St. Francis of the Woods is sustained by the hard work and joint effort of our staff and residents. We desire to live out the mission and vision of St. Francis of the Woods and foster a contemplative community guided by the traditions of the early Church, scripture, tradition, and the writings of saints and sages of the ancient wisdom traditions.
St Francis of the Woods
+ Aidan Bradley Wilson
Bishop Aidan is a bishop in the Ecumenical Orthodox Catholic Church in America and Spiritual Director. He has served as the Executive Director of St. Francis of the Woods since 2014 and Director of HeartPaths Spirituality Centre since 2022. A life-long Okie, Aidan earned a Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in 2009. Aidan's spiritual life has been marked by several experiences that opened his mind and heart to the transcendent and unfathomable love of God. The first was as a teenager in 2000 when he attended an Orthodox Church for the first time. Having grown up Southern Baptist, the icons, chanting, incense, and candles were all very foreign. Yet the ancient worship of Orthodoxy called out to his soul in a unique way. This began a lifelong study of church history, historical theology, and the mysticism of Eastern Christianity. In 2004, he read the Gospels straight through for the first time. The Jesus he met was one of compassion, love, and mercy, who cared deeply for the poor and the oppressed; a revolutionary who spoke out against conservative religious leaders and who put up walls between people and God. Despite a strong call to ministry, he attended law school rather than seminary. While in law school, and as a practicing attorney, he was involved at St John’s Episcopal Church in Norman. In 2009, he became a member of the Oakerhater Community, a religious community of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma. In 2012, while on pilgrimage in Egypt and Turkey, Aidan visited the desert monasteries of St Anthony and Wadi El Natrun, Hagia Sophia, and the Patriarchal Church of St George in Istanbul. Upon return to the United States he was deeply grieved in spirit and sought spiritual counsel. His Abbot, Father Dwight Helt, recommended a retreat at St Francis of the Woods. After a weekend retreat it was another two years before he would visit again. In 2014, while looking up directions to a court hearing in Pawnee, Aidan heard a voice telling him to stop and ask if he could help out at St Francis of the Woods. When he arrived he was met with the news that they were in search of a new director. He was hired three months later. He was ordained as a priest in 2015. At the request of his Bishop, +Dismas, and the Board of Directors, he was consecrated as Bishop Aidan, in honor of St Aidan of Lindisfarne on September 1, 2019. Bishop Aidan has practiced hesychasm, the mystical contemplative prayer of Eastern Christianity for over fifteen years. His theology is mystical and deeply Orthodox and non-dualistic in the tradition of St Gregory Palamas and Gregory of Nyssa. In recent years, he has been influenced heavily by Franciscan Fr Richard Rohr, the Sufi poetry of Hafiz and Rumi, by the Upanishads of the Hindu tradition, and the Church Fathers. Aidan's spiritual life has been sustained and supported by the practice of pilgrimage. He has made pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland multiple times, as well as Assisi and Rome. In 2021, Aidan made pilgrimage in Costa Rica from San Jose to Cartago to the Basilica De Nuestra Senora De Los Angeles. Each has led him deeper into his own heart and the heart of God.
Katherine has been at St. Francis of the Woods since 2018. She is the Managing Director and oversees our regenerative Hildegarden. She grew up in Norman, OK, being very active at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which entailed spending a week every summer with the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe in Watonga, OK, listening to elders’ stories, sharing meals, and participating in sweat lodge ceremonies. The drumming, chanting, and earth-centered language in these ceremonies provided an experiential understanding of spirituality outside of the liturgical tradition she grew up with. This love for the natural world and desire for experiential learning led her to accept a scholarship at Colorado College, where she studied French and Religion. After graduating, she moved to Denver, where she taught math in public school before leading an education program at a non-profit for youth experiencing homelessness. She eventually found herself aching to be more intimately connected to Mother Earth. Throughout her ever-evolving spiritual formation, nature is where she has always felt the most grounded. After spending time traveling on her bicycle and doing a farming internship in Virginia, she found her way back to Oklahoma and has since called St. Francis of the Woods her home. Katherine loves working with our forest school students and families in the Hildegarden, playing music for our weekly services, walking the trails with her dog Pretzel, and connecting with residents and visitors of St. Francis. She feeds her spirituality through quality time in nature, deepening relationships, mindfulness, introspection, various creative outlets, growing and making food, and finding joy in the little things around her.
Eugene has worked for St. Francis of the Woods since 1981. He has dedicated that time to making St. Francis and beautiful place of hospitality and welcome. Eugene helped build the St. Francis Chapel and has helped to build or restore most of the buildings that make up St. Francis of the Woods. Eugene also helps ensure that the grounds are beautiful and well maintained. When not at work, Eugene enjoys working in his garden, spending time with his children and grandchildren, and attending church in Guthrie.
Gary joined the staff at St. Francis of the Woods in 1990. He began mowing the lawns but is now responsible for keeping all our equipment running. Gary cuts and bales hay, maintains the tractors and implements, fixes anything that's broken and helps Eugene maintain the buildings and grounds.
