Nov 29th to Dec 2nd: Advent 2023 — Welcome and Introductions

Reading: Preface by Robert Ellsberg, p. vii — xi

In writing this diary of his travels to Ukraine in 1993 snd 1994, Henri
was in effect sending a letter to the future. . . . (T)his simple story
was waiting for the right time, and for an audience
that could appreciate it. (p. vii)

Note: Saturday, Dec 2—Some of you might not see the comments at the bottom of the page. If you do not see the comments, go to the right hand column and click on the top comment under the heading Recent Comments, and all the comments should then be shown. Scroll to the bottom of the comments and you will see the box to enter your own comment. You may also reply to the comments of others. If you have any questions, please contact me at

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A warm welcome to each of you as we gather at this “most wonderful time of the year” for another Henri Nouwen Society book discussion. As always, a beautiful community of people will gather for a fruitful discussion as we journey through the Advent season together. If you’ve joined us in the past, welcome back! If this is your first book discussion, we are so glad you are here!

This Advent we will read and discuss the recently published Ukraine Diary, written by Henri Nouwen in conjunction with his travels to newly independent Ukraine in 1993 and 1994. As Robert Ellsberg, the publisher of Orbis Books, notes in his Preface, when Henri approached him about publishing this book when it was first written, Ellsberg questioned whether this book would find an audience and he was unwilling to publish Henri’s diary. And yet, three decades later, as the brutal war in Ukraine continues unabated nearly two years after the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ellsberg reminds us that Henri’s “letter to the future” (p. vii) provides us with visibility into the character of the Ukrainian people that Henri encountered and “bears a message for our own time.” (p. xi)

In his Preface, Robert Ellsberg offers us his insights in to his relationship with Henri and how this book came to be published in English thirty years after it was first written. Henri’s diary is the meat that is sandwiched between an timely Introduction by Archbishop Borys Gudziak and an Afterword by Henri’s brother Laurent Nouwen who has continued mission to Ukraine started by Henri over the intervening years.

I’m looking forward sharing a spirit-filled Advent season with this online community of seekers as we gather to to read and discuss Ukraine Diary by Henri Nouwen. Our discussion begins in earnest on Sunday, December 3rd.

As we begin our journey together, it’s always nice to know something about our companions. Over the next few days you are encouraged to introduce yourself. You may choose to share:

  • Your general geographic location.
  • To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why.
  • How you came to know and read Henri Nouwen and whether or not you have participated in previous Henri Nouwen Society online discussions.
  • What you hope to gain from this experience.
  • Any comments you have on Robert Ellsberg’s Preface

Please scroll to the bottom of the page to post a comment introducing yourself and to share other thoughts as we embark on our Advent journey.

Shown below my signature is a brief personal introduction followed by the book discussion instructions for those joining us for the first time or interested in a review.

In gratitude,

Ray Glennon, Moderator: Ray and his wife Dawn live in Columbia, Maryland. He came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass in Singapore at a difficult and transformative point in his life. He began participating in Henri Nouwen Society book discussions in 2010 and has served as a moderator since 2014. He has developed and led several adult education courses based on the life and work of Henri Nouwen. Ray and his wife are professed members of Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) and he volunteers in various ministries in his Catholic parish and at the Franciscan Shrine of St. Anthony. You may contact Ray by email at

Henri Nouwen Society Online Book Discussion Instructions
Let’s briefly describe how our online book discussion works. If you’ve joined us before, this will serve as a review.

Beginning this Sunday, December 3rd, and each Sunday throughout Advent, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page. The post will identify the reading for the week, present a brief moderator’s reflection, and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are invited and encouraged to comment on the post by responding to the suggested questions, by sharing their own reflections, and by replying to the comments of others throughout the week.

To read the comments or to leave a comment of your own, scroll down to the bottom of the post.  If you don’t see any comments, click on the small link at the bottom that says ## Comments.  To leave a new comment, continue scrolling down and use the “Leave a Reply” box.  To reply to someone else’s comment, click the Reply link directly below their comment. After you submit a new comment or a reply, it needs to be “approved” either by me or Will at the Henri Nouwen Society so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any questions or problems, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at

39 Replies to “Nov 29th to Dec 2nd: Advent 2023 — Welcome and Introductions”

  1. My name is Marilyn and I live in Duluth, Mn. I grew up in a unique area with many immigrants from many different parts of the world. I lived with my parents as well as with my grandparents who immigrated from the Ukraine. I am interested to know more about the people and the area, and Henri’s observations, work and love of the place seem like an ideal place to do just that. It is especially nice to have a place to share with others. I hope to know others on this life journey through sharing in this space. Blessing on the work of healing and peace.

