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."
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)