Thirty potential facilitators and teachers for the Young Women of Grace program attended a hands-on training session on May 14 at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent in Watertown, New York.
Hosted by Women of Grace New York Regional Coordinator Mary Dillenback along with New Jersey Regional Coordinator Susan Jacobsen and Young Women of Grace co-author Susan Brinkmann, participants at the day-long represented a wide variety of ages and backgrounds, from young mothers to retired teachers. Women came from as far away as Ohio to attend the first-of-its-kind workshop which was designed to address the needs of potential facilitators. Some had facilitated Women of Grace groups while others came simply because they see the need for such a study with their daughters and/or granddaughters.
The presentation began with a video-taped message from Women of Grace founder Johnnette S. Benkovic who reminded attendees of the critical role women have been called upon to play in a world that is drifting further and further away from the Gospel message of unconditional love. As the Fathers of Vatican II proclaimed, it is up to women to “hold back the hand of man” who, in a moment of folly, may attempt to destroy the world. To do this, we must rely on our God-given charisms of receptivity, surrender and trust.
As important as this message is for all women to hear, how much more so for the women of the next generation!
This is the beauty of the Young Women of Grace program which takes the same message given to adult women and presents it in a magazine-like format that is relevant to girls ages 12-17. A copy of the study guide was available on each table to provide all attendees a chance to peruse the various elements of the study, from the colorful graphics and sidebars to the vital faith lessons it contains.
The newly printed Facilitator/Teacher Guide was also available for this workshop. It is now included in the full kit which contains the Young Women of Grace: Embrace Your Femininity Study Guide, Facilitator/Teacher Guide and binder, a DVD of the Women of Grace® Theme Song and a messenger bag.
“The Facilitator/Teacher Guide contains everything you need to start a study either in your home, school, or parish,” said Mary, a former 3rd grade teacher. “It explains everything, from how to get a group started to how to promote it, fund it, and run a typical meeting. There are lesson plans along with activities for each lesson that help the girls to comprehend what they are learning.”
Susan Brinkmann, co-author of the Study who is facilitating one of the first Young Women of Grace groups in her parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, shared her experiences with the girls and was able to answer practical questions such as how long the meeting should be, how many girls to include in a group, and how the girls are responding to the study.
“They love it!” Brinkmann told participants. “This study is one of the only places where girls are exposed to a positive and affirming message about themselves. They’re comparing themselves to the culture’s idea of beauty – Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. Those impossible standards make most girls feel bad about themselves. But in this study, they learn what true beauty really is – and that it has nothing to do with false eyelashes and silicone implants. When they hear this message, their whole face lights up. They get it – and they love it!”
Susan Jacobsen, a retired middle/high school teacher, who created the Facilitator/Teacher Guide along with Mary, and Regional Coordinators Rose Newcomer and Sue Herth, led the women through a learning activity that involved making a booklet comparing two of the saints from Chapter One of the study.
“These saints are so important for our girls to get to know,” Jacobsen told the women. “This activity helps them to compare and contrast the lives of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and St. Madeline Sophie Barat – two women who were highly educated for their day and who made great strides in advancing the cause for women’s education in the world. It’s important that girls get to know these saints, and understand how ready and willing they are to help the girls live the lives God has planned for them.”
Participants at the training session were glad they came.
“I found the training helpful and informative,” said Kim Nowak. “It was nice to meet the collaborators on the project and to hear the ‘pioneer’ group is progressing. It was interesting to me to do the physical projects. It made me realize I will have to be ready with supplies ahead of time. The video of the 14 year old girl was powerful. Getting it started will be the challenge.”
Patti Wood is also looking forward to getting a group started: “I found the Young Women of Grace program to be a very forward thinking program that will help young ladies make thoughtful decisions for the rest of their lives. They will benefit by knowing they are loved and not alone in a confusing world. This is a wonderful foundation for living their daily lives and for their spiritual growth.”
If you know some young women who could benefit from this study, consider becoming a facilitator. We will be hosting a Facilitator/Teacher training session by webinar in the very near future. In the meantime, consider hosting a group in your home, school or parish. Click here for more information on how to get started!