In the April of 2014, Johnnette was invited by an eager group of women who wanted to bring the transforming message of authentic femininity to "the Rock" of Gibraltar. Monique Risso graciously gave her "YES" to becoming our local Regional Coordinator. Already she and her team have brought the program to several parishes, leading many women to embrace their mission as Catholic women. They even helped to launch Women of Grace in Spain!
Although I am what they call a Cradle Catholic, my family lapsed soon after my Holy Communion. We did not attend Mass and I was sent to a non-Catholic school. As I grew up I spent years searching for some hidden truth, that I felt everybody knew, except me. I did not then make the connection to the lost faith. I just knew that there was something that somehow the grown ups had forgotten to tell me, but whatever it was, I knew it was the secret of the universe, the key to everything.
In October 1990 I attended a Life in the Spirit seminar in Norfolk, England. This was a truly life-changing event for me and my family and resulted in us emigrating from the UK, and arriving in Gibraltar two years later. I was made very welcome by the Catholic community here attending every Charismatic event and seminar that was going.
Around 8 years later I was asked to produce a Diocesan Magazine. Working on this project meant that I read and researched a lot about our faith. Bishop Ralph Heskett opened The Cornerstone Bookshop, importing many new Catholic titles to Gibraltar, and it was after reading Scott Hahn’s book "Rome Sweet Home" that I realized just how little I knew about our faith.
My early hunger for the Truth was reawakened, and it was that hunger that eventually led me to sign up for Johnnette Benkovic’s Women of Grace program. Nothing could have prepared me for the richness I was to find in these pages. As I look back over these past couple of years, I can see how the Lord has been working ever so gently in my life, even after completing the course, opening up wounds and pouring healing waters over the areas that had been damaged interiorly, to make me into a whole person… perhaps for the first time in my adult life.
In March of this year Johnnette came to Gibraltar. At that retreat I learned that Women of Grace was seeking a spiritual army of one million souls and I announced, "Here was one reporting for duty!" The very next day I got a phone call from somebody asking me how I was going to serve out that missionary activity. I had not given it any thought prior to that but I said, "I will go to the English speaking people on the Costa del Sol," there are said to be 1 million on the Costa, and I thought I could take the message to them on Saturday mornings, when it is easier to get in and out of Gibraltar.
A couple of months later I sat talking to Catholic evangelist, John Pridmore, and realized he was a holy man. When I asked him what his favorite prayer was, he told me it was the Divine Mercy and that he and his community in Ireland get up and pray the Divine Mercy at 3 a.m. in the morning. As I lay awake at night worrying, about some of the heavy stuff that was going on around me, I found myself joining in that 3 a.m. prayer, praying the Divine Mercy on the rosary beads that had now, since Women of Grace, found a home on my own bedside table, and I prayed through the night when I could not sleep.
My plan to facilitate a group on the Costa did not come to be as the tensions between Gibraltar and Spain worsened over the summer. We advertised an English speaking group during the day in Gibraltar. But we did not get one person expressing an interest! Strangely enough I did not feel any disappointment at this, I felt strangely detached. Then after a chance encounter with Monique, a lady I knew in a neighboring parish in Spain asked if we would lead an English speaking group there. Everything started to fall into place sure enough I was back on track with my original idea of the Saturday morning sessions, not to the Costa del Sol, but just 20 minutes up the road from Gibraltar's Frontier, in the Village of Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro.
Imagine how I felt when they told me where these sessions were to take place, a new church only built 3 years ago, called the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy. I knew then it was all meant to be, and some the ladies are people I have known for years who live there and commute to Gibraltar, all English speaking. They have made me feel very at home, helping me in so many ways.They have been so very grateful, in turn, for the solid teachings in the Women of Grace study, insights from Vatican Council II, and the role of women in our communities, asking, “Why has no one told us these things before?” The parish priest is very supportive, interested in the course, and will be attending a session in the new year.
One of my favorite songs learned in all those prayer meetings and retreats is "Renuevame Señor Jesus," and if I look at my life now, compared to when I started the course, so many aspects of it have been made new, and made whole again. We will be starting on chapter three of our course in January, and I am looking forward to working through the material with the ladies of the Divine Mercy Women of Grace Group and continuing on this exciting mission.
For more information on how you can bring Women of Grace to your area, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-558-5452.