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Amazing International Expansion of St. Mary of Magdala Celebrations

St. Mary of Magdala

This was an amazing year for St. Mary of Magdala celebrations! “It is the largest number of international programs we have ever had,” said Sr. Christine Schenk, FutureChurch Executive Director. “The growth in worldwide awareness of St. Mary of Magdala’s leadership and now other early women leaders is a heartening sign.”

At least 374 prayer services and programs took place in July. Thirty-seven were outside the United States (fourteen in Canada, five in Ireland, five in New Zealand, two in Australia, two in England, and one each in Columbia, Finland, Israel, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa and Zambia).

The energy and powerful witness of the unique celebrations was exemplified by beautifully orchestrated services in varied languages, in varied venues, and with varied prayer styles. All honored faithful women witnesses in the early Church and today.

Unknown Women Leaders in Early Christianity

Thanks to advances in archaeological research, we are finally discovering and sharing the stories of Phoebe, Sofia, Domitilla, Veneranda, Petronilla and many others. A special prayer service created by Robin Senior of Syosset, New York contained two formats: a traditional communal prayer and a guided imagery format. In the latter, participants prayerfully imagine they are present with early women leaders from the first to ninth centuries. FutureChurch’s Women Leaders in Early Christianity CD and Presenter’s Guide supplied quotations for the services and planners could use CD images for vivid visuals. The organizing kit included a page of concrete actions to advance women’s leadership in the Church. Participants had time to reflect about what they or their group could do. (Visit www.futurechurch.org to download a free organizing kit.)

Catholic parishes, small faith communities, private homes, Protestant churches, college campuses, retreat centers, outdoor spaces and correctional facilities were just some of the venues that hosted programs. Among the many sister reform groups that sponsored prayer services were five chapters of Dignity, CORPUS San Antonio, three Women’s Ordination Conference chapters, two Catholic Worker communities, and fifteen Call to Action chapters.

Here are just a few highlights:

On a picturesque hill rising above the Casa Materna birth center in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, staff member Kitty Madden gathered pregnant women to reflect on the story of St. Mary of Magdala and what her life means today.

CTA Metro Detroit liturgical dance evokes women at the foot of the cross.
CTA Metro Detroit liturgical dance evokes women at the foot of the cross.

At Blessed Sacrament parish in Midland, Michigan, organizers mimicked the room decor of late ancient Christianity using Romanesque columns and green plants. Participants were invited to clothe themselves in prayer shawls to evoke the garb of early Christian women leaders. “Myrrh-bearing Mary” from the “Voices Found” hymnal was sung as a prelude to the special prayer service and FutureChurch’s CD images from antiquity.

An organizer from Sacramento, California wrote: “Each year, our parish gathers together a new group of women to take a Magdalene Journey during Lent. My group took the journey three years ago, and we still meet once a month. Your organizing kit will help us with a lovely celebration.”

The Chicago Spiritual Network for Social Justice held a bilingual celebration as part of the weekly vigil at the Broadview Federal Deportation Detention Facility. “Mary Magdalene was not afraid to accompany her friend Jesus while he was in detention, no matter what the consequences, and now we can walk in her footsteps and along her path.”

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ wrote: “One of our Sisters created a wonderful life-size figure of Mary Magdalene with her middle hollowed out for burning candles. This was used as a standing figure during the prayer service and as a center for the anointing ritual.”

Eighty people listen to Jean Horgan's homily at CTA celebration in Albany, NY.
Eighty people listen to Jean Horgan's homily at CTA celebration in Albany, NY.

Call to Action Alaska sponsored a Mass for the feast of St. Mary of Magdala. “We all gathered around the altar to be active participants. The homily contained contributions by members speaking in the voices of women active in spreading the gospels in the early church. At the end of the service we gathered around a font and, using the holy water, blessed each other to ‘go forth’ and continue in the spirit of Jesus’ message.”

In Albany, New York, eighty people gathered for the Call To Action Eucharistic Celebration. The homilist, Joan Horgan, offered significant reflections on the many kinds of tears that are shed, tears of anger and outrage as well as tears of inspiration and hope. Everyone reflected and conversed with those nearest to them on Joan’s words.

We thank all those who organized or attended a celebration this year. Your time, effort, creativity and commitment are truly appreciated in this important effort to celebrate the women leaders of the Church- past, present, and future.

Vancouver Catholic Worker's Samaritan House used FutureChurch's guided imagery celebration.
Vancouver Catholic Worker's Samaritan House used FutureChurch's guided imagery celebration.

More photos and descriptions of these and other celebrations

Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2010

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