  2. I live in Bournemouth on the South coast of England.
    I was a missionary Pakistan for most of my working life, looking after a small Christian community there. I left the field at the end of 2019, though I still go back for a few weeks each year and also to Nepal, to see my friends in those countries and to teach on the Fatherhood of God. I am presently writing a book on this subject which is taking up my days and energy!
    I came across Henri Nouwen many years back. I have read the Return of the Prodigal Son and a couple more of his books, which I really enjoyed. I feel close to him, having the same desire to learn and teach on Christian community and the Father’s love for His children. This is my first on-line discussion.
    I want to join with and learn from others who are also reading Henri’s writings

    1. Hello, I am glad to join a community that values Henri Nouwen, his trajectory, and his teachings. I have been a reader of his meditations for several years, which has strengthened my spirituality. I am grateful to the Henri Nouwen Society for bringing Henri’s inspiring words daily to us. I am Ivani, an educator residing near Buffalo, NY.

  3. Hello everyone, my name is Nadiia, which in Ukrainian means Hope! My husband & I came to the United States in 2014 when the russian aggression against our country had just started. I write about my “forced” immigration experience, as I call it, in my blog,

    I first discovered Henri Nouwen through reading “The Return of the Prodigal Son” about 2.5 years ago. Since then, I joined five online discussions guided by Ray Glennon. It’s hard for me to find the right words to describe how meaningful it is for me that “Ukraine Diary” was finally published in English. It is one of the best pieces of literature that helps readers, including Ukrainians like myself, look inside the Ukrainian Nation’s Soul to grasp all its beauty & immense suffering.

    In September 2021, I saw my friend posting a picture in her FB story with this book written in Ukrainian. I immediately reached out to Ray & asked if this book can be found here in America. At that moment, it was not so. I then asked my sister-in-law to bring me that book from Ukraine & I literally wept while reading it because Henri got to the very core of Ukrainians with such an overwhelming love & care that I hadn’t yet encountered.

    Fast forward two enormously hard years of the full-scale russian invasion, during which my husband & helped to evacuate & resettle many Ukrainian refugees, including my mom, who at the age of 77 was given one hour to pick up her belongings with all the explosions & shelling going in my home city Kharkiv, I can feel Henri’s words much much much deeper. I look forward to re-reading this book with you all & to witnessing how more & more people learn not only where Ukraine is located on the map as a country but also what kind of Nation it is & what special place God has for it in His Fatherly Heart.

  4. Hi, I’m Sharon and my husband and I live in a suburb of Detroit. I have read quite a few of Henri Nouwen’s books and participated in Lenten and Advent studies. I am distraught over what is going on in Ukraine now and looking forward to reading this book and insights from participants to help have a more spiritual perspective and more focused praying for the people of Ukraine and the Russian citizens.

  5. My name is Barbara Mark from a small valley off the coast of central California. Reading Henri Nouwen daily meditations and some of his books has deepened my faith and broadened my spiritual journey. I look forward to reading this book and sharing the discussion with all of you.

  6. My name is Elizabeth. From Hamilton, Ontario . Very excited to join in a spiritual journey for Advent. Trying to focus on true meaning of this time. Slow down. Renew. Never done a Nouwen discussion group. A Ukrainian friend introduced me to Henri’s daily meditations. Start my day feeling at peace

  7. Hi!
    I’m Diane from Iowa, USA. My husband & I have retired from pastoral ministry. We moved after retirement to a larger town & are still trying to figure out where & how we fit into the community. We are also still in the process of settling into a faith family for worship, service, & growth. My husband & I deliver meals to shut-ins once a week through a state-funded program & I’ve started attending a small ‘grow group’ through a local church.
    I think one of my 1st exposures to Henri Nouwen was through a quote in a magazine article or book which was followed by reading Wounded Healer & Genesee Diary – Both were encouraging & soul-nourishing in their gracefulness. I felt like I had met a mentor & friend in Henri.
    I recently heard about this society, did some sleuthing, signed up for the daily devotionals (which are fantastic) & then this book discussion which I thought looked intriguing since I did not realize Henri had visited Ukraine. It will be interesting to ‘hear’ his observations & thoughts as well as those of my fellow readers.

  8. Hello. I’m Nancy from mid-Michigan. I read many of Henri Nouwen’s books years ago. Because of a close friend of mine, I have recently been drawn again to Christianity. I am currently reading Following Jesus and Turn My Mourning Into Dancing as well as his daily devotional. Henri’s deep love and concern shines through all he wrote.

