The Young Women of Grace study program is on a mission to spark the feminine genius.
Like its namesake, founded and popularized by Johnnette Benkovic, the program celebrates the dignity and vocation of women as daughters of God, and affirms them in their gift of authentic femininity.
And it’s being offered here in the diocese, at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Harrisburg.
Women of Grace® launched the study program, “Young Women of Grace: Embrace Your Femininity,” in January for girls ages 13 and older, and Holy Name became one of the first 15 or so parishes in the country to implement it.
“Young Women of Grace is a beautiful Catholic program that teaches young girls what it means to be a daughter of God and discern the mission that he has for them,” said Ann Marie Lapkowicz, the program’s facilitator at Holy Name.
As the mother of seven children, including two daughters – one of whom participates in the Young Women of Grace Program – she recognizes how critical the program is in today’s world.
“The program challenges the girls to think about their special call from the Church,” Mrs. Lapkowicz said, pointing to the Second Vatican Council’s closing message:
“….the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”
Presenting the teachings of the Church in a dynamic, magazine-style workbook, the Young Women of Grace study program teaches girls what it means to be a daughter of God, how to discern purpose and mission in the world, and to find true fulfillment.
The program’s eight chapters – with five lessons in each – introduces participants to the lives of women saints, modern-day female role models, prayer life, the sacraments, and practical ways to implement the Catholic faith into daily life.
Interactive lessons encourage the girls to consider such provoking questions as:
• The virtue in which they most wish to grow
• The person they trust the most
• Obstacles that prevent them from saying “yes” to God
• Ways in which they have brought the gift of life to others
• How they promote peace within their own circles
The program leads the girls in looking at the vocation of a woman, and it talks to them about their divine call that God asks them to fulfill,” Mrs. Lapkowicz explained. “It talks to them about being spiritual mothers, and wants them to understand that the example of perfect womanhood is the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
“Communicating this message to young girls – that they are completely woman in body and soul, and that the Church needs them to fulfill their special role – is so providential in our time,” she said.
Holy Name of Jesus Parish began its first Young Women of Grace program in January, with sessions on two Sundays per month. In addition to the study’s workbook, the program also brought in Catholic women as guest speakers, and encouraged the girls to select mentors to whom they could ask questions about such topics as vocation discernment and prayer life.
“Through this study, the girls were challenged to examine their three interior dispositions: receptivity, trust and surrender. Receptivity to God’s action in their life, trust in his never-failing help, and surrender to his holy will,” Mrs. Lapkowicz noted.
As the sessions went on, she observed their growth in the realization of their call in the life of the Church.
“They said they particularly enjoyed studying about the women saints, being together with other girls, and the camaraderie of developing Catholic friendships. Within the program, they can explore their faith with other girls their age, and discuss issues that are pertinent to them,” she said.
“I had loved coming to the Young Women of Grace class every other Sunday over at Holy Name,” said participant Anna Phelan, adding that the class “really made me think sometimes about the topics.”
Holy Name of Jesus Parish will offer the program again, with sessions on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 4-5:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 10.
Mrs. Lapkowicz encourages girls ages 13-17 to participate in the program, and hopes that additional parishes and schools begin offering it as well.
“The Vatican Council challenged them to aid humanity in not falling. They’re told that because the world needs God so much today, they can be very much like the Virgin Mary in Nazareth,” she said. “All of Heaven is waiting for their response.”
(This article originally appeared in the August 18 issue of The Catholic Witness, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Harrisburg, and is reprinted here with their kind permission.)