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Katie Meyer instructed a SoulCore class at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Sappington on July 26. Meyer has led sessions of the nationwide Catholic exercise and spirituality program since last year.
Katie Meyer instructed a SoulCore class at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Sappington on July 26. Meyer has led sessions of the nationwide Catholic exercise and spirituality program since last year.

Connecting body and soul through prayer and exercise

‘SoulCore’ classes incorporate Rosary into exercise routines

Terry Trafton stretched during a SoulCore class at St. Catherine Laboure on Aug. 27. SoulCore is a Catholic program that combines prayer with exercise.
When Susanne Rosenthal first heard of SoulCore, it seemed like an answer to a long-felt calling.

“It’s a beautiful way to exercise, it’s a beautiful way to say the Rosary,” she said.

SoulCore is a nationwide Catholic exercise and spirituality program based out of Indiana that combines praying the Rosary with a core workout. Rosenthal is one of a handful of SoulCore leaders around the archdiocese, the first to bring the program to St. Louis after attending the national training in Indianapolis. For her, it has answered a call “to minister to people through exercise.”

“It’s a way of incorporating prayer into our everyday life, which is what we’re called to do, so why not along with when we exercise?” said Rosenthal, who has hosted classes at various parishes throughout St. Louis County and is trained as a fitness instructor. “Exercising and prayer to me is just a natural thing to do.”

SoulCore sessions last around an hour, throughout which an instructor leads the group in prayer, exercise and reflection. Meditations on the mysteries and Scripture accompany the prayer along with soft instrumental music and candlelight.

“The body’s a temple, it’s a gift we’ve been given from God,” said Katie Meyer, who leads classes at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Sappington. “So, body and soul. Merging the prayer with the movement just kind of unifies everything.”

Meyer began conducting classes last winter, having led a regular parish Rosary every week for some time prior. She is most familiar with pilates, so her courses tend to mirror that exercise style. Her classes at St. Catherine Laboure include a $10 suggested donation, given to St. Lazare House, a homeless shelter for young adults.

Participants in the courses speak of benefits both spiritual and physical.

“I get too restless when I pray, so this is a good way to use my body as I’m doing something,” said Annie Meyer, Katie’s daughter, who attended her mother’s session on July 26.

“I felt like this was a good channel to be thinking about something productive and praying” compared to other mentally focused exercises, said Lexi Knott, who was attending the same session. The July 26 class was a first for both Knott and Annie Meyer.

One participant, Mary Lee Burlemann, described powerful experiences of prayer and of physical recovery: She began attending Katie Meyer’s classes regularly in January, having undergone a hip replacement surgery only two months prior.

“It helps your balance, and your flexibility and your strength,” Burlemann said. “This hour really helps draw you closer to God.”

Gina Koenemann, an instructor in the St. Charles County area and physical therapist, also highlighted the connection between exercise and spirituality.

“It’s such a great way to connect body and soul,” said Koenemann, a self-described Theology of the Body enthusiast. “It’s helped me really focus on the prayer of the Rosary.”

Classes are open to beginners and do not target any particular ability level.

“Respect your body,” Katie Meyer put it.

Christine Hillenbrand, a parishioner at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield, prayed during a SoulCore class at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Sappington. SoulCore is a Catholic program that combines prayer with exercise.
Christine Hillenbrand is another local SoulCore instructor who conducts classes at several locations around west St. Louis County. She first encountered the program a couple years ago in DVD form, and described it as “something I could really wrap my whole mind, body and soul around.”

Although it is not necessary to be formally trained as an exercise instructor to lead classes, Hillenbrand has an edge as she did her undergraduate in exercise science at Truman State University in Kirksville. Her classes focus on functional movement and building major muscle groups. She emphasizes the connection between physical movement and prayer that SoulCore offers.

“St. Augustine always said singing is like praying twice. SoulCore has the same principle,” Hillenbrand said. “You’re giving your body as an offering in that prayer.”

>> Find a SoulCore class

Classes currently or soon to be offered in the area are listed below, organized by instructor. Instructors may also be contacted if there is interest in starting a new group, pending availability.

Christine Hillenbrand:

Ascension Parish in Chesterfield, Mondays 1:30 p.m. (parish hall basement) and 5 p.m. (gym) starting Aug. 27

Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield, Mondays 9:15 a.m. (Watson Room) starting Aug. 27

The St. Austin School in Town and Country, Fridays 8:30 a.m. (gym) starting Aug. 29

St. Anselm Parish in Creve Coeur, Wednesdays 10:30 a.m. (lower level of the parish center) starting Oct. 3

St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Ellisville, Thursdays 7 p.m. (church gathering space) starting Sept. 6

Contact Christine at [email protected] for more information.

Susanne Rosenthal:

St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville, third Saturday of the month at 8:45 a.m. (bottom floor of the rectory). This is a chair class, and will continue pending interest.

Contact Susanne at [email protected] for more information.

Katie Meyer:

St. Catherine Laboure in Sappington, Thursdays 5 p.m. (narthex)

Contact Katie at [email protected] for more information.

Gina Koenemann:

Gina recently completed SoulCore training and is currently working to establish class times in the St. Charles area. She may be reached at [email protected] to be put on a mailing list for when classes start or to discuss starting a new group.

Note: Some of these class times differ from the SoulCore website, which is not current.

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