Heart Longings: An Invitation to the Contemplative Path

November 2021 to June 2022



Does your heart long for a deeper connection to God? Do you yearn to live from a place of calm and love instead of fear in these turbulent times? Do you desire to journey together in a community of like-hearted souls?

If so, join us for the eight-month program, Heart Longings: An Invitation to the Contemplative Path, November 2021-June 2022 on Zoom. We will begin and end the program with 24-hour retreats and meet monthly on Saturday mornings in between. In addition to the monthly whole-group meetings, there will be monthly small group meetings and monthly one-to-one meetings with a spiritual director. Readings and reflections follow the themes of the monthly gatherings.

Timeline & Components

Program Dates & Topics:
Nov 5-6, “Staying Grounded in the Storm: Contemplative Living” opening retreat (from 5 PM ET on Friday to 5 PM ET on Saturday)
Dec 4, “For Everything There Is a Season: Waiting, Listening, and Acting” (10-1 ET)
Jan 8, “Building the Beloved Community” (10-1 ET)
Feb 5, “Listening and Seeing: Music and Art as Contemplation” (10-1 ET)
Mar 12, “Walking as Prayer: Body and Nature” (10-1 ET)
Apr 2, “Sacred Activism: Contemplative Grounding for Justice” (10-1 ET)
May 7, “Earth Awareness” (10-1 ET)
June 3-4, “Staying Faithful to the Journey: Gifts and Challenges” closing retreat (from 5 PM ET on Friday to 5 PM ET on Saturday)

A Certificate of Completion is awarded upon completion of all program requirements.


Margaret Benefiel
Margaret, Executive Director of Shalem, holds a PhD in Spirituality from Catholic University and an MA in Theology from Earlham School of Religion. She is a graduate of our Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and serves on the staff of that program as well as on the staff of our Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program and our YALLI: Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative. She created and directs the Soul of Leadership Program and is a co-director for the Heart Longings program. She is the author of numerous articles and books on contemplative leadership, including The Soul of a Leader and Soul at Work.

Brenda Bertrand
Brenda is a co-director of the Heart Longings program and serves on the staff of Shalem’s YALLI: Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative. Brenda served as an intern at Shalem and graduated from Shalem’s Group Spiritual Direction and Heart Longings programs. As an ordained minister, spiritual companion, and seminary chaplain, she finds joy in companioning emerging leaders and people of color on their contemplative journeys. Brenda believes pilgrimage is a spiritual practice and has participated in and led sacred travel adventures across the globe since 1997.

Trish Stefanik
Trish, a program administrator for Shalem, is a graduate of our Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Program and serves on the leadership team for that program. She is a co-director for the Heart Longings program and also serves as a small group facilitator for Shalem’s Group Spiritual Direction program. As an experienced retreat leader, Trish delights in opening a way for creativity and contemplation. She is a resident manager of Overlook Retreat House at Dayspring in Germantown, MD, and has a passion for the natural world, social justice, simplicity, and silence.

The leadership team for this program is Margaret Benefiel, Trish Stefanik, and Brenda Bertrand, with various guest prayer leaders and seminar leaders.

Price & Apply Now

Although registrations have closed for the 2022 class of Heart Longings, we would be happy to talk with you if you are sensing a call to this program. Please contact Trish (301-897-7334 or trish@shalem.org) to see if it still might be possible to include you in this class.

Program Price

Need-based tuition assistance is available. To request, complete the tuition assistance form as part of the application.

Feel free to contact Trish Stefanik, Program Administrator, at trish@shalem.org (301) 897-7334.


“Looking back I can barely remember the girl who was scared of her first ever silent retreat in November, unsure even of what she was longing for. In her place is a woman quieted and fully engaged with the One who knows and loves her more than she ever knew, gently calling her back out and connecting her to the world around her.”

-Joanne Youn, Bethesda, Maryland

“I am so glad that I took the brave steps to join Heart Longings during a real time of uncertainty for me. It has been one of the better decisions I have made for my well-being. I had no idea how much I needed such a diverse group in which to experience and explore the world during such a crucial time. It gave me a new sense of purpose while creating new friendships and restoring my faith and hope in others. This time has reconnected my hand to God’s hand, and I feel the melodic awesomeness of God’s peace. I also feel the marching drums calling me to action, calling me to love fearlessly and to fight injustices.”

-Glen Vinson, Bowie, Maryland

“My desire as I began this journey was to ‘reconnect’ with God. I always looked forward to the monthly seminars and also to our group spiritual direction gatherings and to my sharing with my spiritual director. There was always an invitation for me to explore new territories and to be open to new paths.”

-Jacqueline Levesque, Haileybury, Ontario, Canada

“Heart Longings provided a safe space with other sojourners that fed my soul and helped me regain my equilibrium.”

-Christina Guerra, Fair Oaks, Texas



To read Shalem Grad Kimberly McOmber’s reflection on the community and spiritual grounding she discovered in the Heart Longings program, click here.