As a reflection of His own communal nature, God created all people in and for relationship.
“But in particular as women, we are created as radically relational beings,” inspirational Catholic author and speaker Kelly Wahlquist told about 300 women from throughout the Jefferson City diocese.
“We are called by God and endowed with amazing gifts,” she said. “We are all spiritual mothers, whether we have given birth or not.”
Mrs. Wahlquist led a March 7 women’s Lenten retreat sponsored by the Jefferson City diocese’s Women’s Ministry Office (diojeffcity.org/womens-ministry).
The theme was “Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women” — based on a book of the same title.
Mrs. Wahlquist talked about several traits that all people possess to some degree but “tend to really stand out in women” — including receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and what she referred to as “maternal gifts.”
Pope St. John Paul II referred to these gifts as part of “the feminine genius.”
“As women, we need to be helping each other recognize these gifts and courageously claim them and put them into practice,” said Mrs. Wahlquist.
“It is when we live in our giftedness that we are more able to do the will of the Father,” she noted. “We truly find our peace and our joy when we are making God’s will our own and doing it.”
“Complete and whole”
Mrs. Wahlquist is the founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization (catholicvineyard.com) and is director of the Archbishop Flynn Catechetical Institute in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A wife, mother of three, she is the author of Created to Relate and the author and editor of Walk in Her Sandals and Gaze Upon Jesus.
The focus of the Jefferson City event was how women can walk more closely with Jesus during this Lenten season.
“We talked about turning away from all those forces outside of us, especially in this day and time, that are keeping us away from our relationship with Jesus,” said Mrs. Wahlquist.
She said it is essential for women “to relate to Jesus in the way we are created as women to do so.”
“This soul we are given is a feminine soul, and the way I relate to my Lord and Savior will hopefully reflect that,” she said.
She talked about walking in the footsteps of women of the Bible who had cast out fear through courage and perfect love.
She pointed to the sisters Martha and Mary, who are well known for having approached their friendship with Jesus very differently from one another (Luke 10:38-42).
“We find peace in our lives when we learn to balance our contemplative life, which is time spent with the Lord, and our active life, which is the things we do for God,” said Mrs. Wahlquist.
“When we have that balance, we feel complete and whole,” she added. “And when we are complete and whole, we are making the best use of our gifts and doing the will of God.”
Fruit of the vine
Mrs. Wahlquist noted that the “WINE” acronym — Women In the New Evangelization — refers to what happened when Jesus and His mother attended a wedding feast in Cana (John 2).
When the family of the newly wedded couple ran out of wine to serve their guests, Mary asked Jesus to help them.
Mary then confidently instructed the waiters to “do whatever He tells you to do.”
“WINE is therefore about doing the will of God,” said Mrs. Wahlquist.
Because women tend to be radically relational, “it’s easier to do that work when we are surrounded by our sisters in Christ, who are encouraging us and giving us support,” she said.
Throughout the day, Mrs. Wahlquist witnessed Catholic women affirming one another and helping each other identify the gifts they have received from God in order to help build up the Body of Christ.
“The Body of Christ is battered, it’s bruised, it’s broken,” she said. “Jesus is telling us, ‘I need women working in your beautiful womanhood to help restore the Body of Christ.’
“And when we embrace the true feminine genius, that’s where we really can not only help ourselves but also help restore the world from its brokenness, too,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of women inviting one another into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
“That invitation is so important,” she said. “Invite, invite, and invite women into that relationship, and accompany them on the journey.”
Mrs. Wahlquist was impressed at how openly and enthusiastically the women of the Jefferson City diocese participated in the “Walk in Her Sandals” event.
“There was so much energy,” she said. “They were very excited to be there, and that made me excited to be there.”
She said the event’s organizers worked amazingly well together.
“From the music to the organization to the decorations to the prayers — it was like a perfect symphony,” she said.
She lauded Kyle, Jim and Natalie Clark of St. Joseph parish in Edina, who provided the music and led the singing for the event.
Passing it on
Participants responded enthusiastically to the day’s activities.
“Thank you so much for blessing our day and our lives!” event participant Candace Malson stated on the diocese’s Facebook page.
“What a blessed day!” stated Stephanie Koch.
“It was such a beautiful day!” said Millie Aulbur.
“I am so glad I took the time to attend the retreat!” stated Theresa Davidson.
“Most amazing day!” stated Tonia Englert. “My soul is on fire for the future!”
“My soul was fed and the embers flamed!” stated Mary Beth Strassner.
“Thanks is not enough,” she added. “Let’s go out and refuel the hearts of others!”