There is a new monasticism that has been set loose in the world. It is not confined to literal cloisters of wood and stone but has developed and returned to the inner cloister of the heart. The walls of this new monastery encompass the whole world.” ~ Francis Bennett.

Monastic Life and Training

Francis Bennett was a Roman Catholic, Trappist monk for a number of years. She lived in two monasteries of the Trappist Order in the US and was also a member of an urban, contemplative monastic community originally founded in Paris, France in 1975. She has lived in France at several monasteries, including Saint Gervais et Protais in Paris, at Mont Saint Michel along the coast of the English Channel and in Canada at a small monastic community in Montreal Quebec. She received a five and a half year monastic/spiritual formation with the Trappists before she made her vows as a monk at Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist  Kentucky. She graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum with a BA in Philosophy and completed a two year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education with Ohio Health Hospital System in Columbus, Ohio in 2004. She has worked in ministry in the area of pastoral Care in the hospice movement, as a hospital chaplain and in pastoral care of the sick and dying in parish settings.

Buddhist Teaching and Practice

She has lead retreats in both the Vipassana Buddhist Tradition and in the Christian mystical/contemplative Tradition. She has been offering spiritual direction and helping guide people in their spiritual quest for a number of years. She was an avid spiritual seeker throughout her entire time as a contemplative monk and studied deeply in both the Theravadan Buddhist practice of Vipassana, working primarily with Mahathera, the venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (from whom she received a temporary monastic ordination  in 1999-2001) and with several western Vipassana teachers. She studied Zen and  practiced with Soen Sa Nim, the founder of the Providence Zen Center, in a kind of “correspondence course study” via the telephone, with Charlotte “Joko” Beck of the San Diego Zen Center and briefly with several other Zen teachers in both the Rinzai and Soto traditions of Japanese Zen.

A Radical Shift in Perception

In 2010, while in the middle of a Church Service in her monastery in Montreal, Francis suddenly experienced what she has come to call, “a radical perceptual shift in consciousness”, in which she discovered the ever present presence of spacious, pure awareness. She came to see that this awareness is actually the unchanging essence of who she really is and always has been; the Supreme Self, talked about by many sages and saints from many spiritual traditions down through the ages. She also came to see simultaneously, that this vast, infinite sense of presence at the center of her being (and at the center of the being of everyone else on the planet) is actually not at all separate from the presence of God, which she had been looking for during her many years as a monk and spiritual seeker.

Spiritual Teacher & Trans Women

Francis gradually moved away from her life as a monastic and began to live a “new incarnation” as a spiritual teacher. She offered a blend of the Buddhist Traditions she studied, the contemplative Christian mystical tradition which she lived during her many years in monastic life, as well as the Hindu Advaita-Vedanta teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi, who has had a profound influence on her.

In 2016 Fran came out as Transgender and spoke at several LGBT conferences and events, as well as navigating her own journey of integration. A few years before her passing, Fran was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic and faced numerous health challenges. In these years, she also accompanied many people in her one to one program of Spiritual Mentoring. In 2017 Fran gave her first weekend Spiritual retreat as ‘the women I’ve actually always been’, in Barcelona, Spain. In that retreat and in the talks that followed.

Fran was always very clear about the role that her awakening experience had played in the decision to transition. She would frequently say: “If I did not have a deep knowing of our eternal and divine nature and the sense the we are not ONLY our body and mind, I would not have had the courage required to transition. I was always quite shy and nervous and very concerned with what people thought about me and didn’t like people saying unkind things. I was bullied as a kid and could never have contemplated actually living openly as a trans women before 2010. It was the freedom of living in the Presence of God that gave ME the personal freedom and courage to be who I had always felt myself to be”.

Fran passed away on 6th Jan, 2022. She is deeply missed by all who loved and appreciated her presence in their lives.

To truly be your unique, personal self  is not an obstacle to Awakening,

it is one of the fruits of it.  ~ Fran Bennett


Everything is Holy Now


by Jane Metcalfe

Fran and Jane in 2017

Jan 2022

Dale Bennett, aka Francis “Fran” Bennett, born on September 20, 1958, went home to her maker on January 6, 2022.

Fran, as she was known, led a very full and colourful life, leaving behind family and many friends from all over the world. She was preceded in death by parents Harold & Helen Bennett and twin brother Donald Bennett.

Brought up in a religious family, Fran felt a calling to monastic life in her mid teens. She studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio to become a priest, followed by her ordination as a Franciscan Brother at a mass attended by family and friends. She started spiritual life as a Trappist at The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where she was named Brother Francis after her much-loved saint, Francis of Assisi. Later she lived in monasteries in Paris and Montreal.

After she moved away from monastic life, Fran became a hospice chaplain, working with the sick and terminal that were in parishes, hospitals and hospices. Fran was a talented artist and studied the practice of Greek Iconography, producing some wonderful results. She also wrote and published a powerful book, “I Am That I Am,” about her work with the dying, as well as her spiritual experiences in the monastery. It became a best-seller in its field, and as a result of that – as well as interviews on YouTube – she was soon asked to lead spiritual retreats in the US, and later in Europe.

She gained a large following, helping vast numbers of people overcome issues in their lives, guiding them towards inner harmony through prayer and meditation. As a retreat and workshop facilitator, Fran had a great gift for spontaneous joy – which she would express through the recitation from memory of poems and prayers, and sometimes even through song. One of Fran’s favorite songs which she played, and also sang, was:

“Holy Now” by Peter Mayer

“It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now.”

Many have been touched by her life and the world was forever changed by having had Fran in it. May she rest in eternal peace.

Jane Metcalfe

Trans spiritual leader Fran Bennett passes away

Gay Community News


Fran touched the lives of many people through her work as hospital chaplain, pastoral carer of the sick and dying and LGBTQ+ activist25 JANUARY, 2022.


Fran Bennett, an American Trans woman of Irish descent, was a Roman Catholic Trappist monk and devoted her life to contemplation, prayer and service. Earlier this month, on 6 January, Fran sadly passed away at 63 years-old, leaving behind a grieving community.

Fran came out as Trans in 2016 prompted by her discovery that she was also intersex announcing her true gender identity to the world.

“I believe that we LGBTQI persons can be considered to be special gifts of God not in spite of, but precisely BECAUSE we are different and don’t fit within normally accepted societal gender or sexual attraction categories,” she wrote on Facebook.

“We have been rejected by the leaders of most organized religions. Simply to survive emotionally and spiritually, we have been often forced to look more deeply into the meaning of life than the average person who fits in more easily … Though not always, this, in turn, can sometimes result in a higher level of spiritual consciousness.”

Sadly, Fran fell on hard times towards the end of her life and was homeless at the time of her death. Her unclaimed remains are in a morgue in Columbus, Ohio, so Brandy Jackson, who became instant friends with her when they met at a hotel, started a fundraiser to give Fran the send-off that she deserves.

According to the fundraiser, the total cost of a cremation will be $2,995 so Jackson set a goal of $3,500 to cover all costs. That goal has already been surpassed by over 100 generous donations by those whose lives were touched by Fran, with a total of $4,725 raised at the time of writing.

While the donations have already covered Fran’s service, the fundraiser is still open to those who wish to support the cause, with any leftover funds being donated to a charity of the donors’ choosing.