The purpose of our member biographies page is to introduce you to our facilitators and long time members of our sangha
Ben Fleury-Steiner (Co-Facilitator) Ben became interested in meditation and Buddhism after serving in Operation Desert Storm as a soldier in the U.S. Army in 1991. The challenges of veteran reintegration into civilian society was an entryway into a journey that led him to sangha. Ben practiced in the Korean Zen tradition for 10 years and was ordained as a dharma teacher on July 26, 2008. Ben left formal Zen training and joined the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington with his family in 2010 and shortly thereafter started the Open Heart Zen Sangha; a diverse group of members of the surrounding community dedicated to creating a welcoming sangha and a simple meditation practice. Ben currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wonderful wife Ruth and daughters Anna and Robin and two beloved cats, Misty and Clementine.
Interview with Ben Fleuy-Steiner on The Secular Buddhist
Interview with Ben Fleuy-Steiner on The Secular Buddhist
Pei-Li and Chao Chu (Discussion Group Leaders) Pei-Li and Chao lead the sangha's last Wednesday of the month discussion group. They joined a Chinese Buddhist group when they lived in Lexington, Massachusetts in the early 1990s. They learned Mahayana Buddhism through Sutra study and practicing with visiting Monks and Nuns at the Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Lecture Hall. After moving to Delaware, they led a meditation group at their home for about two years. They then practiced for twelve years with the Delaware Valley Zen Center in Newark; an affiliate of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Pei-Li's practice focuses on the simplicity of Zen; sitting meditation, cultivating inner peace, clear mind, and self awareness. Chao's practice is grounded in the Chinese Pure Land school, sitting, walking and chanting meditation and studying the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra and Infinite Life Sutra. He has followed the teaching of Master Chin Kung faithfully for many years. Chao is a retired chemist and Pei-Li is in the Information Technology field. They both love cooking, hiking, traveling and reading.
Todd Fredette (Co-Facilitator) Todd has practiced various forms of mediation through Yoga and Martial Arts since 1990. After returning from a Combat Tour with the U.S. Army in Iraq, Todd sought a more structured approach to his spiritual practice and found the perfect home at Open Heart Sangha and has maintained a daily practice ever since. Todd, a secular Buddhist, is concerned with the practical application of the Four Noble Truths as well as a natural and workable approach to the Buddha Dharma. He recognizes and enjoys the diversity of individual practice and seeks to learn from every tradition Todd received his MBA from the University Of Maryland and is a Vice President of a Chemical Distribution Company.
Randy Rex (Co-Facilitator) Randy has been a practitioner of meditation for over 11 years. He began his practice in the Tibetan tradition, studying under a lama of the Shamarpa lineage, and has since been practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen tradition. He is currently in the process of becoming qualified to facilitate Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs, having received training from Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli. A Licensed Social Worker employed as a therapist in private practice, Randy works out of Exton and Lancaster, additionally facilitating a Mindfulness Meditation Group 3 days a week at a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Kennett Square. He also leads a mindfulness meditation group once a week at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA.
Carmelina D’Arro (Co-Facilitator) Carmelina is a native of Wilmington, DE. A public health dentist in Wilmington clinics, she also teaches residents at Christiana Care Health Center. Carmelina has practiced some form of meditation for about 25 years. She is a graduate of the Penn Program for Mindfulness Teacher Practicum. Carmelina is also a Reiki Master and an avid potter.
Don Wood Don was introduced to Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1970 and has maintained a daily practice ever since. He is also a Reiki Master, assistant Tai Chi and Qigong instructor, and is a professional photographer who began in the 1960s as an aerial photographer in his Native Canada. Don's hobbies include Bonsai, his backyard Koi pond, biking, hiking, and kayaking.
Lydia Robb Lydia is a licensed clinical social worker long interested in meditation both personally and professionally. She completed an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course offered by Penn Program for Mindfulness in the Fall of 2010. Searching for a way to support and encourage her practice, she began attending weekly Wednesday evening practices after participating in an OHZS full-day retreat in the Fall of 2011. Lydia also enjoys being outside, birding, and spending time with friends and family.
Linda Sanders Linda is a longtime member of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington and first came to the Sangha in early 2011 as the result of a very stressful job. She had never meditated before and was looking for a way to relax and stay centered during crazy days at work. Linda has found Wednesday night sessions, periodic retreats and once a month Friday discussions to be a very important part of her spiritual life. She also tries to meditate daily. She looks forward to welcoming newcomers to the sangha.
Phil J. Dowd, Jr. Phil has been a member of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington for 21 years. Since his retirement Phil has been able to be more involved with church life, and is currently an active member of the Caring Friends, Adult Religious Education, and Nominating Committees. Phil was attracted to Buddhism while studying culture change about 20 years ago. He has engaged in individual practices and attended meditation retreats. Attending a Day of Mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh on two occasions have been most memorable experiences. The Open Heart Sangha is the first sangha in which Phil has been involved, and he has been a member since it began. The group practice of the sangha has given a depth and structure to his spiritual practice that has not been possible before. He looks forward to greater spiritual growth. For the last 19 years of his working career Phil specialized in training, facilitating groups, management development, and being involved in organizational culture change.
Marie J. Oakberg Marie was led to the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington 23 years ago after a spiritual awakening. Since that time she has been very active in the church, especially in group facilitation, strategic planning, anti-racism, LGBT concerns, and social justice. Religious education classes and retreats at First U and individual study led her to Buddhism as a core spiritual practice. She first encountered the work of Thich Nhat Hanh 19 years ago through a colleague, and highlights of her practice have been two Days of Mindfulness with Thay. Marie has practiced with the Open Heart Sangha since it was started in January of 2010. Group practice has helped her manage through major changes and it enriches individual practice. She appreciates the dharma friends she has made, and looks forward to the sangha deepening its practice together. Marie is an organization development professional with 14 years of experience in multicultural awareness, diversity and inclusion, culture change, leadership development, group process facilitation and strategic planning. She earned an MBA at Widener University and an MAR from Lancaster Seminary. Her focus areas at Lancaster were world religions, ethics, and community ministry.
Bill Rolleri Bill first entered a 12-Step Program in 1970, the principles of which continue to be a core practice of his life. While the original impetus was a simple and basic desire for survival, immersion in the actual work of the Steps gave rise to an unanticipated trek of a more spiritual nature. Perhaps the most relevant to the work of the Open Heart Zen Sangha is the Eleventh Step, which recommends prayer and meditation as a path toward spiritual growth. This path led initially to years of involvement in the Work of G.I. Gurdjieff characterized by daily morning and evening meditation as well as extensive group work. Rolleri has pursued a personal study of the lives, lectures and writings of a wide variety of spiritual “leaders” throughout the years, including the life’s work of J. Krishnamurti. He has found his current work with kindred spirits of the Open Heart Zen Sangha to be highly supportive in the effort to bring about, in himself, a touch of what Mister Gurdjieff termed "the harmonious development of man."