Produced by Women of Grace®, Mornings of Grace are spiritually-themed events that typically take place in a parish setting on a Saturday morning from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. and offer women time for prayer, a video teaching, small group discussion, and testimonies along with plenty of good food and conversation.
Martha Nicolli, Regional Coordinator for Women of Grace® in Southern Florida, thought Mornings of Grace would be a great way to bring women together to learn about the faith and enjoy one another’s company. She began to host the gatherings in her area in 2008.
“Women wanted to continue their spiritual journey after they completed the Women of Grace® Foundational Study.” Martha said. “I chose Saturday morning because I thought this would be a perfect day for women, working women, mothers, and retired women to gather. And what better Saturday than the first Saturday of the month, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son, Jesus Christ!”
She continued. “Women yearn for sisterhood. And Mornings of Grace are a wonderful tool for ongoing spiritual formation for women, not just for the women who have participated in the Women of Grace® Foundational Study, but for all women. Each month, I encourage the women to invite a friend! And each month, different women walk thru the door into this sacred place, a spa for their soul, and leave spiritually uplifted.”
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The transformation of the women who attended the Mornings of Grace became evident, and Martha began to work with New Jersey Regional Coordinator, Susan Jacobsen, on developing a format that could be used nationally by anyone willing to bring the gathering to their parish.
“It’s convivial, prayerful and appealing to feminine hearts,” Susan said. “Even the pot-luck breakfast is very hospitable. Everyone brings something they love to share. Every invitation begins with the quote from Sirach 6:14, ‘A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter . . .’ to emphasize that this is a gathering of friends.”
For Women of Grace® facilitators, these gatherings are also a great way to introduce women to the truth about authentic femininity as taught in the Foundational Study program, and to do so in a warm and welcoming environment.
There are currently 10 different Morning of Grace programs, all of which are available online, and each with a different spiritual theme.
For example, in June the theme is growth in prayer, and features a DVD of Johnnette interviewing Kathleen Beckman, retreat master, radio host, and president of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests.
After watching the video, while soft music is playing in the background, women are invited to spend a few minutes on reflection questions such as, “St. Edith Stein said that spiritual mothers are God’s weapon against evil. How is the Blessed Mother calling me to become a spiritual mother to priests? What virtues do I have to assist with the interior renewal of priests? What sacrifice am I willing to make for our priests?”
Participants then break into small groups for 20 minutes of discussion and sharing.
Fifteen minutes of each gathering is dedicated to a woman of grace who shares her testimony of faith following the format – “I was,” “Jesus did,” “I am.”
“Every single portion of the program has been designed from a spiritual standpoint,” Susan said. “Everything is intended to open participants’ hearts and bring them closer to Jesus through Mary.”
But there’s also an altruistic angle to the meetings that is designed to allow the women to share what they are learning with their families and community.
For instance, in January, while women explore Mary through the eyes of the saints, they are also invited to bring a layette item for a local pregnancy center. February’s theme, which is all about acquiring Our Lady’s virtues in the “the school of Mary,” includes a DVD about the Eucharist and recitation of the Fifth Luminous Mystery – the Institution of the Eucharist – which is prayed for the spiritual, mental, and physical healing of all God’s children. In April, the theme is Mary’s vocation and her unique mission and purpose in the life of the Church. In this meeting, the women pray for the grace to understand their own mission and purpose in life and are invited to reflect on true friendship and what impact friendship and holiness have on our happiness.
Denise Elia, 48, said her experience with Women of Grace® and the Mornings of Grace program, brought a wealth of new friendships into her life. Within the first few weeks of taking the Foundational Study, she made so many friends who were so deeply bonded to one another they refused to be parted and formed the St. Joan of Arc rosary group where they have been praying together for five years.
“I attend the Mornings of Grace monthly gatherings on a regular basis and continue to be amazed at how God puts beautiful new friends in my path through this ministry. I often hear people say, I have my friends, I do not need anymore and close themselves off. What I have come to know is when you are open to God's will in your life, He has amazing people he puts in your path...many that you will call friends---such a Gift!”
And just like the Foundational Study, which was created by busy Catholic women for busy Catholic women, Mornings of Grace are all planned out and ready to go – from the brochures announcing the event to the format for each meeting. There’s even a prepared e-mail blast that the hostess can use to send out to her email list.
“Everything is available online in the Women of Grace® library,” Martha said. “All women have to do is order the DVD from EWTN or, if they’re Women of Grace® Exclusive members and if they have internet access at the site of the meeting, they can just play it on their computer. Anybody can do it! It couldn’t be any easier. All that is needed is someone to pull the pieces together.”
Mary Indiviglio, 66, has been attending Mornings of Grace events since 2010.
“Whether you are a wife, a mother, a mother in law, a grandmother, an aunt, sister, or spiritual mother, they are all roles that come with challenges! What could be better than to share your struggles and joys with sacred sisters who meet monthly and have embraced the truth about who they are as daughters of the Most High,” Mary said.
“The perverted message sent to women about their femininity in today’s society must be exposed. We affirm our sacred sisters each month as we all try to live out our true femininity. A gathering where women share their deepest wounds and struggles and trust all that in confidence. Their sacred sisters help clarify their direction with the truths of our Catholic Church and support them in love and prayer. Our monthly Morning of Grace gatherings of fellowship, teaching, pray and worship are truly a gift!”
Denise David, 60, who has been attending Mornings of Grace since 2009, says she has been blessed by each new Morning of Grace because it “meets me where I am and gently helps me to move forward and deeper into relationship with my Catholic faith and my fellows on our journey to heaven. Each month is a surprise and a gift!”
Why not take some time off from the hustle and bustle of life, gather together some women, and spend a morning basking in fellowship and a flood of new graces from the Lord?
If you have any questions about this program, contact Martha Nicolli at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Susan Jacobsen at Sjacobsen@womenofgrace.com