    I love advent and usually read two or three books during this time of waiting. I was thrilled to find out about this online discussion of Ukraine Diary. My grandmother and grandfather both came to the US from Czechoslovakia so the book is also of interest because of my ancestry. I am looking forward to reflecting and learning more with this group.

    1. My name is Joanne and i live in Colorado. i read The Wounded Healer years ago and it helped change my life. i am drawn to his spirituality and how he presents his thoughts and information.

  9. My name is Pamela. I live in Minnesota, USA. I became aware of Henri’s work through the daily meditations and have enjoyed several podcasts. This is my first book discussion. I was drawn to this book in hope of understanding the spirit of the Ukrainian people who have suffered so much and yet persevere. I struggle to see how God is at work when there is so much oppression in our world.

  10. I live in Alexandria, VA. I read the Return of the Prodigal Son several years ago, and recently reread it. Fr. Nouwen’s words really resonated with me and caused me to do a self examination.
    I’m looking forward to reading the Ukraine Diary and hope we can inspire one another.

  11. Hello! My name is Chris Ciummei, and I’m a historian from Central Pennsylvania. My mother, Suzanne Domzalski, and I are happy to be here, and she should be commenting as well. Very happy to have something positive from Nouwen to read in these challenging times!

  12. Hello, my name is Sr. Lisa Grace Carlone. I’m a Franciscan Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart in New York. The first book I read by Henri Nouwen was “Out of Solitude” on a discernment retreat. Later,I came across a copy of “Adam: God’s Beloved” in the convent library. Absolutely beautiful. I look forward to reflecting and learning from this discussion.

  13. Hello. I’m Amelia, misplaced Tejana living in NJ. I heard of Henri Nouwen when my hometown priest, Father Roy Snipes, recommended one of his books during lent.
    I found the society after that & am j deeply moved by his writings shred in the daily emails.
    Excited to read this book & discuss with y’all. Wishing everyone a blessed reverent Advent.

  14. Hi – I’m Adele’s neighbor in CT and she invited me to this book study.
    I’ve encountered Nouwen’s work in the advent and Lenten devotionals distributed by our parish.
    My favorite spiritual authors are Thomas Merton, James Martin, Frederick Beuchner , Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating and Barbara Brown Taylor.
    I’m looking forward to going deeper with Henri Nouwen this Advent.

  15. Hi. I’m Sherry Adams. I live in Paducah Ky. I was introduced to Henri by our pastor about 25 years ago when he led a study of Here and Now (one of my favorites). I have read many of his books and look forward to this one and the discussion. This is my first on-line study group. Peace.

  16. Greetings! I’m a retired special education teacher living in Southern California, about to move to Chicagoland, who first “met” Henri Nouwen when I picked up one of his early books back in the 1970s. He has been part of my spiritual journey ever since. I’m looking forward to our Advent reflections together.

  17. Hi, I’m Peter and I live in Wales just across the border from the English town of Oswestry. I had the privilege of spending a sabbatical month at Daybreak and have paid two shorter visits to The Cedars, which was Nouwen’s home and it’s now a retreat house. I’m sure many of those participating this Advent will know it well. Daybreak continues to be a source of blessing to me, as does Nouwen’s writing. We’ve also been blessed by contact with Ukrainian refugees here in the UK and I’m looking forward to reading Fr Henri’s insights into Ukrainian culture. I face my own challenges in the year ahead and I hope that this Advent group will enable me in that journey.

  18. Hello Everyone, I live in Ontario and my friend suggested we join in this discussion. This will be my second time participating in an online discussion. In some way I hope by reading this book in community I can express solidarity with the Ukrainian people. But even more perhaps to connect with God’s heart for his people and creation. Henri’s writing has helped me to experience this which I am grateful for.

  19. My name is Sue and I live just outside Toronto, Canada, and this is my first online book discussion, though I have read and been enriched greatly by the writings of Henri Nouwen for over 20 years. I was first introduced to him by a friend who volunteered with me in a Sunday school class for people with developmental disabilities. Henri’s book Adam, God’s Beloved, revealed his heart for these vulnerable ones, but also God’s in often speaking through them to upend all the false securities we often cling to. I am very much looking forward to being part of this group.

