Magnificat-Omaha - WOMEN’S MINISTRY FOCUSES ON FAITH, EVANGELIZATION
Wed, 02/15/2017 BY LISA MAXSON For the Catholic Voice
A brunch later this month will be a chance for Catholic women, including those who have fallen away from the faith, to share the joy of the Lord with one another, be inspired and foster a desire to grow in holiness.
That’s how Karen Dwyer, Coordinator of the Omaha chapter of the Catholic women’s ministry "Magnificat," describes a gathering that the group – which held its first event one year ago this month – has planned for Feb. 25 at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish’s Mainelli Center in Omaha.
As in past meetings, women are invited to listen to a speaker share her faith journey – this time it’s Debra Herbeck of Renewal Ministries – and participate in music, table discussions and a meal. And they are urged to bring along someone who needs encouragement in her relationship with Christ.
"This is an opportunity for beautiful Catholic women to engage in evangelization by inviting friends and family, especially those away from God or the church," said Dwyer, who brought the ministry to Omaha in 2014. "You can bring women to this lovely brunch, and other women who are close to the Lord will share their journey and inspire them."
The ministry hosts four meals each year. Its events in Omaha last year drew 300 to 400 women each time.
Last year’s speakers included Sister Ann Shields, a speaker and author of numerous books on Catholic spirituality, and Omaha’s Sharon Doran, teaching director of Seeking Truth Catholic Bible Study. Speakers this year are expected to include Father Timothy Gallagher, a frequent speaker on EWTN whose digitally-recorded talks are used internationally; Kimberly Hahn, a Catholic apologist and author; and Mary Healy, author, professor and chair of the Doctrinal Commission of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services.
Commitment to Christ
Dwyer, an author, public speaker and director of a public speaking program at UNO, said she is encouraged by the witness of the other women who are willing to share their personal walk with Christ.
"It just uplifts me and motivates me to desire a deeper commitment to Christ and his church," she said.
Marilou Lonergan, Magnificat Secretary and a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha, said she feels the same way, and enjoys sharing her gifts to help the church’s mission of evangelization.
"I am meeting many wonderful spirit-filled ladies and reconnecting with old friends as well," she said. "Our goal is to offer a joy-filled event so that each and every woman attending will feel Christ’s love for them."
Magnificat – not to be confused with the monthly liturgical and personal prayer books of the same name – was created in 1981 by the late Bishop Stanley J. Ott of New Orleans. Bishop Ott wanted to help Catholic women become more open to the Holy Spirit through a deeper commitment to Jesus, and witness to one another through love, service and sharing the good news of salvation. Today, there are more than 100 Magnificat chapters around the world.
Founded on Prayer
The national ministry requires women hoping to start chapters to engage in at least two years of prayer and formation before they ask to be an official ministry of a diocese or archdiocese, said Dwyer, who several years ago attended a Magnificat-sponsored event in Lincoln. She said she felt an urging by the Holy Spirit to start Magnificat in the Archdiocese of Omaha, and turned to friends to help implement it.
In 2014, Dwyer, Lonergan and three other women, who became the original local leadership team, first met for three hours twice a month for two years to pray about the ministry. Archbishop George J. Lucas approved Magnificat last year as an official ministry of the archdiocese, and named Father Michael Voithofer, associate pastor of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, as the Omaha chapter’s spiritual adviser.
Magnificat, which means "magnify," is based on the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The words of the Magnificat recorded in Luke 1:46 are the beginning of Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s joyful greeting. The visitation is the ministry’s inspiration, adopting as its own the name of Mary’s hymn of praise and the encounter’s spirit.
"Theirs was a great mentoring relationship, a loving relationship, woman-to-woman ministry. Elizabeth was old, Mary was young. They were both with child," Dwyer said. "The joy is so present, and that’s what we want women to experience: the joy of sharing the Lord through the Holy Spirit."
Magnificat-Omaha - WOMEN’S MINISTRY Catholic author and Scripture scholar brings message of hope and peace to Omaha EXCERPTS
A brunch later this month will be a chance for Catholic women to share the joy of the Lord with one another, be inspired and foster a desire to grow in holiness.
“Peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). That’s what God promises to those who live a life rooted in prayer. And that will be one of the topics June 25 as Catholic author and Scripture scholar Sonja Corbitt brings her message of hope and spiritual renewal to Omaha.
