Tessa Bielecki was born in Norwich, Connecticut on September 16, 1944. From early childhood she loved the diverse peoples and cultures around our planet and studied Russian and French at Trinity College in Washington D.C., preparing for a career in international relations.
Her dream took a more spiritual turn when she met Fr. William McNamara in 1965 and with him co-founded the Spiritual Life Institute. With a brave band of fellow-monks, she helped create a monastic community and four retreat centers over four decades: Nada Hermitage in Sedona, Arizona in the 1960s (lost to land developers in 1981), Nova Nada Hermitage in Kemptville, Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1970s (lost to logging development in 1998), Nada Carmelite Hermitage in Crestone, Colorado in the 1980s, and Holy Hill Hermitage in Skreen, County Sligo, Ireland in the 1990s.
After serving as Mother Abbess of these centers and traveling between them for almost 40 years, Tessa left monastic life in 2003. In 2005, with friend and colleague, Fr. David Denny, she created The Desert Foundation, an informal circle of friends exploring the spirit of the desert, its landscape and soulscape, with a special focus on peace and reconciliation among the Abrahamic traditions: Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
With Fr. Dave she was an adjunct professor at Colorado College for almost fifteen years, teaching courses on Fire and Light: A History of Christian Mysticism and Sand and Sky: Desert Spirituality from the Middle East to the American Southwest.
Tessa is a seasoned retreat leader and the author of numerous articles and five major works: Teresa of Avila: Mystical Writings; Holy Daring: The Earthy Mysticism of St. Teresa, the Wild Woman of Avila; Ecstasy and Common Sense; Season of Glad Songs: A Christmas Anthology, Desert Voices: The Edge Effect, and Sounds True audio learning courses Passion for God and Wild at Heart: Radical Teachings of the Christian Mystics. She is currently working on a memoir.
Fulfilling her dream of more peaceful international relations but from a more spiritual perspective, Tessa has years of experience with interspiritual dialogue, most notably with Buddhists throughout the 1980s at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She has led pilgrimages to Spain, Italy, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, and visited Russia, Mexico, Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands, where she participated in symposiums called Women for Peace and Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy.
She had the privilege of speaking three times at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and was part of the Lindisfarne Fellowship during its early years in Crestone, Colorado. She was also a member of the first group who met in Rio de Janeiro to draft the Earth Charter. Under the auspices of the Embrace Foundation, she represented Christianity in a gathering of major world religions at the United Nations Chapel.
Tessa now lives as a hermit in the wilderness outside Crestone, Colorado, “chopping wood, carrying water,” and immersing herself in the full four seasons of the year: summer, fall, winter, and spring. She loves not only her silence and solitude, but colors and flowers, big earrings, good food and drink, cooking and celebrating with friends, and serving wherever she is needed, especially leading retreats and workshops, singing at the bedsides of the sick and dying with the San Luis Valley Threshold Choir, and cutting juniper boughs for open-air cremations facilitated by the Crestone End-of-Life-Project.