What is our calling? What are our Gifts?
We ran our third workshop for women, Saturday 26 October, at St Joseph’s Leicester. There were 37 women, mainly from the Nottingham diocese, but with a few from further afield. Some new faces, many regulars. We’re getting to know one another now, there’s a quicker warm-up and always a great buzz in the room. Let’s face it, women don’t need much prompting to talk.
The theme chosen for this gathering was ‘Vocational responsibility: What is our calling? What are our gifts?’ and following the usual format we invited four women to talk about the way they view their vocation and how they use their gifts to benefit the common good. Interviewing seems to work well. It’s less daunting than public speaking, it helps keep speakers on track and allows you to probe interesting responses – with the woman’s permission, as each is sent a list of possible questions in advance.
Once again, we witnessed ordinary women tell stories of extraordinary lives: a grandmother and guide leader, gave us a very different and progressive picture of the organisation that many of us remembered from our own youth; a mother told us about balancing her career as teacher and later diocesan youth leader, who has used her passion for acting to express her faith in street theatre and elsewhere; a young woman working in child protection with a passion for writing, wanting to inspire and care for others has found vocation through her work with the St Vincent de Paul Society; another who, having been homeless herself with children, wanted to help others who were homeless and started by sharing her homemade soup on the streets of her town and progressing that outreach into a wonderful hostel combining accommodation for the homeless and rehabilitation support for those suffering addiction.
We would love to be able to share more detail of those inspiring stories through this report, but at the beginning of the day the request is made that what is said by those women, and by all in the follow-up discussions, stays within the confines of the day. We know that this reassurance draws from those interviewed possibly more than they thought they would initially reveal, and the emotional response of the listeners is palpable. The Spirit is definitely with us in that room throughout the day.
In the feedback women told us how much they appreciate hearing ‘the different ways of being Catholic’. Every woman who speaks displays humility, honesty, strength, power, faith.
After an intense morning of listening and sharing we were ready for our lunch break.
We returned suitably refreshed for a guided music and prayer session led by Alison during which part of the musical presentation was a video on the theme of the day – “I Have a Dream” (shared below). We have found these music meditations provide a welcome and prayerful space for women to reflect and contemplate on what they have heard during the morning session.
For the main afternoon session women got into small groups and discussed their own vocations and gifts. We always provide guidelines for discussion to try to ensure that everyone is included, no one gets left behind. The women were asked to bring along two objects to represent their vocation. We also provide pens, felt tips and plenty of paper. A creative element helps to stir the imagination. It also stimulates laughter as not everyone has an artist’s gifts.
The success of the day is supported by the wonderful Hospitality Team at St Joseph’s who make the soup and the cake, serve endless coffees and teas, prepare and clear the space, and serve us quietly and efficiently. Vocational responsibility applies as much to communities as it does to individuals and the gifts of the St Joseph’s team are evident. They are a model parish with a priest who values and shares responsibility with his people. Father John had welcomed every woman at the start of the day and urged us to be fearless and outspoken. He reminded us how much we have to offer our Church.
Our next Saturday workshop will be 29 February 2019, at St Joseph’s again. The theme will be One faith: Different cultures. We would like to invite any woman from a minority culture to consider telling her story on the day. We will guide and support. Women are good at inspiring courage and supporting one another. Every woman is extraordinary in her own way.