Women in Conversation: Stand Up

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Women in Conversation Stand Up!

Loretta Pehanich



Women in Conversation Stand Up!

Loretta Pehanich


Dedicated to Our Lady of Loretto who invites us into her loving home to meet with her son, Jesus. They wait eagerly for our visit.

© 2021 RENEW International All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher. The scripture passages alluded to in this book are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Cover and interior design by Clara Baumann ISBN: 978-1-62063-176-8 RENEW International 1232 George Street, Plainfield, New Jersey 07062-1717 www.renewintl.org RENEW International is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Printed and bound in the United States of America


Table of Contents Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Faith Sharing in a Small Group . . . . . . . . . 9 Session One: Women of Hospitality . . . . . . 18 Session Two: God in Unexpected Places . . . . 24 Session Three: God’s Work of Art . . . . . . . 32 Session Four: I Call You Friends . . . . . . . . 41 Session Five: I’m Not Worthy . . . . . . . . . 49 Session Six: Forgive That? Impossible! . . . . . 58 Session Seven: Spirituality of Food . . . . . . 66 Session Eight: Sex and Sexuality . . . . . . . 74 Session Nine: The Gift of Tears . . . . . . . . 83 Session Ten: Bringing Forth . . . . . . . . . . 92 Session Eleven: Baptismal Gifts . . . . . . . 101 Session Twelve: Another Pentecost . . . . . . 110 Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Presenting RENEW International . . . . . . . 126 About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 More Resources from RENEW International . . 128

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Session One

Women of Hospitality

Preparation before Gathering Please read and reflect on “Inspiring Women” and “Inside Scripture” before gathering in the small group. Jot down any thoughts that you may want to share.

Inspiring Women Radical Hospitality: St. Teresa of Calcutta “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody: I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty, than the person who has nothing to eat.” Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, born August 26, 1910 in Macedonia, joined the sisters of Loreto at age 18. She taught in India for 17 years before the “call within a call” in 1946 that led her to care for Christ in the sick and poor, founding the Missionaries of Charity. Her loving hospitality in the streets of Calcutta earned her a Nobel Peace Prize. “Good works are links that form a chain of love,” St. Teresa said. “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” She encouraged loving as an action and serving as if the other person is Jesus. “Do not wait for leaders,” she said. “Do it alone, person to person.” St. Teresa taught, and exemplified with her own life, that hospitality demonstrates love. “I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor,” she said. “Do you know your next-door neighbor?” And this: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” St. Teresa died in 1997. She was canonized in 2016.

Inside Scripture Part One: Read 1 Peter 4: 8-11 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. It demonstrates an intense love that ought to be the source of our welcome. 18

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Part Two: Read Luke 23:55-56 and Mark 16: 1-6 Gospel Contemplation: Women Take Spices to the Tomb

(“Gospel Contemplation,” which we will use in each session, is a prayer style taught by St. Ignatius, who lived from 1491 to 1556 and founded the Society of Jesus. Another term for this prayer is “Ignatian contemplation.” This method puts us in a story with Jesus, imagining that we are one of the characters and employing our five senses to re-create the surroundings. For a more detailed explanation, see How to Pray Using Gospel Contemplation, page 16.) Hospitality comes in many forms, including honoring the dead. We are walking toward the tomb of Jesus, carrying sacred spices that are heavy, like our hearts. We hold them as we long to hold our Lord Jesus. We are the women who traveled from Galilee to cook and launder for Jesus and his friends. We watched the crucifixion with horror and followed his shrouded body to the tomb. We sprinkled wildflowers on Jesus’ form while Joseph of Arimathea hurriedly used expensive myrrh and aloe. The fragrance was unforgettable. Imagine our grief as we scurried back to honor the sabbath! We could do nothing until that long day was complete. Now, as we walk this rough path to the grave, I hear birds sing. I smell something sweet. What will I see when I arrive at the tomb? Take some time if you haven’t done so already to place yourself in the scene and imagine your own role in it.

Environment Place a small picture of Mother Teresa and a beautiful empty teacup in the center of the group to represent welcoming hospitality.

Introductions Three minutes, first session and when someone new joins the group.

Leader: Let’s welcome each other very briefly by going around the circle, sharing how long you have lived in the area plus one fun fact about you.

Opening Prayer Leader: Welcome to this small group designed for women, by women, where our personal stories matter. Every session begins with prayers that will include words, movement, music, imagery, or sitting in silence as ways to center ourselves so we can better listen to God and to each other. For Stand Up! 19


Now, let’s begin…

Make the sign of the cross. I seek you, loving God, and your sheltering presence, like a child leaning on her mother’s hefty bosom. I come to you to be welcomed into your compassionate and healing love. Crawling into your comfortable lap, I find your arms wrapped lovingly around me. As I look around, I see that I am not alone. You welcome many to your lap today. Help me to imitate the hospitality I find in you. Your mothering care is with me every day at every moment. May we all exercise our unique gifts as women to create more hospitable communities in our Church, neighborhoods, cities, and circles of influence. Amen.

