History was made in May 2017 when Women of Grace® founder, Johnnette Benkovic, now Johnnette Williams, delivered a message about the dignity and vocation of women on the world stage at the United Nations – a message delivered while standing in the shadow of the same Pilgrim Virgin Statue that first visited this global entity 65 years ago!
“I was astonished to have been invited. I was deeply honored and deeply humbled all at the same time,” Johnnette said after the event.
“Through this venue, we had an opportunity to bring to the women of the world a perspective on woman that many may never have had the opportunity to hear before. And it was especially exciting for Women of Grace® because this is our mission – bringing this very message to women.”
The event was hosted at the United Nations by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See and the Permanent Mission of Portugal on May 12-13, 2017, and was intended to promote a message of peace. Other speakers included Professor Andrea Bartoli, Dean, Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations who spoke about the The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as an Example of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice. Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children who addressed Children as a Zone of Peace.
Johnnette was asked to speak on the topic of Mary, the Dignity of Woman and Women’s Role in the Promotion of a Culture of Dialogue, Mediation, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding, a talk peculiarly suited to a woman who has devoted her life to affirming women in their dignity as daughters of God and in their gift of authentic femininity.
Her hope for the event was that coming together in the UN to commemorate the anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima would “herald a new moment, a moment in which God’s plan and man’s hope meet, conceiving and giving birth to a new action for peace, that not only holds out the promise for it, but has the power to effect it. A plan that puts woman at the center of it, the one to whom the birthing of persons, and peace efforts, has been entrusted,” she said during her address.
Being able to present this message to the women of the world, perhaps introducing some to the true nobility of their femininity for the first time, was a moment she was determined to seize.
“If woman is to be effective in the enterprise of life, no matter the position she holds, the profession she occupies, or the duty to which she is called, this fundamental reality of her essential nature must be expressed, realized, and actualized in her every endeavor,” she said during her presentation. “It must flow from her like a stream of living water that quenches the thirst of a dry and parched humanity. Woman must be person-centered, person-oriented, and person-motivated. Her focus, by virtue of who she is, must be other-centered.”
However, when the woman abdicates the genius that is uniquely her own, the human race is left wanting.
“Like Adam without Eve, it finds itself adrift, the victim of an identity crisis. Human life in all of its aspects – physical, emotional, mental, psychological, spiritual – ceases to flourish and may even die. Humanity is not aided and the technology of man becomes inhuman. Man’s North Star cannot be found. The feminine void is felt and the world becomes an unsafe, worrisome, and corrupt place.”
Instead, women’s contribution to the promotion of a culture of dialogue and peacebuilding “must be infused with this feminine character, her true authority and power,” Johnnette said.
“It must find its genesis in the tender and sometimes tedious development of the human person attentive to the totality of his or her personhood. Perhaps more than ever what we need are opportunities to bring the women of the world into a deeper knowledge of their feminine genius, so that the female mind can be renewed, restored and calibrated to the deep and true understanding of who she is and what her glorious potential can be on behalf of all of mankind.”
After the talk, one woman told her that she had never felt so affirmed in her life.
And it wasn’t just women who were touched by her presentation. Some of the men who were present that day expressed the same sentiment.
“I was deeply grateful to the men who thanked me and told me how much the talk moved them,” Johnnette said.
As she told the National Catholic Register shortly after the event, “There is still much more to say on this topic, but the United Nations event at least opened the door for a renewed understanding of woman, her grace and genius, and the influence and effect she can have for the betterment of mankind and the cause of peace.”
We may not all have the same opportunity to speak on a world stage for the sake of women and peace in the world, but we all have access to the weapon of the Rosary which was given to us by Our Lady, the quintessential icon for all women, who encourages us to use it to bring peace into our troubled world.
“Let us pick up our weapon, the Rosary, and begin a new kind of battle –a battle of prayer — that is sure to engage the heavenlies and bring peace to this war-torn world,” Johnnette says about the Warrior’s Rosary Crusade which is described in her new book, The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare.
“Like our ancestors in Faith who prayed the Rosary to great advantage and won wars because of it, let us, too, put this holy weapon into our hands and do the same!”
Click here to view a video of Johnnette’s UN presentation.
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