  20. I am a retired teacher now living in the winter wonderland of the foothills of Colorado. I spend my time with my family and with volunteer work for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. I have participated in these Henri Nouwen discussions for several years and have always benefited tremendously from the reading and the interaction with like-minded explorers of the spiritual world offered here. Ray is a wonderful facilitator.
    As always, I am impressed with Henri’s gravitation toward deep spiritual friendships and his passionate commitment to communities like Daybreak and, now, Ukraine. And as always, he throws himself into every worthy project with great passion, intellect, and heart.

  21. My name is Michele and I live in New Jersey. I dedicate my days and energy to my husband and 2 daughters that still live at home. I also spend a lot of time and energy focused on work and church (several different committees). I learned of Henri Nouwen as an author while working in our church library but wasn’t any more interested until I heard one of his daily meditations read at one of our Bible Study meetings. This will be my first book of his to read. I have participated in online book studies before, but this is my first with this group.

  22. Hello! My name is Trish and I live in Silverton, Oregon. I’m not sure when I first heard of and read Henri Nouwen, but for sure, The Return of the Prodigal was a turning point for me. I’ve been hooked ever since. Such a fresh perspective and so powerful! I have not participated in any of these online book discussions before, but I’ve been collecting Nouwen’s books for years, and his thoughts are a daily aspect of my walk with God. I’m eager to be part of this!

  23. Hi, my name is Julie. I live in Nebraska, USA. This is my first online book discussion. My introduction to Henri was through reading The Prodigal Son. I remember my small world breaking open to a wonderful way of looking at life things from a totally new lens as I read and how healing that was for me. My hope for participating in this is that I will continue to learn to see the world in new ways and that in some way I will also be able to help others see new perspectives as well that will help us each grow into more of a yes/and view of life. I look forward to our journey.

  24. My name is Dell Kasinskas. I live in Cheshire. CT. Learned about Henri in the 70’s Favorite books are Out of Solitude and the Prodigal Son. I am retired and dealing with chronic medical issues. I read and pray daily using Henris meditations and the web sites Sacred Space, and The Word Among Us, and Richard Rohr. I hope to learn about the Ukraine spirit and to share in others’ reflections. Peace.

  25. Hello my name is Elizabeth from Sturgeon County, Alberta, Canada.
    I have not participated in this kind of experience before.
    I began reading Henri Nouwen when I was studying a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and found his writing to be so authentic and heart driven.
    I come from Ukrainian roots and I feel this exploration will bring a deepening of my own understanding.
    I look forward to reading and experiencing this in this group.

  26. My name is Lorrie. I live in Naples, Florida. I was born and raised in Norwalk, CT.
    I stumbled across Henri’s Genesee Diary about 10 years ago and I was hooked.

    In one of the daily meditations from Henri, he said we are called to be love in the world. I hope reading this book during Advent will help me be better at being live in the world.

  27. I am Ineke Reitsma,
    I live in Southern Alberta Canada in the Rocky Mountains.
    Enjoying every day the beauty of Gods creation.
    This is my third or fourth Henri Nouwen book study and I am looking forward to participate in the study of this remarkable book
    and to learn more about the background and suffering of the people of the Ukraine.

  28. Hi all. I’m Joan from Lexington KY and am participating for the first time. While vaguely familiar with Henri Nouwen, I actually have never read one of his books, which I hope to soon remedy. A friend recommended this to me as I have been traveling back and forth to Ukraine since the war started to work with a Scottish charity feeding and creating community for orphans, wounded soldiers and internally displaced persons. I have developed the deepest respect and really an awe for the Ukrainian people and look forward to gaining deeper insight into their history and collective experience through Henri’s diary.

  29. Hi! I’m Sharon, and I live in Minnesota (USA). This is my first time participating in an online discussion. I’ve been reading (and rereading) Henri’s work for many years. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, and I look forward to learning more about them through Henri’s book and the discussions.

  30. My name is Laura and I live in Waupun, Wisconsin. I served on a church staff and first encountered Henri when we read his book In the Name of Jesus. As I read more of his books, I was delighted with his vulnerability and claim and offer to his readers that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. In my new work as a hospice chaplain, I have relished listening to the Henri Nouwen Now and Then podcasts.

  31. Hi my name is Susan, and my home is Edinburgh Scotland. I’m not sure when I first heard of Henri but many many years ago I read the wounded healer while on my own journey of healing which continues today. In the covid years I picked up on the Daily meditations and web site afresh. I am very excited to read Ukrainian Diary for Advent with you all as I am 1/2 Ukrainian. My father escaped to the UK after WW2. He spoke little of his pre UK life and he carried great trauma and I hope that this book will in some small way give me a deeper understanding and love of the people and the place that is Ukraine

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