Sister Marya Grathwohl became a nun in 1963 and was eventually assigned to an order in Montana that worked closely with the Crow and Northern Cheyenne people. Deeply moved and educated by traditions in both tribes, she is faced with the expanding and unlearning she has to do about her own belief systems. She realizes also that she feels most connected to God through nature, and works to promote environmentalism as a way of living. Her memoir offers fascinating insight into the seldom-seen world of a young woman who dedicates her whole life to one of faith.
The memoir of a Catholic nun’s spiritual journey that explores the deep connections between faith and the natural world
Growing up in the Midwest, Judy Grathwohl never felt she belonged. “I belong out west,” she remembers telling her father. After joining the Sisters of St. Francis in the early 1960s and becoming Sister Marya, she came to realize that she craved a life beyond the traditional path of a Catholic nun. “Something other than dedicating my life to God was summoning me, some other life purpose,” she writes.
It took several years and several detours, but when Sister Marya eventually was assigned by her order to the Northwest, she felt an immediate connection to the place and to its Native people, the Crow and Northern Cheyenne. Little by little, she was invited to become part of their communities, to share their customs and rituals, and eventually was adopted into one of their families. She came to understand that the blending of Catholic teachings and Native traditions helped build within her a deeper respect for the Earth—this wheel of rocks—that she could not have built on her own.
In this intimate, revelatory memoir, Sister Marya recounts her own spiritual journey, her settling in Montana, how she—a Catholic nun from Ohio—came to be embraced by the Crow and Northern Cheyenne, and how their traditions prompted in her an expanding devotion to the land, its resources, and its connections to faith and God.
Honest and eye-opening, funny and heartfelt, This Wheel of Rocks shows how living a spiritual life committed to preserving nature and community can be both fulfilling and productive.
About the Author
Marya Grathwohl has been a Sister of St. Francis since 1963 and has served African American, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne communities as a teacher, principal, and adult educator. A founding director of Earth Hope, which offers programs to assist vulnerable groups in protecting their land, she also has worked as a consultant for renewable energy and has developed a cosmology program for use in jails and prisons. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Billings, Montana.
Praise for This Wheel of Rocks:
“I predict that the shining knowledge and insights inside these pages will blow your soul wide awake in ways you can scarcely imagine. Woven into the lyric prose are forty years of learning among Native Americans, Earth activists, cosmologists and scientists, spiritual seekers, and Earth herself—even her rocks on mountains that seem far too harsh for life.” —Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
“Sister Marya’s memoir is as compelling as a novel, bringing the reader into the lives of Native people who helped her transform her understanding of our relationship with Earth. The prose is clear and lovely, and the voice is instantly trustworthy.” —Denny LeBoeuf, Director, ACLU John Adams Project
“This is one of the most moving books I have read in a long time. Sister Marya invites us into her fascinating spiritual journey. With engaging stories she shares her questions and struggles as well as her emerging insights and integration. This is a life-changing book to be savored for years to come.” —Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, co-author of Journey of the Universe
“Marya Grathwohl’s story compels readers to probe their own life journey more deeply. Her vivid prose and poetic descriptions inspire and challenge us to live in harmony with all Creation.” —Sister Claire Whelan, OSF