May 5, 2010 // Local

Woman to woman in parish ministries

In this month of May as the faithful of the diocese celebrate not only their devotion to the Blessed Mother but also their own earthly mothers, Today’s Catholic celebrates the sacredness of femininity and the role motherhood, both biologically and spiritually, plays in parish and diocesan-wide women’s ministries, where women honor women.

Many of the 80 parishes within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have thriving Rosary Societies or Sodalities that sponsor events for women throughout the year. One such event is the spring mother-daughter breakfast or luncheon that invites the women of the parish to attend with a special female in their lives, such as a mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt or friend. The gatherings provide an opportunity for faithful women to gather to honor their relationships.

Each parish has the opportunity to meet the specific spiritual, emotional and physical needs of its women by offering unique ministries as well. St. Pius X in Granger provides assistance and support in myriad ways through its chapter of the Elizabeth Ministry.

According to its Web site, the “Elizabeth Ministry is an international movement designed to offer hope and healing for women and their families on issues related to sexuality, childbearing and relationships.” It is based on the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s Gospel and is a “fresh format for woman to woman mentoring.”

At St. Pius, Jill Kovath has facilitated the multifaceted ministry since 2003. “It started small. We offered support for miscarriage and to celebrate life. … It has grown into about 20 teams, each with a specific focus. We are 100-women strong at St. Pius!” she says. This army of women mentors are at the ready as the need for support services ebbs and flows throughout the year.

Each ministry team, including pregnancy and infant loss, postpartum depression/anxiety, multiples, adoption, single moms, divorced Catholic women and more, is led by a
woman who has experienced the need that she supports. “The women,” says Kovath, “find comfort in relating to other women who have experiences similar to their own.”

Kathy James co-facilitates the postpartum/anxiety team with partner Theresa Depung. They support women who experience depression or anxiety following the birth of a child at monthly support group meetings. “The women need companionship and support,” says James. “It helps to have another woman say, ‘I’ve been there. You are not alone.’”

Another unique women’s ministry at St. Pius is the Widow’s Group. This new ministry, led by longtime parishioner and widow of five years Mary Pettit, was formed in October of 2009 and has grown into an educational support endeavor. The monthly meetings are held in the Granger library and offer a variety of speakers, including attorneys and hardware personnel, to match the groups’ interests. The widows recently decided to lunch together after the meeting for extended fellowship. “The women love it!” says Pettit.

Our Lady of Good Hope in Fort Wayne supports its women with a prayer ministry called St. Gerard’s List. Facilitator Joan Wickham reports that names of expectant mothers are placed on a prayer list via phone or e-mail at the request of a loved one. A nationwide group of close to 300 prayer warriors pray for these mothers-to-be. “We’ve had many blessings come from the prayer lines,” says Wickham. The ministry also provides meals for the women and their families following the birth of their babies.

An annual event at Our Lady of Good Hope that invites women and their daughters of the parish to share their faith and be encouraged in their feminine role in the Church is Girls Night Out. This year Megan Oberhausen, associate director of the Youth Ministry of the diocese will speak on “Girl Power or Girl Genius?” Oberhausen says,” It’s an opportunity for the women to talk about their faith and encourage conversation between moms and daughters.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne is one of about 15 parishes across the diocese that offers “Women of Grace” Bible study. According to the Web site, the study’s purpose is to “encourage and affirm women in their dignity as daughters of God and in their gift of authentic femininity. Through its conferences, programs and curricula, Women of Grace seeks to authenticate the genius of women (defined by Pope John Paul II as connoting the essential nature and spirit of woman) so profoundly portrayed in the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Carol Yaney, director of formation and RCIA at St. Elizabeth says, “There’s such diversity in the groups. It’s amazing how we can help each other on our faith journeys.” Each study session, which includes DVDs, the study of women saints, readings and discussion, is open to 12 women and offered twice each year. Several of the groups have continued to meet for Bible reading and sharing long after the study ends. Yaney says, “It’s definitely a benefit for all women in the groups. It’s just women talking to women.”
A diocesan-wide faith event that supports the women of the Church, Women’s Day of Grace, was spearheaded in 2008 with a visit from Women of Grace’s founder Johnnette Benkovic. Last year, Women’s Day of Prayer offered a day of workshops to investigate the importance of prayer.

Jennifer Kohrman, associate director of the Office of Spiritual Development says of the day, “It’s a chance to come together, take a day away to come closer to God. You see other women from around the diocese and get a broader vision of the Church.” All women of the diocese are invited each year to this free event, held at various locations. This special day and the women’s ministries of each parish offer a unique and powerful focus on the dignity of women and their invaluable role as nurturing mentors in the Church and society.

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