Gwendolyn Henzi
Fort Garland, Colorado


Appointed September 1, 2013

Susan and I met Gwendolyn in 2009 when she phoned inquiring about a consultation session to help in her grieving process from the death of her beloved sister.

We were quickly taken by her lovely spirit and immediate interest in our mission to create the Casa de Santa Maria so close to her home here in Colorado.

After her first visit to our Casa website detailing our fledgeling effort—she was hooked—and a beautiful relationship quickly developed. Our very first San Luis "on-site" friend— Gwen shared her artistic weeding-ability in Mother Mary's Garden, her paint-brush-slinging-talant as we prepared our first San Luis Casa Welcome Center, and generously assisted in facilitating our very first Casa retreat in 2012.

Gwen also volunteered to help when we announced our very first Casa Garden Party in 2009, doing some backbreaking rock laying when we formed our 100 yard long walkway from the parking area to our garden centerpiece, the Native-American totem statue of Mother Mary. (Now THAT'S a true friend of the Casa!)

From her birth in Newton Upper Falls near Boston Massachusetts to her current residence in Fort Garland, Colorado, the path for Gwen Henzi has been an interesting and inspiring one. We'll let her share the story;

My father was a Chaplain in the Navy which granted my family the opportunity to live in many different parts of the country and experience interesting cultures in Hawaii and Japan. While growing up, it was difficult to leave friends and get used to a new home every two years, but I think my early years served me well as an adult. As a result I sense I am more adaptable to change and more tolerant of different ways of life.

My education incudes High School in Middletown Rhode Island and Hawaii. College at Maryville College (English Lit) in Tennessee; St. Edwards University (Criminal Justice) in Austin Texas. Plus I did some post graduate studies at Texas A&M/ Corpus Christi.

My first job was packing pineapple in Honolulu Hawaii. Unable to keep up with my pineapple quota on the assembly line, I realized this work was not going to be a good potential career move.

My second job was at University of Texas book store. Then I did an Angie Dickinson -- and my next job was serving as a Police Officer in Austin Texas. My last job (22 years) was with Valero Energy Corporation as Manager of Security Services and Community Relations at the Corpus Christi refinery.

During my career with Valero, I was very active in civic and community volunteer work. The Mayor of Corpus Christi appointed me to several City Commissions over a period of 8 years and I served on the Board of Directors of several local non-profit organizations including Crimestoppers, Boys and Girls Club, and Consumer Credit Counseling. I began a Valero Community Advisory Panel and was active in the City’s Local Emergency Planning Committee. I also initiated many volunteer projects with a neighborhood elementary school. Valero honored me with Volunteer of the Year award.

I took an early retirement from Valero to take care of my Father who was dying from CHF.

Major nerve damage in my lower back was the catalyst to my spiritual awakening. While searching for alternative healing for the injury, I was introduced to several people who later became very instrumental in my discovery of spiritual mile markers, so to speak. One dear friend gifted me by allowing me to be with her as she died. Her graduation from this realm impacted my life tremendously on many levels and catapulted me kicking and screaming onto a deeper spiritual path.

It was then "My heart cracked open." More people came into my life that helped me navigate this new territory. There were more discoveries, painful lessons, process, magic. I began Hospice volunteer work. More discovery. I studied several complimentary healing modalities and became certified in Polarity Therapy and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. More doors opened, and I jumped right in. I was introduced to the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan and Pir Vilayat. Sufism lighted my path and opened my heart even wider.

My husband Jim and I started coming to the San Luis Valley after my father died. A few years ago, we came for the summer right after my sister died unexpectedly. I was grieving. A friend told me about Susan Sanderford and how much Susan helped her deal with her Mother’s death. I met Susan and Milt at the place where they were developing Casa de Santa Maria. It was in its infant stage, but I understood their vision. Our first meeting developed into a friendship that I absolutely cherish. I knew right away that the Casa de Santa Maria was a sacred place.

The Casa’s gift of blessing and healing people’s spirit is beyond remarkable. I am grateful and honored to be a part of the Casa’s growth and development. I appreciate this opportunity to help Susan and Milton cultivate the Casa’s sacred space for this magnificent healing prayer and meditation garden, retreat center --and eventually a Guest Ranch and a venue for their classes and workshops.

My life's best and biggest accomplishment is being...married to husband Jim for 45 years and having a son and daughter who are happy, healthy, and raising their children beautifully. We have four grandchildren.

Based on her generous contribution of time and effort on behalf of the Casa to date, and her proven dedication, Susan and I couldn't be more positive about the future growth of the Casa