In 1987 the Archbishop of Denver chose her to join Father Thomas Keating to initiate and form the organization, Contemplative Outreach of Colorado. Father Keating had founded the national organization—Contemplative Outreach Ltd in 1984. The Archbishop invited Fr. Thomas to start a program of teaching Centering Prayer in parishes throughout the diocese. In turn, Fr. Thomas suggested to the archbishop that Sister Bernadette Teasdale would be an excellent choice to lead the project. Sr. Bernadette agreed to teach Centering Prayer in the parishes. She was joined by Fr. Carl Arico and Mary Murkowski, who developed courses and offered retreats based on videotapes that Father Keating had recorded. Father Keating was recovering from serious injuries suffered in a car accident. The success of this endeavor of sharing the practice of Centering Prayer transformed more than 4,000 souls into the Heart of Christ. She retired in 2011.
By 1989, a pattern of offerings –all provided by Sr. Bernadette- - had been established: a 6 week Centering Prayer course, one Advanced Course, weekend intensive retreats, a mini-retreat (with Keating) and a Facilitators’ Workshop. Classes taught by Sister Bernadette were exciting to be part of. She knew her content so well that she exuded an intense energy. Her classroom was full of questions and answers, comments and quips, along with jokes (mostly on herself) and stories. Being there was delightful. She could explain the most complicated diagram, express the deepest feeling, and share the most heartfelt memories in ways that engaged every person there.
By 2002 the Center’s annual conference drew 540 people, a half-day mini retreat included 350 participants, and course registrations reached almost 550. Fr. Thomas Keating remained the anchor, participating in mini retreats, annual conferences while maintaining his presence in national and international activities. Bernadette was the bustling presence at the conferences. She was in charge – making conversations and friends, always wearing her characteristic red hats. She seemed to be 5 places at each moment, with a big smile and hug for her friends – of which there were legions.
In 2008, Sr. Bernadette announced her intention to consider retirement. Recognizing the upheaval that her leaving might cause for herself and for the Center, she sought advice from a group of consultants to support the transition to other leadership. Contemplative Outreach of Colorado, now into its fourth decade, has built on the beautiful foundation she laid for us. Sister Bernadette stayed in Colorado until December of 2018, which was a blessing to her Keenan family and her Contemplative Outreach family. Each member cherished her as a gift from God. Her close friend, Msgr. Ken Leoni, when asked to describe her, said she was, “the essence of hospitality and love.”
Thoughts from friends of Sr. Bernadette:
"Amen! To know her was truly to love her."
"We are forever in Sister Bernadette’s debt. Her legacy is proclaimed each time we convene a class, share a retreat or enjoy a meal together. She is dearly missed but knowing where she is with her "non-stop" ticket, especially in these incredibly difficult times, gives one a feeling of peace and happiness for her."
"When I first came to the Center in September of 2000 to start the spiritual journey classes, Sister Bernadette was for me the welcoming presence of the Center. She exuded hospitality and made me feel so welcomed and at home."
"Ahh, Bernadette. She was a force of nature and a wonderful person. I am so glad she was in my life."
"Full of life, love and laughter Bernadette was an energetic force. She loved life and most of all loved God. She always gave herself to whatever she committed to. Determined and peaceful what a pleasure it was for me to know her! I picture her in her red hat with a twinkle in her eye and a big smile on her face!"
"She is in the presence of God and it is our consolation .. “To know her is to love her “ HOW TRUE !!! It resonates for me...Her sweet smile and manners were so comforting at all times , regardless of what was going on…I WILL remember her..."