She will speak at the quarterly brunch of the Magnificat-Omaha women’s group at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Author of seven books, including her latest, “Just Rest, Receiving God’s Renewing Presence in the Deserts of Your Life (a Study of the Exodus),”
Q. Tell me a little bit about your background and what led to your devotion to Scripture and the call to begin your Bible study ministry. I am a convert of 16 years now from the Southern Baptist tradition, and that’s where I began my love of Scripture. It was kind of an accident. I was asked by a mentor to co-teach a Bible study on the Book of Acts. She looked at me a couple weeks in and said, “I really think you’re supposed to teach this yourself.” I was very young, I didn’t know anything, but I was so enamored by what I was learning and how I was connecting to God through the Scriptures. And this had never happened to me before. I just found him there and I was so excited about what I was learning and being able to share it with other people who were also excited about what I was sharing, that just fueled all of my excitement. So that was where it began, and several years after that I entered seminary and got some training there and I began teaching kind of itinerantly, and it sort of snowballed and that’s where it all started. And once I began, I just never looked back and have loved it since, and I have always met God there. That is his voice to his Church, the Scriptures, and so that’s what I do now as a Catholic. When I came into the Church my pastor made me the religious education director of our parish that same year. When I began that job, I realized that the Church needed what I was doing, what I had been doing, and of course, in the context of the Church and the writings of the fathers and the documents of the Church. But I began offering Scripture topically as I had been accustomed to doing as a Baptist. I started doing that as a Catholic and it just took off. So that’s why I am where I am now...
Q. Modern life and the state of our world has filled so many people with fear, anxiety, depression and discouragement. You talk about that on your website and in your podcasts. How can delving into Scripture help us overcome those kinds of feelings and find the real peace that Jesus offers us? What is wonderful about the Scriptures is that they address everything that we go through as human beings. And particularly when we’re overwhelmed with negative emotions and negative circumstances and just outright evil, the Scriptures are our offensive and defensive weapon in combating all of that negativity with the truth of who we are in God, what salvation means, and how to appropriate it for each of us on a daily basis in a way that gives us victory and an abundant life. That is what Jesus came to give us and that’s what the Scriptures show us how to do. And so when we are in the Scriptures, periodically in a study way, but daily through the readings, we have that daily word of God that gives us the encouragement and gives us the truth and gives us the insight into how to deal with our relationships and circumstances in a way that is fruitful and nourishing and life giving rather than just sucking the life out of us, like all of that negativity can do. So to me that is really my calling in offering the Scriptures to people, to show them how to appropriate the inheritance that Christ won for us in his death and resurrection, and use those tools and that truth to begin living the kind of life, the eternal life that the Bible talks about, which is more about quality than it is about quantity.
Q. So it’s really based on the message of hope that we have won the victory through Christ and there is a hopefulness even though we may face difficulties right now, we see that there’s something good at the end. Absolutely and it’s not just reserved for the end. That’s the part that’s so good about how the Bible addresses our daily lives – that we can experience, we’re supposed to experience that victory and that abundance now, leading into that final promised land of heaven. And so the promised land begins here, and we learn through the Scriptures by watching how God deals with his people in the Scriptures and appropriating those promises and the gifts of the Scriptures, the truth of it into our daily lives. And it’s the peace that passes all understanding, the Bible calls it. And we’re meant to have that. We say that in our Mass, we hear it every single Mass, my peace I give you, my peace I leave you. And yet we’re so unpeaceful, we’re unrestful and it’s in part, because we don’t know who we are in Christ, and we don’t know what our inheritance is, and we don’t know how to appropriate those gifts. And so the Bible teaches us how to do that...
Q. And with that awareness, it sounds like also, that in our own actions or responses, through our awareness, we can choose to respond differently. Is that what you’re saying? Absolutely. We learn how to invite the Holy Spirit into that woundedness so that he can transform it and at that point, it doesn’t drive negative behavior. It’s transformed and it begins to be fruitful. Our very wounds and our weaknesses are what God uses to heal us, oddly enough. Q. And it sounds like too, that in our response, we’re called in those moments to reflect in a prayerful way about how to tailor our responses. Is that right? Absolutely. Because otherwise we don’t know how to respond. We react rather than responding. And so, part of the challenge for Catholics is we understand suffering very well. We understand that life is full of suffering, and we know that we should offer it up in union with Christ’s suffering. But the only problem with that is if we don’t also cooperate with it in our healing, then we’ve missed the main point of it. So our lives here then are a type of purgatory that should occur here rather than later after we’re dead. The whole process of sanctification is really that process of purgatory. And we’re meant to undergo that process here. And we do that in part by learning to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in those pop quizzes, in that suffering. So we can offer it up. We can go to Mass daily and we can be in the Scriptures every day but if we’re not also cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our suffering to be healed, then we’ve missed the whole point. We’ve missed the whole point of why God allows that in part. So it’s very important that we understand that process. And the doctors of prayer, they’re the ones who direct us to that....
