Squamish is known as an adventurer’s paradise, with enough mountains, water, views and trails to appease even the most seasoned explorers. While it’s not a typical hustle-and-bustle type of town, Squamish is nonetheless an active place.
But tucked away off of the busy Sea to Sky Highway is a little slice of calmness and serenity that rivals even the quietest hiking trails.
Operating in the Upper Squamish Valley since 2012, the Queen of Peace Monastery is occupied by sisters of the Dominican Order, a part of the Catholic faith. They’ve built an atmosphere of peace, prayer and mindfulness that they not only embody, but invite all to share in. Guests are welcome to visit the monastery, whether for a few minutes or a few days – the monastery even has a guesthouse for overnight visitors that can be reserved online.
“We are having a good stream of visitors,” says monastery prioress Sister Marie Tersidis. “There’s a lot of need in our hectic world for silence and prayer. People are drawn to our lives.”
“Not that we take a vow of silence or anything, but most of the day is spent in silence out of a general sense of respect for each other’s physical and mental space,” says Sister Bronwyn Lawrie, who officially began at the monastery in October 2015.
“There’s just something about the peace, the silence, the mountains and the fact that our chapel is open from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and anybody from any background is welcome to ring the doorbell, talk to a sister or come in and sit and just be.”
Though most of the 11 sisters currently living in the monastery hail from far beyond the Sea to Sky region - from places like Tanzania, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas and France, to name a few – Lawrie’s journey was much shorter.
The 25-year-old grew up in Whistler, just a short drive up the highway. Prior to entering the sisterhood, Lawrie – who says she didn’t grow up going to church – studied at the University of Victoria and worked in communications at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
“In university, to my surprise more than anyone else’s – when I got out of a really tough relationship – I wound up at a Catholic mass. Why? Now looking back, I realize that was God working,” she says. “After university, I spent the first couple months [at Queen of Peace] doing what’s called an aspirancy, which is basically coming here to live life and see what it’s like.
“After moving around and doing odd jobs and trying to figure out what I was really looking for, I realized my heart had been at the monastery the whole time, and it was time to come home.”
So far, Lawrie says life at the monastery has been “epic.”
While Tersidis explains that the sisters’ days revolve around prayer – with specific time slots carved out for prayer, study, mass and profound silence – she added that they maintain a balance of work and leisure time, as well.
“It’s never dull,” she says.