Soul Space was organized in the fall of 1999 to promote interfaith exchange and bridge building as a way of fostering understanding and peace-making among women of faith. Conceived by a Catholic laywoman, Marilyn Gehant, Soul Space originally opened as a small, urban retreat facility the week before September 11, 2001. Jewish, Muslim and Christian women carried the Torah, Quran, and New Testament into the space in the Chicago Sacred Heart School complex and offered blessings. Soul Space began interfaith programs and hosted overnight retreatants in converted convent space on the shore of Lake Michigan. The center closed after a short period of programming due to economic and social challenges in the aftermath of 9/11.
The loss of physical space, though disappointing, clarified and strengthened the mission of reaching out and welcoming women across religious traditions in a variety of settings. Soul Space reemerged as a movement, sharing sacred spaces, gathering circles of women, and offering programs throughout the northern Chicago metro-area.
For seven years, Soul Space hosted mid-day reflections and conversations on topics including: sacred texts, rituals, feminine faith models, holy day observances, doubt and faith experiences, and breakthroughs to the sacred. Over time, hundreds of women of the Book attended.
In 2008, Soul Space gathered a Creative Circle of writers and artists to share their spiritual reflections. Thanks to a nine-month planning process with generous volunteers, in 2009 Soul Space launched a Sunday retreat series with panel reflections by Muslim, Jewish and Christian women. Personal stories focused on the influence of faith on women’s courage, healing and creativity.
We remember with joy and honor with gratitude three women who founded and grounded Soul Space, and now guide us in spirit: Mary Ali, Judy Pier and Mary Alice Zander, SP. Each of them shared her faith, questions, wisdom, talents and skills to help build this organization.
Peace, Marilyn Gehant