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2 firstname.lastname@example.org | MAY 25, 2017 | THE BEACON | DIOCESE ‘l etteR to W oMen ’ By MICHAEL WOJCIK NEWS EDITOR Study group examines St. John Paul II’s pastoral letter in ENDOW faith-formation series BRANCHVILLE Until recently, Marie O’Connor of Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) Parish here did not know that St. John Paul II had written a pastoral letter in 1995 to the world’s women. That was until the married moth-er of two teenagers joined a Wednesday-evening study group of 15 women at the Sussex County church to read aloud and examine in detail the late pontiff’s “Letter to Women.” The study group began April 26 and concludes on June 14. “The letter defines the value of Catholic women in the Church. We can feel good about how God made us as women and value ourselves as women,” said O’Connor, who has been participating in the study group, which has been reading and reflect-ing on material from a workbook about the “Letter to Women,” published by Colorado-based ENDOW, which stands for Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women. “In the letter, John Paul shows an appreciation of women. Each gender has its own value and gifts. I can see that I have gifts too. John Paul’s words are still timely today,” she said. For several weeks now, Cindy Costello, diocesan coordinator of marriage ministry and a parishioner of nearby St. Thomas the Apostle, Sandyston, has been leading the eight-week study group to explore the “Letter for Women.” It promotes the “feminine ge-nius” of women and their definite and spe-cial place in the family, the Church and the world. Starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, the sessions also bring together participating women “to discover their God-given dignity and to understand their role in transform-ing society,” said Costello, who facilitates the engaging discussions, filled with faith and friendship. “The ENDOW program enables women to see themselves in a new way — knowing that we have worth and that we are loved. We are searching for truth and who we are in the light of faith,” said Costello, who noted that the study group includes women from both St. Thomas and OLQP and continues the fruitful collaborative relationship be-tween the two rural faith communities. “In the letter, John Paul also writes about what he calls the ‘new feminism’: women’s under-“LETTER TO WOMEN” Cindy Costello (third from left), diocesan coordinator of marriage ministry, has been leading a study group to examine St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Women” at Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) Parish, Branchville. The eight-session Wednesday-evening group, which started April 26 and concludes on June 14, includes women from OLQP and Costello’s home parish, St. Thomas the Apostle, Sandyston. women time to read, ponder and experi-ence. They are discussing the challenges of women today: feminism, culture and how women are treated — all through the lens of Scripture. It’s been affirming,” she said. The sixth chapter of the program, “The Blessed Virgin Mary: the Highest Expression of Feminine Genius,” starts with an opening prayer. The first part speaks about Mary’s “putting herself at God’s service,” which meant that “she also put herself at the ser-vice of others: a service of love,” John Paul II writes in the “Letter to Women.” “Mary’s freedom [to say ‘yes’ to God’s plan] manifested itself in her attentiveness to others,” according to ENDOW, which cit-ed the example of the Blessed Mother no-ticing that the bride and groom at Cana would soon run out of wine (Jn 2:1-11) and telling Jesus about it. “Mary’s total trust in God enabled her to look away from herself and look to how God’s hand was moving in a particular situation. Rather than focusing on herself — rather than being distracted by worries, fares, offenses ad insecurities — Mary focused on others,” it stated. Like the other chapters, the sixth chap-ter gives a summery of the material in the “Bringing It Home” section and then poses engaging questions for the participants to ponder and discuss among themselves. They include “What are some of the consequenc-es of failing to be attentive — of failing to see and listen to the people around you?” and “What is something you could to help you grow in attentiveness?” “I have been learning from women of all ages,” said O’Connor, who voiced con-cern about “raising children to keep them grounded” in a society — fueled in part by social media — that promotes different val-ues. “Society has become a lot more secular, which makes it more challenging for us to live our faith. In the study group, faith is the common denominator that grounds us and that we all share,” she said. [Information: (973) 809-1672 or www.endowgroups.org.] Pope Benedict XVI Institute June 26 th -28 th 10:30am-2:30pm $125 per Person $60 -Clergy & Religious A 50% discount is available to the first 20 people who express need. 205 Madison Avenue Madison, NJ For more information visit Mary: Mother of Jesus & Model Disciple (Mass and Lunch included) insidethewalls.org standing that the gifts of men and women are equal but different. Women are nurtur-ing and relational. We give the gift of self. Also, we can pursue careers in science, the arts or the military. We can do anything. We shape history,” Costello said. Four years ago, Costello started pre-senting ENDOW programs, including the one on John Paul’s “Letter to Women,” at St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Diocesan Center for Evangelization at Bayley-Ellard, Madison, which became “very popular.” In November, Costello led a presentation at OLQP about “The Genius of Women,” which left the 30 women who attended, wanting another faith-formation program. So she asked Father Edward Rama, OLQP’s pastor, if his parish could host the ENDOW study group — part of the evangelization center’s efforts to its faith-formation pro-grams “outside its walls” and into the par-ishes of the Diocese. Happily, Father Rama gave Costello his approval. “The idea [at St. Paul’s] is to evangelize — help set a fire at the center and then go out and start the fire [of faith] in the hearts of others — to go out and make disciples, as Jesus commanded,” said Costello, who has five children with her husband, Tom. Father Rama called feedback “excellent” about the ENDOW program, which he said “helps women in their spirituality and edu-cates them on the teachings of the Church.” During each session, the women read part of the “Letter to Women” aloud and read the insightful interpretive passages from the workbook and answer questions posed at the conclusion of each section. John Paul wrote the document in response to the 1995 Fourth United Nations Conference, in which he speaks of “the Christian concept of woman and her indispensable role in the Church, the family, society and the world,” according to ENDOW. “Some women in the group are younger and some are older. Some have grown chil-dren and one woman has a baby. The older women have been offering their insights,” Costello said. “The study group gives the
‘Letter To Women’
Study group examines St. John Paul II’s pastoral letter in ENDOW faith-formation series
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