Cedars of Peace: Retreat hermitages in the sacred woods of Kentucky
… rest a while
Sojourners on life’s journey find gifts abounding at Cedars. Quiet is interspersed with bird symphony. Solitude rocks you in gentle arms. Body and soul encounter deep rest.
The eight Cedars of Peace hermitages nestle into the woods on the Motherhouse property, each featuring a small kitchen and cozy sitting, dining and sleeping areas; a tranquil screened porch beckons. Cedars invites individuals to come experience the woods for a weekend or a week. Some stay longer — for several weeks or eve months.
Starting in 2004, the cabins, originally constructed beginning in the 1970s, were rebuilt by Susan Classen CoL using wood salvaged from other locations. A new cabin, Gratitude, recently completed, incorporates yellow poplar and Osage orange salvaged from a house built in the early 20th century that was slated to be burned; yellow pine was reused from the old Loretto Heritage Center floor; ash trees decimated by the emerald ash borer live on, their beauty a gift to us today.
Cedars’s origins go back to the 1960s when Jane Marie Richardson SL yearned for a life of solitude but had not found others in Loretto with that desire, prodding Thomas Merton, monk at nearby Gethsemani, to ask, “How many do you need?” The answer: “None.” She moved ahead with her plans.
In 1975, Loretto’s Executive Committee approved Jane Marie’s request that cabins be built in the woods. Cedars of Peace was born three months later when construction began on the first four cabins and the chapel. Sisters, including Jane Marie, completed much of the interior and finish carpentry.
With time, additional Community members showed interest in living at Cedars for varying lengths of time. In a 1982 Loretto Magazine article, Carol Kokocinski commented, “I really discovered I couldn’t be at home except in the woods. I need this to survive. I found I needed to seek God in greater silence.”
Susan arrived in 2003 when Karen Knoll CoL was director; she was transitioning from Central America where she’d lived for more than 20 years. Susan spent a year working with Karen, then decided to stay, stripping and transforming each cabin, using elbow grease and salvaged material. Always on the lookout for wood she might repurpose, she shares the story of a Motherhouse housekeeper who, on her drive home, spotted a house being torn down. She stopped and said, “I know somebody who’s going to want that wood! Don’t burn it.” And so Susan procured the wood to renovate the interior of the chapel.
One woman, after a recent stay at Cedars, found the small space so comfortable that she went home, sold her house and built a house about the size of one of the cozy cabins.
‘Gratitude’ springs forth
To learn more about Cedars of Peace, visit the Cedars webpage.
To read all the articles in the Winter 2022-2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.