Monasteries of the Heart

Meet the Monasteries of the Heart Staff

Sister Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister, OSB
…one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time, is the founder and animator of Monasteries of the Heart, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers. Her book, the Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, is the core curriculum.

For 40 years, Joan has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and church renewal. A much sought-after speaker, counselor and clear voice that bridges across all religions, she is also a best-selling author of more than 50 books. A member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Joan is also the executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality.

Mary Lou Kownacki
Janice Etchison
Mary Ellen Plumb
Joanne DyJack

Linda Romey
Diane Trejchel
Anne McCarthy

Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
…is the Director of Monasteries of the Heart and Benetvision Publishing. She has lived and worked in inner-city Erie for 40 years, and has been instrumental in developing innovative programs that serve local neighborhoods, including founding the Inner-City Neighborhood Art House. She served as executive director of Alliance for International Monasticism (AIM) and of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement.

A poet and award-winning author, Mary Lou’s most recent books are Old Monk (Benetvision), A Monk in the Inner City: The ABCs of a Spiritual Journey (Orbis), and Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan (Eerdmans).

Anne McCarthy, OSB
…was on the Benetvision staff from 1994-1997 and then returned in 2006 after completing an MA in Theology from St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN, in monastic studies. Currently she coordinates the online Monasteries of the Heart communities, facilitates the Listening Hearts program and is the resource person for Monasteries of the Heart in prisons.

Anne also leads retreats on nonviolence and monastic spirituality around the country. Long involved in peace and justice ministry nationally and locally, Anne is on the international board of the Monastic Inter-Religious Dialogue. A Benedictine Sister of Erie, she has served on the Monastic Formation Committee and Faculty. She lives at Mary the Apostle Catholic Worker.

Mary Ellen Plumb, OSB
…joined the Monasteries of the Heart staff in 2013 after 38 years in secondary education as a Social Studies teacher, Counselor and Director of Campus Ministry. Mary Ellen has served the Benedictine Sisters of Erie as Director of Monastic Formation, Novice and Scholastic Director, and Oblate Director and is currently on the Monastic Formation Committee. At Monasteries of the Heart Mary Ellen helps plan and develop the monastic curriculum and is instrumental in preparing and posting course and monastic practices content and engaging in dialogue with participants.

Mary Ellen also works closely with prison chaplains and volunteers through the Joan Chittister Fund for Prisoners. A Benedictine Sister of Erie, she serves on the Erie DAWN Board of Directors and InterChurch Ministries Executive Board. She is experienced as a retreat leader, a hospice chaplain and a motivational speaker.

Janice Etchison, Oblate
… is an Erie Benedictine Oblate and former participant in the Benedicta Reipp Program, a year-long live-in program with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. She joined the Monasteries of the Heart staff in 2014 where she coordinates print projects and e-newsletters, keeps Sister Joan Chittister’s website up-to-date and serves as the contact person for onsite Monasteries of the Heart communities.

Janice is on Benedictines for Peace steering committee and is an active participant in prison ministry. Previously she was a Case Manager at St. Benedict Education Center and Project Assistant at Gannondale Residential Center for Girls. She has a grown daughter.

Linda Romey, OSB
…worked at Benetvision from 1997-2004. After a five-year stint as Director of Marketing and Advertising for the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, MO, she returned to Erie in 2010 and rejoined the Benetvision/Monasteries of the Heart staff as web developer and designer. She also helps with financial management and marketing.

Linda does web development and design and marketing for the Erie Benedictine community where she is also a member. She serves as treasurer for the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum. Prior to entering the community Linda lived and worked in Colombia, South America, for seven years.

Joanne DyJack
…has been bookkeeper and data entry manager for Benetvision since 2003. A familiar voice on the customer service line, she processes Monastic Way orders and responds to customer concerns as well as keeping up with daily financial recording and monthly reconciling for Benetvision and Monasteries of the Heart.

Diane Trejchel
…began working at Benetvision in its early days, in 1993-96. She returned in 2000 and has come to know many regular customers well over the years. Diane does data entry, orders inventory, answers emails and assists people with website navigation on the Benetvision, Monastic Way and Monasteries of the Heart websites.