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Openness to God’s will key to realizing fruitfulness of women, says speaker

DENVER, Colo. (Denver Catholic Register) - ENDOW’s second Catholic Professional Women’s Luncheon, held March 4 at the Marriott City Center, drew 110 women for lunch, networking and an insightful Lenten presentation delivered by Jeanette DeMelo, communications director for the Denver Archdiocese.

BE LIKE MARY - Jeanette DeMelo, communications director for the Archdiocese of Denver, addresses members of the women's professional group ENDOW recently in Denver.

BE LIKE MARY - Jeanette DeMelo, communications director for the Archdiocese of Denver, addresses members of the women's professional group ENDOW recently in Denver.


ENDOW, an acronym for Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the “new feminism” of the late Pope John Paul II through study groups and conferences. Founded in Denver in 2003, ENDOW has since spread to 24 other states and Italy.

“One of the things Endow has begun to do,” executive director and ENDOW co-founder Terry Polakovic said, “is to hold these quarterly luncheons where we have speakers talk about some element of the Catholic faith.”

The luncheons aim to reach out to women who cannot attend one of the organization’s evening or weekend study groups. They strive to be educational and inspirational as they highlight Church teaching.

DeMelo’s presentation was titled, “A Woman’s Passion: Mary, the Cross and Our Lives.” Her thoughtful talk incorporated quotes from John Paul II’s writings and included film clips showing passionate female characters, among them Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) from “Gone with the Wind,” Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) from “Fried Green Tomatoes,” M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) from “Steel Magnolias” and Mary (Maia Morgenstern) from “The Passion of the Christ.”

“These women had passion,” asserted DeMelo.

“Their passion … was something they felt so strongly about they were willing to go through the challenges that passion led to,” she added. “They were willing to suffer.”

Women’s special role

The root for the word “passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering and finds its origin in Christ’s Passion, noted DeMelo.

“Mary has the most authentic type of passion,” said DeMelo. “She suffers purely for another. Mary is the passionate woman.”

God is the origin of Mary’s willingness to suffer with and for her Son and is the source of what compels us to suffer out of love, said DeMelo. Women show what it is to love, she said.

“From the beginning God entrusts the human person to women in a special way,” noted DeMelo, “we are not only helpmates but we are mothers.”

Reading from John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) she continued: “In God’s eternal plan, woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons first takes root (29). … A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting. … This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them ‘strong’ and strengthens their vocation.

“Thus the ‘perfect woman’ (cf. Prov 31:10) becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These ‘perfect women’ are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations (30).”

“This is what we strive for,” DeMelo said, “but this isn’t what we always are. This order of creation was disturbed by sin — by Eve’s sin.

“We forgot who we were created to be and instead of receiving the gift that was entrusted to us, DeMelo said, “we started to grasp. … God gave us enough, but we wanted something more.

“We think we know what is good for us,” DeMelo continued. “Mary is different.”

When the angel appeared to Mary, noted DeMelo, regardless what her own plans were, she was receptive to God’s will.

“She says yes to the gift of union with God,” said DeMelo. “She allows herself to be a handmaid at the service of love.”

Finding our source in Christ

The Annunciation reveals an invitation to restoration through unity with God through Christ. Mary becomes the vessel for God’s gift and responds with her fiat, which continues as Mary says yes to Christ’s ministry, to his cross, to his death and to his resurrection.

“We are all intended to be united with Christ in such a special way,” DeMelo said.

Quoting from John Paul II’s encyclical “Redemptoris Mater” (Mother of the Redeemer) DeMelo said: “by looking to Mary, (women) find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement (46).”

Mary’s ability to be so is a result of her receptivity to the gift of God in Christ, said DeMelo. Because Mary recognized God’s gift and was open to his will, Christ took root in her and she bore the fruit of love.

“Receptivity is the first key to being able to live out the fruitfulness of our womanhood,” declared DeMelo.

“This Lent, I challenge you to look at your own passion and examine its source,” she said. “Ask, ‘Is Jesus the source of my passion? Is he the source of my anxiety?’ No. Find your source in Him.

“And when you suffer, because we all suffer, remember Mary and her union with Christ,” DeMelo added. “Remember that she is a prophetic vision of your union with Christ; that the only way she got through was through her receptivity and her union with Christ.”

(For the complete text of Jeanette DeMelo's talk, visit Catholic Online's Home & Family page.)

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Denver Catholic Register (www.archden.org), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colo.

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