Women of faith

No homework, no prerequisites for women’s study group


by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Wanted: women seeking to better understand, experience and share their Catholic faith.

Founded in 2003, ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity Of Women) offers women the chance to learn more about their Catholic faith, as well as about their inherent God-given dignity as women.

Nancy Nelson is a member and co-facilitator of an ENDOW group at Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence, which started this past fall. ENDOW groups meet on a regular basis to study a specific church document in depth. Each session is facilitated by a group member trained to lead the discussion and is based on a guide provided by the national ENDOW office.

“The response has been really positive. I think this is something women are really looking for — supporting each other in following the mission of the church,” said Nelson.

Nelson’s group, comprised of nine women ranging in age from their early 20s to middle age, meets weekly for about an hour. Each session opens with a prayer, then moves on to a discussion of a particular document. The Corpus Christi group is currently focusing on Pope John Paul II’s “Letter To Women.”

Reflection questions follow, then the women finish with a closing prayer.

“We usually have some refreshments afterward, and women can stay and visit if they like,” said Nelson. “But we try to end it when we say we will end it. Having a set time commitment is important for women who are busy.”

To further accommodate women’s hectic schedules, there is never any homework assigned by ENDOW groups. Members of each group read and discuss the readings during each session together.

Linette Farmer, co-facilitator of the ENDOW group at Corpus Christi, met Pope John Paul II on a family trip in 2003. That experience really gave added meaning to the late pope’s writings for her.

“To read the letters and to take on the challenges listed in the reflection questions truly engages me to think about how to make it real in my life,” said Farmer. “Some of them are pretty challenging, and I find myself thinking about the mediations throughout the week.”

The format has also shown Farmer the benefit of being part of a small faith community.

“We have the most amazing ENDOW group,” she said. “Each of the women continually shares a unique aspect of being a strong, faith-filled woman in our society. Their insights have helped me challenge my thinking and way of life.”

Lest anyone think an ENDOW group is solely for women who are theologically savvy or veteran Bible study participants, Farmer insists that groups are designed for “the women in the pew” — Catholic wives, mothers and career women.

Farmer herself never participated in any type of Bible study or faith sharing group, she said, until her current experience with ENDOW. Though getting started in a small group can be intimidating, Farmer says the benefits far outweigh the risks.

“The incredible experience of taking time out of our busy lives to get to know those in our community, while learning about the teachings of our church, is something you’ll cherish,” said Farmer. “I invite all women who want to expand their heart or mind to join an ENDOW group.”

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