After Jesus gives His disciples the Beatitudes, the new instructions for ordering their lives and finding authentic peace and joy, He tells them, “seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
This message is the heart of Kingdom Builders, a growing women’s ministry begun in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend by Mary Jo Parrish. Parrish, a mother of 10, has worked with many women for several decades. Listening to their struggles and experiencing the challenges of married and family life herself, she felt called to reemphasize these words of Christ to bring women new hope and purpose. She shares “as women, there’s all this chaos going on, our minds are going a million miles a minute in all different directions. I’ve found that many are feeling exhausted, lonely and longing. To address this, we need to have our foundation in God. We have to seek Him first and allow Him to reorder our lives.”
What is this foundation? Highlighting a three-step plan, she exclaimed, “Pray at minimum 10 minutes every day, go to Church on Sunday and stay in a state of grace! Remove the burden of heavy sin so that we can get the fullness of God’s grace. When the foundation is met, then we can build ourselves, build others and build the Church.”
This message has now resonated to the South Bend side of the diocese and into La Porte as well, where introductory Kingdom Builders meetings occurred July 16. At St. Therese, Little Flower Parish, South Bend, via video recording, Parrish elaborated further on what it means to be a Kingdom Builder. “We seek to embrace the messiness of life, trusting that we are being loved by the Father, and can be His instruments to build up His Kingdom, even if it doesn’t look or feel perfect.” Her plan focuses on making realistic action plans and embracing one’s identity in God. “Ladies, you would set goals if you were the leader of a billion-dollar corporation, well you are more valuable than that. As a woman, you are the crown jewel of God’s creation! He desires to create order in your life. You are His beloved daughter. Of course, you should set goals, but they should not be vague. They need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. You also need to consider the challenges which will arise that may make these goals difficult to attain.” These goals included getting sufficient rest, eating healthy, having dedicated prayer time, supporting one’s husband, protecting children from harmful media, assisting family and neighbors and more.” Upon entry, each woman received a small booklet to help create these types of personal goals, addressing spiritual, mental, physical and financial health, as they felt called to do through prayer.
She also shared a brief story illustrating how one’s identity can fundamentally influence one’s work and life. Comparing three laborers building a church, each was asked what they were doing with their wheelbarrow. The first said he was simply moving bricks from one spot to another. The second said he was making a living for his family. The third said enthusiastically that he was building a cathedral for the Almighty God.
Parrish then asked, “So builders, what you are doing? We all have our daily tasks to do. Sometimes it feels like we are just moving bricks from here to there. Writing papers, making dinners, taking care of spouses or kids. We all are called to make a living in one way or another. Only one recognized he was building a kingdom. When you are doing the work of the Lord, everything you do is building His Kingdom. Kingdom Builders is about keeping our perspective regarding what is most important and recognizing that we are each a beloved daughter of a mighty King. He has chosen us to go and build His Kingdom, to rebuild our children and families. If we have faith, we will put everything we have into that wheelbarrow, offering it to the Father because He loves us. To hold back nothing of ourselves for ourselves so that He Who gives Himself totally to us may receive us totally, so that we and our families can end up together in heaven and spend eternity with Him.”
Following the video, St. Therese parishioner Monica Markovich led a reflection on Parrish’s message and built upon it. “God looked at His creation and called it good. He separated things, put them into place, arranged them and put them in relationship. Our God is a God of order, not of chaos. All of creation has order and a pattern to it. Then on the seventh day, He rested. No matter how busy I am, I have never once created the entire universe in six days. If God could find time to rest, so can I. Part of the Sabbath is reflecting on the week behind us and ahead of us, asking if our lives and our souls are rightly ordered. How do we get rightly ordered? First with prayer and relationship with God, asking Him what His goals are for you, then by developing a plan. Then after we act, we reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and then we adjust where necessary. Throughout this process, look for moments that bring you peace and joy, recognizing and rejecting any words from the evil one who condemns or tears you down with negativity. The Lord wants to fill you with peace and joy.”
Following Markovich’s talk, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for 45 minutes of eucharistic adoration to give the women an opportunity to put their hearts and needs before the Lord. While congregational singing remains prohibited due to diocesan pandemic restrictions, Jessica Roberts provided vocal and instrumental praise and worship music between extended periods of silence.
St. Therese business manager Gail Waltman expressed her gratitude for this new program. “You don’t realize until Mary Jo Parrish talks about what she does that you have such an important role as a wife and mother. I also loved the adoration!”
The next dates for Kingdom Builders at St. Therese parish are Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. Any women in the South Bend area are welcome to attend. Markovich stressed to the women that this ministry is “open to single, married, divorce, widowed, with or without children, young, old, rich or poor, a sinner or on your way to sainthood, a Christian or an atheist, you are welcome here and always will be.”
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