Promoting the dignity of women and their fundamental call to transform the world as daughters of God, the Women of Grace apostolate welcomed Hispanic women for a Morning of Grace on Saturday, April 1 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg.
Upwards of 150 women turned out for the first-of-its kind event in the Diocese, which endorses the national Catholic apostolate and its mission of educating and inspiring women and celebrating their gift of authentic femininity.
Founded in 2003 by Johnnette Williams, a popular speaker, author and media personality, Women of Grace has made inroads into a number of parishes in the Diocese via its Foundational Study and regular gatherings attracting women as they deepen their relationship with Christ and forge bonds in the faith.
Parishes with Hispanic and Latino communities have embraced the apostolate, and the Diocesan-wide event on April 1 was a magnet for those local-level communities to connect on a larger scale and encourage more women and more parishes to engage in the Women of Grace studies and activities.
Sister Kathleen Brown, IHM, joined members of the Women of Grace group from San Juan Bautista Parish in Lancaster for the Diocesan event, calling it a significant day for everyone involved in the program.
“The program brings out the best in women. It deepens their faith, it gives them a sense of identity as Catholic women, and it calls them to things they never realized they could do – including prayer, service and support of one another,” she said.
Sister Kathleen has been facilitating the Spanish-language Women of Grace program at San Juan for more than a year.
“We have two hopes for today. First, that through their exposure to Women of Grace, many will be inspired to initiate a group in their parish, and secondly, that it begins the creation of a network of Hispanic women from each parish so that further contacts and activities can be done to support them in the faith,” she said.
The Morning of Grace began with Mass celebrated by Father Manuel Avilés, OFM Cap., pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg, followed by personal testimonies from participants of the Women of Grace studies, and a presentation on the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, given by Deacon Gregory Amarante, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Life and Evangelization.
The holy Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration and time for personal prayer and fellowship were also part of the day.
The event drew participants from all parts of the Diocese, with parishioners from St. Benedict the Abbot in Lebanon, Corpus Christi in Chambersburg, St. Francis Xavier in Gettysburg, Immaculate Conception in Berwick, San Juan Bautista in Lancaster, St. Joseph in Hanover, St. Joseph in Milton, Immaculate Conception in York, St. Francis of Assisi in Harrisburg, St. Jude Thaddeus in Mifflintown, and Mary, Mother of the Church in Mount Joy.
Christine Arnold, Regional Coordinator of the Women of Grace, expressed hope that the day would help expand the apostolate throughout the Diocese, toward its mission of promoting the dignity of women and their true gift of womanhood.
“Women of Grace has been at the forefront of healing hearts, changing lives and saving souls, especially women. We’ve accomplished this by way of education, spiritual formation, inspiration, encouragement, prayer and inner healing,” she told The Witness.
“This event is our first venture in Harrisburg with this type of format, and as one of the Regional Coordinators for Women of Grace in Pennsylvania, I want to extend an invitation to the Hispanic Women of our Diocese to participate in the Women of Grace Foundational Study, which has been translated into the Spanish language,” she said.
Sister Kathleen underscored the impact of the apostolate, given the transformations she has seen first-hand as a facilitator.
“Women are the heart of the family and are naturally socializers. The things that we share in our meetings are so personal that the agreement was made early on that what was shared would stay within the context the group. As a result, women of different ethnic backgrounds and different socioeconomic groups find a bond in their shared challenges, shared faith and shared hope,” she said. “They have the beginning of some very long lasting relationships, and the beautiful part of it and the glue of it is their desire to grow in their own relationship with the Living God, and they find support of that in each other.”
“I truly believe this is the beginning of something very significant for the faith life of our Diocese,” she said.
For more information on the Women of Grace apostolate, visit www.womenofgrace.com. Learn more about opportunities and studies in the Diocese of Harrisburg by contacting Christine Arnold at 717-379-6041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness