The Sermon and Healing of EILEEN SWEENEY
I was told that Eileen was stationed in a small thrift store I used to work at on the corner of a busy, yet seemingly always hazy intersection. When I worked there, it was a men’s clothing and home-goods store, catered to the LGBTQ demographic. It had been shut down for a little over a year, when the previous owner disappeared after sexual harassment claims (including one made by me) were made against him. The whole building had been gutted, past traumas buried beneath the sloping foundation that once stood, and was replaced anew. The feelings and memories I have from that place came flooding back that I had completely shut off. I was overcome with anxiety that I bottled up and tried to swallow before we entered the building. I simply tried to breathe and laid my trust in a stranger to keep me safe.
As I entered the store, an air of comfort washed through me. Eileen came up to us with the friendliest of smiles, and I noticed right away her welcoming spirit. She was extremely peppy, bouncing around the store looking at all the objects and directing us from corner to corner. She was with her business partner, Laura, who was one of the loveliest people I have ever met, delivering a set of handmade candles and aromatherapy sprays to the store’s owner while reviewing past inventory. As we approached their company’s display, Eileen quickly picked up one of her many candles and handed it to me, immediately having me smell it. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia took over with the scent of lavender and orange blossom, and I felt transported to a farm I spent my summers, where I picked honeysuckle and wildflowers with my grandmother. I swear she knew I needed something to calm my nerves. Finally, I began to feel at peace.
We left the store to seek refuge in a coffee shop down the street. I felt at home among the smell of roasted beans and the whistle of a tea kettle. Immediately, Eileen went to order a drink and struck up a conversation with the barista. I wondered if she had the power to draw people in and if everyone saw in her the spirit that I did. As we finally took our seats to begin the interview, Eileen immediately shot me a smile and laugh that I swear meant some incredible story was waiting to be told.
“You see, my family was all about education, to the point that there were literally flashcards at the table. My dad would always take us on all these trips to museums, so I was very driven comparatively to be like my siblings. My parents were always asking about my grades and comparing them to my sister’s or my brother’s. I was always thinking that I was not the smartest because I wasn’t the oldest, and it made me feel like the oddball out of the family.”
Her life felt extremely programmed, structured to be painted like a satirical white suburban Catholic family of five. Much like my own childhood, her family attended church and had an active participation within the community. Her parents were active leaders in their parish—her father coached basketball, while her mother taught CCD. She felt responsible to follow in their leadership role, and eventually followed in her father’s footsteps. Her involvement in the church lead her on a path of spirituality; religion influenced her everyday life.
“So now I was saying things like, ‘wait a minute! I have to study this stuff?!' When I finally did, that is when I started saying to myself, ‘wait, what is going on here?’”
As a marketing major, she started to approach the Bible and the Church within a business aspect. Her instinctive desire for learning, that was instilled in her since childhood, drove her to look at where the finances were going within her church.
“That was a big part of my breaking away from the church. I actually did a Catholic volunteer program at Villanova. I saw firsthand exactly what it was like working with the priest, the friars… and I wouldn’t say I had a bad experience, but I saw the way the organization was run and how loose they were with our finances. Like, you know, they would take us out to these lobster dinners. I kept thinking, ‘We are volunteers, why are we having these?’ But then I noticed, too, that our Father was going on sabbaticals for months at a time and getting a new truck. It didn’t make sense to me! That is when I started questioning everything.”
For Eileen and I, this differentness came within our practices of spirituality, rather than conventional religion. I looked into Tarot and herbalism, while Eileen approached astrology and Reiki. What was surprising to me, is how Eileen’s love of astrology came directly from the Bible. There was this desire to “look within” throughout the Catholic faith. For her, this lead her to a path of “awakening.”
“I was very much a follower in highschool that whatever my group was doing, I was doing. Whatever they were thinking, I was thinking. It wasn’t really until I was arrested because of my friends stealing that I think things started to change. Peer pressure was a really big thing for me and being easily influenced was a huge problem for me. So it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started really questioning all of this. I was saying to myself, ‘Who the hell are you? What are you doing to yourself! What do you stand for!’”
Eileen embarked on a journey that brought her to her interest in astrology. Returning back to the Bible, she noticed how the whole Bible was a tool that relied on the works of astrology. Through this realization, she took astrological practices and applied them to look within. This lead her to a place called Soulful Awakenings, where she began to learn about sound healing and the chakras. They taught her about astrology in a more educational setting, while allowing her to review her birth chart and learn more about herself with a different perspective.
Laura Gaetana had this amazing idea she was holding onto, an idea that later became the groundwork for something bigger. She entrusted Eileen with this idea, and the two women created their company Enerki. Enerki is an extension of their passion for astrology and energy healing, a place where someone can get a one-on-one connection for energy healing with trained healing practitioners. Eileen dictates that there are numerous modalities that fall under the umbrella of what energy healing is, stating that she specifically is interested in Reiki healing.
With this interest, Eileen began to learn about how interconnected we are as humans. To me, this interconnectedness is something that can appear on smaller scales. It is the smile you can receive from someone while walking to work, the contact you make while receiving your cup of coffee from you favorite barista.
Within her teachings, she focuses on these interactions and emotional responses to aid in healing one’s emotional self. She believes heavily that we as a society have been focused and driven to heal the body and the physical self, and although that is important, we need to take time in healing from past emotional traumas that have caused us pain as well. She is a product of her own teaching, having changed her life completely as well. She still has her instinctive desire to learn that was instilled in her since birth, but just as her father, she now takes on the role of teacher. She preaches what she loves and you cannot help but be drawn into the sermons that she creates. She is no longer a follower, but someone who is so true to themselves, and as I came out of this interview with her, I was once again reassured of the beautiful spirit that she is.
Eileen believes profoundly that we, as humans, need to connect back to our emotional plane of reality. There is a need to embrace the vulnerability that we often project as weakness and find strength through the chaos that life sometimes throws our way. Within these moments I felt to be surrounded by chaos, I took a moment for myself and took time to reflect. I thought about everything that I was grateful for. I meditated on an attitude of gratitude for the people that I have come across in my life and for the memories that I have made with them. I know that I am loved - I am myself loved. This is how I aid in healing my emotional and mental-self.