After returning from a three-year move to St. Matthew’s in Charlotte, Kathryn Noblitt sought to return to her parish of St. Francis and ‘belong.’ At St. Matthew’s, she described how the most populous Catholic parish in the country, with a similar feel as St. Francis, “is a vibrant and active community, but it’s also easy for people to get lost; to feel as not seen or feel overwhelmed.” Her children were getting older, and she felt able to participate at Church more, so she joined the Mom’s group at St. Matthew’s. She says, “I felt I needed this!” When she moved back to Raleigh in 2021, she felt called to bring this idea of ‘growing the sense of community’ to St. Francis. “I want to belong,” she mentioned, and many people here felt the same way.
Jess Kelly has always been involved at St. Francis, from participating in the St. Francis Preschool Advisory Council to the ‘Making Music, Praying Twice’ group on campus, among many other ministries. Jess said, “Safe, welcomed, and loved – that’s what people need to feel at Church, where they belong and feel safe to explore their Faith. Making personal connections gives you support to manage life better.” In March 2020, Jess looked forward to a woman’s retreat on campus, but the pandemic intervened, and the parish canceled the event as they shut down.
Flash forward to December 2021 and January 2022; Jess participated in discussions with Beth Gaudette, Director of Parish Life, and other parishioners to revive the Women’s Ministry at St. Francis as the pandemic waned and life became ‘more normal.’ Then, in March 2022, the long-awaited retreat took place, and the next month, in April, an information session after the Sunday masses was where Kathryn jumped into what she felt was a great opportunity. She recalls talking to Beth and telling her, “I was interested, not as a leader, but interested.” As many of our parishioners know, God works in mysterious ways, and Kathryn is now co-chair with Jess of the Women’s Ministry at St. Francis.
Both firmly believe people, in their faith journey, need to belong, be excited, and ‘let their light shine.’ Therefore, the Women’s Ministry at St. Francis offers the women of St. Francis of Assisi parish a place to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and reflection at retreats and spiritual events and experience the living Christ in fellowship with one another through social events and community service. The ministry hosts events monthly, some of which include Yoga & Breakfast, retreats, art experiences, interactive prayer services, service projects, and social gatherings. Their purpose is defined by how the group is “rooted and grounded in Christ. We grow in holiness by celebrating women’s unique giftedness, offering opportunities for community, belonging, and service, and drawing us closer to the heart of Jesus.”
‘Rootedness’ is a theme throughout the group’s purpose, as found in Ephesians 3:17-19. Being “rooted and grounded in love” helps the Women’s Ministry build community and belonging. Their first event was a yoga session held last July, in which 60 people participated! While the events often have a fun social atmosphere, there is always a prayerful aspect. The early successful events have resulted in about 180 women joining the email list of the Women’s Ministry, but all those interested are continually welcome to join. Found under ‘Parish Life’ and led by Jess, Kathryn, and the Core Team of about 13 others, the ministry is hosting its second retreat on March 11th with the theme ‘Be Rooted and Renewed.’ Again, they welcome all women interested in participating and look forward to celebrating Mass with Monsignor Clay to start the retreat.
When speaking with these dedicated women leaders of the ministry, it doesn’t take long to see the passion and drive for providing a place for women to grow in their faith. Jess emphasizes that their ministry is here for “women looking for a place where they can belong, a sense of community, a place where they can deepen their faith, and connect to God and each other; to find God in each other.” This openness and welcoming embrace are echoed as Kathryn adds, “We want to find out how we can meet women’s needs. Modeling your faith for your family and friends throughout your life, between your Sunday obligation, is how you live your life as a Christian.” The women’s ministry is a way to cultivate a sense of belonging and interconnectedness, all while deepening your love of Christ. Please learn more about how joining in celebrating women’s distinctive role in our community makes our parish more welcoming and faith-filled!
To participate in this exciting ‘Be Rooted and Renewed’ retreat on March 11th, please access it through REALM or contact Rosemary Czejkowski at email@example.com. REALM is also the best way to register to participate in this empowering ministry of leadership and service. The Women’s Ministry email address is SFAWomensMinistry@gmail.com.
Author: Mike Watson