Mary Richelle Lau
Mary Richelle Lau is a visual artist from Stillwater, Oklahoma. She has designed album covers, t-shirts, and posters for local bands and events, but her latest passion is freeform emotive acrylic painting on large canvases and both interior and exterior mural work.
Being self-taught, Mary’s path into the art world is non-traditional, but her passion and personal development has been a life-long immersive education. Through an introspective lens, she explores feeling and presence, and allows the canvas to evolve naturally as she dances and paints without regards to the outcome… her paintings grow with her as she adds layers through the seasonal, growth-inducing changes of life.
Spirituality and self-development have been paramount in Mary’s life, leading her to express her inner, ever-shifting landscape through art, word, song, and dance. She found a spiritual home in St. Francis of the Woods, feeling that she happened upon a rare gem in the world of religion; a place that holds space for her understanding of the divine through a deep connection to nature, human divinity, and the interconnected cycles and reciprocity of the web of existence.
In the years leading up to her interest in residency, Mary pursued both art and the dream of a sustainable homesteading lifestyle. Using existing infrastructure, she worked to create holistic integrated systems for animals with minimal financial input; milking a goat, making sourdough bread and kombucha, cooking with seasonal produce and fresh caught fish, and self-educating on the ethics of regenerative practices and community. She worked in the Health Food industry, gaining significant knowledge in ways to improve health naturally, and in food service, learning the kitchen dynamics of a small gourmet eatery. She is excited to share her passions and skills in the dynamic community setting of St. Francis of the Woods.
Adam Lau has called Oklahoma home for over 25 years. He is a handy craftsman and self-taught percussion artist. He plays keyboard, flute, lute, guitar, and a variety of hand drums, specializing in the djembe. He has performed, both live and in-studio, with many groups and bands. Adam has also worked with children, leading a two year after-school program with the Oklahoma Arts Council teaching both freestyle drumming and African rhythms. He currently leads a seasonal weekly drum circle here at St. Francis of the Woods and looks forward to offering both individual and group workshops on hand drum repair and skin replacement.
For Adam, rhythm is a way to celebrate and highlight cultures from around the world and is key in Adam’s seven years of personal Qigong practice. Having built a relationship with and an understanding of the rhythm of breath and Qi (Life Energy) in the body, he now leads a weekly Qigong practice within the community and will soon offer this to the public. Rhythm is also a way for Adam to connect spiritually.
Adam’s spiritual path led him to St. Francis of the Woods in 2019 and his time here has only helped in deepening his connection to self and spirit. He hopes that through his own walk, he might inspire others to practice the arts of simplicity and self-expression. Adam feels called to use the gift of residency at St. Francis to transform his own life and thereby be an example to others as he fully embodies what it means to be in community with others dedicated to a wholesome and sustainable spiritual lifestyle.
Lori Ann Wilde
Lori Ann is our resident Nature Program Coordinator and facilitates our Prairiewood Forest School classes. Her background in education ranges from graduating college with a Secondary Education teaching license; to studies with Wilderness Awareness School, Project WILD, and The Human Path Herbal Medics Academy; to a combined 13 years as an outdoor camp counselor and nature play educator, exploring the forests of Arkansas and Oklahoma with youth (and always learning at least as much as they do!)
Lori Ann connects with the sacred permeating all of nature through curious attunement with her senses. Her teachers include wild plants, poetry, traditional storytelling, vitalist herbalism, and her daughter and son. The spiritual practices most nourishing to her include stargazing, messy journaling, mending, listening to children, meditative embroidery, wildcrafting and gardening, laughter, silence, active movement, authentic singing, deeply connected conversation, dreamwork, and grounding time in the woods.
Rainna moved to Oklahoma from her birth state of Ohio when she was 12 years old and has lived in several different cities in Oklahoma since that time. She graduated from Broken Arrow Senior high in 2005, then quickly got her Art Associates Degree from the Tulsa Community college. She then moved to OKC and joined a production company that performs at local renaissance festivals while attending UCO’s graphic design program. Due to the competitive nature of the field, she shortly dropped out of UCO and took an unconventional path to find her authentic self. Rainna found a love of teaching others leadership and started back at school in 2021 to complete a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Development. Through much trial and error in life, she has created a path based on self-reflection, learning, and understanding love.
She started visiting St. Francis of the Woods as a weekend getaway many years ago to bring peace and self-reflection to her busy life. Her love of people and community drove her to connect with the St. Francis residents during that time. She had never really connected to religion before – she did not attend chapel until several years after she started visiting St. Francis. Once she did, she was mesmerized by the nature of the congregation, which was radically inclusive while still having a connection to ancient rituals and traditions. She quickly sought more information, attended inquirer classes, received baptism at St. Francis, and is now working towards being a reader in the church. She started living at St. Francis in August of 2022 and has since continued to broaden her worldview and found herself opening to a new perspective on life and love.