Opening Song “Everything You” by Jackie François and Sarah Hart To download this song, visit www.ocp.org/renew-music

Check-In Conversation and Today’s Theme Today’s theme is hospitality, which means more than a brief hello at Mass before rushing to the parking lot. Hospitality includes friendly and warm welcomes for everyone, even strangers, through listening, valuing different points of view, and making time for each other. Connections we form in small groups will lead to more open and inclusive atmospheres in our parishes and beyond, because, as we enjoy a safe space here, we naturally will feel more comfortable offering hospitality to others. Our Church does not always offer women hospitality. Many of us are wounded by being excluded from ministries such as proclaiming the Gospel, preaching from the pulpit, and serving in the diaconate. In recent years, women have begun to share about unfairness or mistreatment in the workplace, sexual assault or harassment, and other forms of abuse or discrimination. These, too, are violations of hospitality and trust. For example, women in management positions, especially women of color, are familiar with sitting at tables where no one looks like us. Men have dominated leadership roles in the work world for centuries and don’t recognize the impact 20

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their privileged status has on women who join their ranks. It’s easy to overlook the newcomer in a group, or to assume—without offering a word of greeting—that everyone feels at ease. When any institution falls short, women can extend empathy, especially when we have suffered similarly ourselves. We help one another achieve reconciliation by sharing the wounds and stories. Situations that contributed to these injuries may not have changed, but we have. Within the Church, we can improve the treatment of women by generously offering women hospitality ourselves. Such hospitality includes filling roles that the Church desperately needs, such as leaders of welcoming committees, home-visit programs, and other means of increasing hospitality in our parishes. Here are some conversation starters: • Who is the “me” that I bring to this day? • Where have I noticed God in my life recently? • Did something significant surface for me in reading the “Inspiring Women” and “Inside Scripture” sections? • What do I hope for by participating in this small group?

Her Story Hospitality is sometimes merely overlooked, not withheld with malice. We don’t mean to leave people out, and we forget that a small thing can be the tipping point. For Wendy and her husband, two little incidents soured them on the parish they hoped to join. When the couple moved across the country, they decided to try to meet people by going to a parish event. Wendy and her husband sat at a table by themselves, hoping someone would join them. As people gathered, it was clear that many were old friends who didn’t notice the shy newcomers. It’s natural to gravitate toward those we recognize when we enter a room full of people and need to choose a seat. Two people came over and smiled. Wendy’s heart beat a little faster. “Do you mind if we take a couple of chairs?” No, Wendy replied, disappointed. The two people took the chairs and crowded in at another table. Another pair approached. “Can we take a few chairs?” they asked. What could Wendy and her husband say? Rather than speak up, they smiled and nodded as more chairs disappeared. Soon Wendy and her husband were the only people at the table, and all the other chairs were gone. Having moved from a very hospitable community, the couple expected that others would proactively take steps to welcome them. But at Mass, no one greeted them, and immediately after Mass, people fled without a word. Stand Up! 21


Not long after, Wendy and her husband stopped regularly attending church.

My Story • How do I react to the news that Wendy and her husband stopped attending church shortly after these experiences? • Has anything like Wendy’s experience ever happened to me? What about the opposite experience? • How do I notice newcomers and extend welcome to them? • How did Christ demonstrate hospitality? • What gifts of hospitality do I possess?

Living Out Our Gifts Hospitality is an expression of our Christian faith. How does this inspire us to act? Here are some examples: • I can take what I heard in today’s conversations and discern further, through prayer, what actions, specific to my community, God calls me to take. • I can do a self-examination to determine if I have a talent for hospitality and if I’m exercising that gift, or not. I will be open to change. • We can each talk with others outside this small group about what women in our Church can do right now that no one else can do. • When we attend Mass or other events at our parish, we can try to notice people who seem isolated or ignored and reach out to them with a simple gesture of hospitality. • We can each write in our journals as we continue to contemplate today’s session and how it will infuse our work, ministries, and relationships. • I can learn about hospitality ministries in my parish or about programs that make the wider community more hospitable. I can consider what role I might play in these activities.

Closing Prayer (Based on Psalm 40)

Leader: I waited, waited for the Lord … Group: Here I am. Leader: Lord I come to do your will… Group: Though I am afflicted and poor, the Lord keeps me in mind. Leader: Here I am, Lord. 22

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Group: I come to do you will. Leader: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Group: As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

Closing Song “Akwaaba! Welcome!” by ValLimar Jansen, Sarah Kroger, Ben Walther, Greg Walton, Ken Canedo To download this song, visit www.ocp.org/renew-music

Refreshments As we continue our conversation, let’s be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of us and among us.

Looking Ahead To prepare for the next meeting, read “Inspiring Women” and “Inside Scripture” in Session Two. Consider jotting down some thoughts to share when we meet. Be sure someone agreed to set up our environment with special touches (suggestions are listed under Environment).

Suggestions for Further Reading Bible Verses Acts 16: 33 (The jailer took them into his home and washed their wounds.) Luke 14: 7-14 (When Jesus noticed how guests selected seats, he told them this parable.) Books

Re-creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-giving Story by Diane M. Millis, Ph.D. SDI Press, Bellevue WA © 2019 A Simple Path / Mother Teresa, compiled by Lucinda Vardey Ballantine Books, New York © 1995 Online Reading

https://www.motherteresa.org For more on Gospel Contemplation: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/author/ pehanich

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