • Encourage dialogue and connection among Bridgefolk, who are often geographically separated

    Bridgefolk tend to be passionate, committed, interested, reflective people. We are looking forward to your contributions of ideas, reflections, questions, prayers, helpful articles, experiences, stories, issues on which you would like others' thoughts, etc., to enable this newsletter to reflect you. If you will share your ideas, I will do my best to organize and present them. Address suggestions or letters to the editor to: -- Pat Shaver, editor


    Our current political situation makes the themes and presentations of this summer's conference, "Creating Peacemaking Communities for the New Millennium: Catholics and Mennonites Bridging the Divide" even more compelling and timely. In this edition you will find:


  • Steering Committee Information
  • Introducing Sheri Hostetler, new Steering Committee member
  • New to the Bridgefolk Website


  • Reflections on the 2002 Conference: Evaluations
  • A History of the Bridgefolk Movement


  • Peace with Iraq: Letters and Links


    Steering Committee

    The Bridgefolk steering committee has undergone some changes and is preparing for its next planning meeting. The group has accepted the resignation, with grateful thanks, of Fr. Rene McGraw OSB of St. John's Abbey. It has also welcomed two new members:

  • Regina Wilson, Pastoral Associate of St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, IN
  • Sheri Hostetler, pastor of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco (CA)

    Continuing on the steering committee are:
  • Ivan Kauffman, free-lance writer, Washington DC
  • Abbot John Klassen OSB, Saint John's Abbey (MN)
  • Marlene Kropf, director of the Office of Congregational Life, Mennonite Church USA
  • Weldon Nisly, pastor of Seattle (WA) Mennonite Church
  • Gerald Schlabach, Associate Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas (MN)
  • Fr. William Skudlarek OSB, Saint John's Abbey (MN)

    The committee will be meeting at St. John's Abbey November 8-10 and requests your prayers for inspiration and guidance as it seeks to discern the next chapter of Bridgefolk.

    Introducing Sheri Hostetler, new Steering Committee member

    It was 1994. I had just started spiritual direction, when I found myself blurting out, "I want to be a monk!" This struck me both as completely true and wholly absurd. I was Mennonite, I was a woman, and I was married. How could I be a monk? And yet, I knew that was what I was called to be.

    Understanding and integrating those two spiritual identities - Mennonite and monk, Anabaptist and Catholic - has been work of the last several years. I have been assisted greatly in this work by Hesed, a Benedictine lay monastery devoted to the practice and teaching of Christian meditation. Located only a few miles from where I live in Oakland, California, Hesed and I (by the grace of God) found each other not long after I uttered my monkish desires. We are a community of about 30 lay people who come together to pray, discern and support each other in our contemplative path. I became an oblate of this community five years ago.

    I now see the Bridgefolk movement as the missing piece in helping me further with this work of personal integration. But even more so, I see Bridgefolk as assisting with an even larger integration - of bringing together the riches of the Anabaptist and Catholic traditions for the mutual benefit of both. I know from my experience as pastor at First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, that the Catholic spiritual and liturgical traditions have much to offer spiritually hungry Anabaptists. And I know from my experience of being married to a Catholic (who teaches at a Jesuit seminary in Berkeley) and from my deep friendships with many Catholics, that the Anabaptist traditions of lay discipleship and peacemaking quench a thirst of their own. It is my delight to be a part of a movement that is, in essence, a spiritual potluck, in which we each bring the best we have to offer to a banquet table that has room for all. Let's eat!

    -- Sheri Hostetler

    New to the Website:

    2002 Conference: All of the conference presentations are now on the website, including Margaret O'Gara's, The Continuing Impact of Vatican II. The Listening Committee has also filed its report, an excellent summary of presentations, discussion and issues.

    Resources for Theological Reflection: The Bridgefolk Movement in Ecumenical Context is a concise new article by Gerald W. Schlabach, situating the Bridgefolk movement in the Christian community.


    Reflections on the 2002 Conference: Evaluations

    "It was a valuable meeting, for me especially in connecting me with Catholics and Mennonites who are living as radical disciples of Jesus in a way that I don't often find in congregations."

    "This was a great conference, probably one of the best I've been to in a long time. I'm very enthused about its possibilities. St John's was a wonderful setting. I'd recommend it again in a heartbeat."

    "I see Bridgefolk not as a grand movement to bring together the Catholic Church and the Mennonite Church, but as a quiet and humble movement stirring among peace minded Benedictines and sacramental minded Anabaptists. I believe this is a prompting of God, as impossible to explicate right now as the still small voice that spoke to many small and great-but particularly small, in the sacred history. As I am able "I want to be of this number."

    Evaluations for the Bridging conference were very positive. For a summary of comments, as well as more direct quotations, see:

    2002 conference evaluations

    "A History of the Bridgefolk Movement" By Pat Shaver

    Catholics and Mennonites, a seemingly unlikely combination, have been meeting together at the grass roots level to explore areas of common interest and learn from each other. They find Mennonite-Anabaptist traditions of peaceableness, discipleship and lay intentionality complement and are complemented by Catholic spiritual, liturgical and sacramental practices. Originating in conversations among a few people, the ideas seemed to resonate with others as they began to share them more broadly. Enough interest was expressed to lead to an exploratory meeting of 25 people in 1999 and then a conference in July 2002, "Creating Peacemaking Communities for the New Millennium: Catholics and Mennonites Bridging the Divide." See:

    A History of the Bridgefolk Movement


    Peace Resources

    We know that many Bridgefolk are closely following the United States' increasingly militaristic stance against Iraq. Although the Bridgfolk movement is not equipped for activist organizing, we do want to share resources and connections relating to Iraq peace work. Our list reflects the Bridgefolk Roman Catholic and Mennonite focus, but also includes other initiatives that complement the ecumenical Christian spirit of Bridgefolk. If you have resources you think we should add to the list, please send them to Pat Shaver at See:

    Iraq links