Catholic Women’s Leadership Studies: An Answer to Prayer!

Deanna Williston

Deanna Williston

When 45-year-old Deanna Williston of Sykesville, Maryland completed her Master’s degree in Education this year, this former home-schooling mom wondered “What next?” But then she heard about the Benedicta Leadership Institute’s new Catholic Women’s Leadership program at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and suddenly it all clicked – “This is it for me!”

The Benedicta Leadership Institute for Women, founded by Johnnette Benkovic of Women of Grace®, has played a pivotal role in Deanna’s life. A year ago, she attended a Benedicta Leadership Enrichment Seminar which was conducted just prior to the Women of Grace® retreat in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

At the time, Deanna was in her final year of study toward a Master’s Degree in Education from Franciscan University at Steubenville and had been praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance on a topic for her thesis. She wanted the thesis to reflect her background as a homeschooling mom and tutor, but nothing seemed to fit until she attended the seminar.

“I felt the workings of the Holy Spirit among us,” she said of the 2016 Seminar. “Suddenly, I felt called to research how Women of Grace® transformed their adult formation study into a program for younger generations.”

A year later, she presented her thesis on the newly introduced Young Women of Grace program. Her thesis, entitled “Adapting Adult Religious Education for Millennials and Generation Z,” ultimately filled her with zeal for women’s ministry.

“I would love to continue delving into how to serve and support the continual formation of – and involve women in – lay ministry,” she said.

At the time, she already felt attracted to the Benedicta Leadership Institute for Women’s new study program which was launched in 2016 at Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan. Its original format involved several week-long courses in Catholic Women’s Leadership Studies either for certification or credit toward a Masters degree. The courses were being offered on-campus once a year.

“I had seen great value and excitement among the charter group and had just started taking on leadership roles in my church – small ones like facilitating at Bible studies – and attending retreats like Women of Grace®,” she said.

The original program required a week away and a certificate with a chance to go on to earn a Master’s degree. Her husband was concerned about the cost. What degree would it lead to? What kind of job would she get?

And then, last month, the Institute announced a new partnership with Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut which allowed the curriculum to expand into a full-blown Master’s Degree program in Pastoral Studies with a concentration in Catholic Women’s Leadership via on-line study.

Not only was Holy Apostles a Newmann Guide-recommended college with a state-of-the-art on-line program, but the faculty boasted of notable scholars such as Prof. Patrick Madrid, Dr. Rhonda Chervin, Dr. Donald DeMarco, and Dr. Gregory Popcak.

“The Masters in Pastoral Studies program builds a solid foundation and lifts one up to be an effective instrument of the Holy Spirit,” Deanna said.

And the concentration in Catholic Women’s Leadership addresses the fact that women’s ministry in the Church needs to be different from men’s ministries, an understanding that she believes is very much needed today.

She also felt that the program would be a natural fit for someone who has completed the Women of Grace® Foundational Study which has enriched the lives of so many women around the world since the program was launched in 2003.

“Everything I feel called to says this degree will serve the Lord,” she said.

Regardless of whether or not it leads to her dream job in Catholic women’s ministry, she would still be just as happy to “better serve my fellow women in the Church.”

Click here for more information about this exciting new program.

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