Q. On June 25th, you’re going to be speaking in Omaha to a Magnificat women’s group. What special messages do you plan to impart to help those women, and through your ministry overall, how do you help women, particularly, grow in their spirituality? We are going to be talking about rest, rest in thoughts, rest in emotions, rest in body and rest in soul. And we’re looking at the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt, which for us would be our sin place, through the desert, into the promised land of Sabbath rest. And through that process of the Exodus, we see how God leads us from a life of sin, through the desert, where we experience all kinds of deprivations that bring up all the negative thoughts and emotions and physical suffering that we go through and spiritual suffering as well. But all of that is meant to lead us to the promised land of that perfect peace, that perfect rest, that inner Sabbath that the Bible talks about as being the promised land. And I am living proof that God will lead us through that process, into that promised land of rest, that peace that passes all understanding. It transcends anything that we actually experience here. It’s a peace that transcends whatever is happening, and God promises us that in our thoughts, emotions, bodies and souls. And that is what we’re talking about on June 25th.
Q. What other key messages or themes will you be talking about on June 25th? Probably the main message in all of that is that peace is God’s promise. ...That’s probably the main message, which is that we are held in being in God’s love. We are loved with an eternal love the Bible says, and most of us experience such negativity and fear because we don’t know how much we’re loved. And so I see my role as opening up that door for people to experience God’s love on June 25th, through that Magnificat conference, to experience God’s love there...
February 27, 2016. “It was an exciting joy-filled day,” many women said. Our first Magnificat-Omaha meal after two years of planning and moving through the Chapter approval process had finally arrived. Our chosen chapter name Jesus the Joy of Our Hearts expressed the day perfectly—it was the name the Lord gave us, based on the December 22nd Advent Antiphon and the joy that we experienced was from heaven. We were overwhelmed at times—especially when 360 women responded to the invitations on parish posters and bulletins, flyers and a Spirit Catholic Radio show. We expected maybe 200, but not 360 women!
Fortunately, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish could crowd in enough tables so none would be turned away. We had garnered enough centerpieces, nametags and membership cards at the last moment. The caterers were able to adjust the number of meals quickly to fit our needs.
It was a great team effort and the Holy Spirit took over beyond all that we could do or imagine. We praised and prayed and sought God at every planning meeting, every service team meeting, every chairs meeting, and every first Saturday Magnificat prayer and praise meeting. We prayed numerous times for the weather and the Lord gave us a sun-shining 73-degree day in Omaha in February! We prayed that the Holy Spirit would gather the ladies from the 147 parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha and they came. We prayed the women would bring their sisters and mothers, and mother--laws and daughters and neighbors who were away from God and away from the faith and they did!
We prayed for the food and those who served. Our simple breakfast of eggs and rolls and fruit was delicious. We prayed for our spiritual advisor Fr. Michael Voithofer who preached and prayed and sang over us like an angel. He taught everyone how to lift up their hands to praise the Lord and place their hands over their hearts to open their lives to the Lord and receive His healing.
We prayed for our beautiful speaker Sr. Ann Shields from Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We prayed for her flight and her health and an anointed talk. She flew into Omaha on Friday evening - just in time for our dinner of committee chairs, Fr. Michael and the Service Team. The 16 of us prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary, shared our stories of coming to Magnificat, ate potluck, laughed and talked with Sr. Ann. We loved listening to Sr. Ann’s stories about her community and their great service to the Ann Arbor diocese. After dinner, Fr. Michael played his guitar and led us in more prayer and praise and worship. If we had any intimidation of what was ahead on Saturday morning (and we did), we just knew God had taken over before we parted that evening.
On the next morning at our Magnificat Meal, the Holy Spirit gave grace and joy to our greeters and 40 hostesses, to our music ministry and set up team, to our book table and to the registration team, and helped us all manage such a large group. The Holy Spirit is a magnificent director in large crowds!
When it was time for Sr. Ann’s talk you could hear a pin drop in the room of so many tables and faces. For over an hour Sr. Ann shared her journey with us. She said, at every age we need to have a clear voice of faith. For example, she paraphrased the call of Abraham, who at 75 years of age and not knowing where God would lead him, finally surrendered to God his “yes, my camels will leave in the morning.” She said, “We live in very challenging time and amid many difficulties. God wants to give us the deep faith of the Blessed Mother—a faith of God that trusts and forgives.” She said, “We should ask God for a deeper faith--we should say, Jesus, walk with me and deepen my faith.” Jesus told Sr. Ann to “remember who you are.” In spite of her and our own imperfections and failures, “each of us is a daughter of God, Jesus is our Savior and the Holy Spirit is our guide.” “We must not let the world, the flesh, or the devil define us.” Sr. Ann has written many books, but encouraged all of us to read her booklets, “Faith More Precious than Gold,” and “Captured by Mercy,” which extends the themes of her talk. Fr. Michael Voithofer, our Spiritual Director, closed our first Magnificat Meal with a blessing and prayer, asking the Lord to “fill us with heaven’s graces and deepen our faith.” Article by Karen Dwyer
Magnificat-Omaha Leadership: Service Team with Sr. Ann Shields (Speaker)