Charity Spotlight: Leonie's Longing

A community of support for women who have returned to lay life from one of religion.

Leonie’s Longing is an online community that aids women who have been in a convent or monastery and have returned to the secular world. By building new relationships and a network of support, Leonie’s Longing helps ease the transition to lay life.

In this charity spotlight, I spoke with the Founder and President of Leonie’s Longing, Theresa Jasko.

Origin Story

Without a convent or other community for support, many women who return to the secular world from a religious one feel isolated and look for their experience to be normalized. With little more than the clothes on her back, the transition to lay life may require a woman to endure many extraordinarily stressful circumstances.

In 2011, Theresa found herself in such a situation: without a community, but dependent upon others. She went online seeking respite and encouragement but found very little. Knowing she wasn’t alone, Theresa set out to create the place that she and many other women needed.

By April of the following year, Leonie’s Longing was launched. It didn’t take long before visitors and their friends and family offered their help to strengthen this new community.

Today

Leonie’s Longing now hosts hundreds of posts that help women make the transition to lay life. Articles such as A Hairy Story! offer practical, light-hearted advice, such as how to style short hair that is common amongst sisters who wear the habit. Other articles, like Ouch, describes the melancholy and eventual acceptance one experiences when they leave their community.

Much of the content tempers humor with the reality of the situation many readers are going through. This helps readers approach questions they may have about identity—questions such as Who am I?, Where am I going?, and Who will I become?—in a friendly, light-hearted way.

In addition to advice and story-sharing, there are also Monday Memes that touch on familiar convent life topics, book and movie reviews, an e-newsletter, and resources for friends and family. The nonprofit tries to respond to all comments and offers direct support by helping those in need find counselors, places to stay, clothes, and more.

Big Wins

Theresa has reflected on the great community that Leonie’s Longing helped build and is happy thinking about how many women’s lives have been touched.

There are still many women to be helped, of course, but all of the community-building and individual support—assisting with résumés, finding places to stay, offering advice, and providing clothes—makes for one huge accomplishment.

Leonie’s Longing is also proud to be conducting a survey for the Pope. The Church will use the results to connect with young people and help them pursue their life’s calling.

Goals

Leonie’s Longing would love to organize a weekend retreat. This would be an ideal opportunity for members to meet in person, enjoy relaxing activities together, and listen to speakers. It may require additional fundraising for transportation and identifying what people should do after the retreat, though.

Theresa would like to better categorize the content of their website, too. This would help new (and existing) members find more personally relevant information. Leonie’s Longing is planning on launching the next redesigned iteration of their website soon!

For Nonprofits

When you’re ready to take the plunge, do it! Not only that but do it in your own style. Recognize that we’re all different and use that to draw on your own strengths and the strengths of the people you work with.

Theresa also encourages people to find ways to overcome their own deficiencies. If you frequently roadblock yourself—or you’re just shy to start something new—try putting yourself out there once in awhile. If you’re a risk-taker, do some research first.

For Volunteers

Before you start volunteering, gather some information. Ask lots of questions, know what time you can dedicate, and when you’re needed. Setting clear expectations and boundaries will help you avoid getting burned out.

Avoid overcommitting and be direct; it’s okay to say “no.” If something doesn’t work out, you can always make a change. That also means you don’t have to be afraid to try something new.

Get Involved

If you want to learn more about Leonie’s Longing, you can reach them by clicking one of the buttons below.

Photographs courtesy of Leonie’s Longing.