"For the Common Good": Reflections on Community-Building from Sister Pat Farrell of Santa Sabina Center


“I believe that the community—in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures—is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.” 

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


“Community is learned.”

―Sister Pat Farrell, OP


Most of us like the idea of community. Are we willing to work for it, though? 

We want to surround ourselves with people who share our values, folks we can count on through thick and thin. Yet we struggle to coexist with family, neighbors, and coworkers, striving to compromise while also letting our own deepest truth shine. And we realize, sometimes painfully, that the quest for community is never finished, but is an ongoing challenge. 

In her remarkable career, Dominican Sister Pat Farrell, OP, has faced such challenges over and again. As she prepares to celebrate her 25th jubilee (or holy year) with the Catholic Church, Sister Pat has not only dedicated her life to serving the community around her, but has lived closely in community with fellow sisters along the way. A friend of iRest Institute, Sister Pat serves as hosting manager at Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, California, where she has helped organize countless iRest retreats. In her role at Santa Sabina, she works with a wide range of groups to “hold space in a way that promotes contemplative ways of being”. 

According to Sister Pat, hard work is required if we want the benefit of community. “It’s a lot of give and take. A lot of kindness. A lot of forgiveness.”

Kindness is important, she says, but it is not enough to edify a community. “If we are faith-filled people walking some kind of spiritual path, do I not want to be kind? ...but that’s where the rubber hits the road.”  Flexibility and a willingness to compromise, she emphasizes, is also required. “All must be negotiated… for the common good.

To know how to live in community—locally or globally—is an increasingly valued skill.  While loneliness and isolation certainly existed prior to the pandemic, says Sister Pat, the health crisis has exacerbated the divide we often feel between one another. To improve our capacity to build community, we must look at its basic building blocks:

  • Rituals: holding sacred time together
  • Chores: sharing work
  • Meetings: communicating openly
  • Celebrations: cutting loose together

Also crucial? A rock-solid sense of our individual selves. “As human beings, we’re geared to be in relationship with one another,” says Sister Pat, “but also connected to ourselves.”

We at iRest Institute are honored to host a conversation on the theme of “community” with Sister Pat Farrell in our upcoming Sangha Session with Richard Miller on Tuesday, November 17. Register for the 11/17 Sangha Session>

Meanwhile, we celebrate the rare and beautiful treasure of community you all have helped create, with gratitude to Sister Pat for her years of work, and to each and every one of you who mindfully and skillfully works to build togetherness in the iRest community. Thank you!


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Steben Schnell

Permalink November 14, 2020 at 9:52am

I just re-read Pema Chodron's *Six Kinds of Loneliness*. While I'm never sure I understand anything it seems she is saying not to to run from isolation or being alone. Do not try to cover it up with eating or drinking or watching TV or thinking or doing anything else in particular. She says to just sit and be "content" with isolation. Having endured 7 or 8 months of partial isolation what she says is beginning to get through to me. Does way of looking at things conflict with the formation of Community?

Many Thanks

Yao t

Permalink November 15, 2020 at 9:52am

Thanks for the awesome recommendation of Pema Chrodon's!

After reading, I feel ultimately it won't conflict although it may seem to conflict from time to time.

I also feel you're a young person although your nickname is old-man-way haha.

Many thanks,

jhc edc

Permalink January 4, 2022 at 6:52pm

The NCAA absolutely sucks. The logic behind their decision to deny Oklahoma State's appeal and declare them ineligible for the 2022 NCAA Tournament makes no sense whatsoever Mustafa Khaleefah Jersey. According to Matt Norlander, Oklahoma State's postseason ban "is believed to be the first in NCAA history wherein a school has received a ban without being assessed one of these five major violations: head coach responsibility charge; lack of institutional control; failure to monitor; any recruiting violation; academic fraud." On what earth does that much sense? South Carolina, who was also involved with Lamont Evans have received much less severe punishment. One less year of probation, a self-imposed fine of 5,000 less than OSU, and no postseason ban. Mike Boynton said during the press conference with Athletic Director Chad Weiberg, that one player got paid $300! That's it. I would encourage any and everyone who hasn't seen the press conference today with Mike Boynton and Chad Weiberg to do so. Both men do not mince words when talking about the NCAA here. Oklahoma State did everything they could to cooperate with the NCAA even meeting with them before a Bedlam game on the day of a game at Kansas and it doesn't mean jack squat. This is without a doubt shameful what the NCAA has done. Forcing kids who were in middle school and high school and it isn't just Stillwater folks saying it. Many members of the national media have said it too. If Oklahoma State got a $300 violation and a postseason ban. Surely other programs involved in the scandal will receive some major punishment... Nope. Just Oklahoma State with their postseason ban. The NCAA has shown a clear abuse of power and lack of logic in this situation and in the words of Mike Gundy during his infamous "I'm 40" rant It makes me want to puke. Screw the NCAA.

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