By Christine Moore
On June 8, 2017, St. Mark’s in Southwest Ranches, Florida hosted a beautiful graduation ceremony for the completion of their Llenas de Gracia: Las Mujeres y la Vida Abundante study group, graduating 31 new women into the Women of Grace® family.
The night began with dinner, followed by testimonies, certificates, gifts and the much-anticipated Women of Grace® Shirt Induction Ceremony. This ceremony involves giving graduates Women of Grace® shirts to change into and then walking back into the room as official Women of Grace®! They were received by their facilitators and guests with applause.
There were many guests including St. Mark parochial vicars Fr Paul Karenga and Father Juan Aviles, as well as past study participants of the Mujeres de Gracia® ministry who were there to volunteer for the event. These wonderful volunteers were Adriana Rios, Luz Marina Mesa (also co-founder of the Mujeres de Gracia® ministry in St Mark) Patricia Giraldo, Yuli Perez, Millie Muniz and Fina Ellis.
There was also a surprise guest, not only for the participants, but also for the facilitators and coordinator as well. The coordinator, Olgamarie Tañon, had planned a surprise visit from Thea Parsons, the daughter of Women of Grace® founder Johnnette Benkovic; however, when Thea arrived, she surprised everyone by having Johnnette with her!
Olgamarie explains how she felt by the surprise, “Need I say words? Amazing! The participants were star struck when Johnnette and her daughter Thea stood at the door.”
The gift of Johnnette’s arrival was the highlight of the evening, deeply honoring the graduates.
These Full of Grace Foundational Study graduates featured a beautifully diverse group of women who continually inspire each other, with the younger participants gaining insight and wisdom from the older women, yet also renewing the older participants in hope by their dedication to the study. Together their understanding of their authentic femininity was deepened and transformed.
“At the closing ceremony of our 17 week study, we feel like completely different women!” Olgamarie said. “We feel revived! Important! Part of God’s plan! Special and with a sense of purpose and direction!”
Along with the program came a few challenges and opportunities for growth, such as how it teaches participants the importance of truly trusting in God and forgiving those who have hurt them. These lessons had a great impact on her life.
“Thanks to this study I realized a chapter of my life hadn’t been resolved like I thought it had. I received emotional healing.”
Mujeres de Gracias® has been a blessing to her and so many others since it began five years ago. That’s when Olgamarie was discerning in prayer whether to help start the Spanish version of the study in her parish. The Lord sent her a powerful sign and it was all she needed to give her “fiat!” The course started with five women. Today there are over 100 Mujeres de Gracias® in her parish. Not only is it still going strong, but it’s beginning to spread to other parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami.
From the great experience this study brought her, Olgamarie cannot help but encourage women out there to take this study, hoping it may also positively impact their lives.
“…Think of it as time you will be investing in yourself to better know your faith so you can teach it and defend it and so you can understand your womanhood, how God made us different than men for a reason, He had a purpose for it!”
And what if you are called to be a facilitator of Llenas de Gracia: Las Mujeres y la Vida Abundante like Olgamarie?
“Think of how many souls you will be saving, because these women, when they finish, will not be the same, they will be God’s warriors on Earth!” Olgamarie says.
This study has proven to be a resource that can deepen and restore women in their faith journey, including these recent graduates. The question is, will you let it impact yours?
“Go for it!” Olgamarie encourages. “Fear not and open your mind and heart and let God do the rest!”
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Christine “Christy” Moore is a student at Florida State University who will be graduating this summer with a degree in English Editing Writing and Media with a minor in Education. Currently interning at Women of Grace, she was born and raised in a strong Catholic home with two amazing parents and three siblings and is active in her parish music ministry.