Siena E-Scribe, Newsletter of the Catherine of Siena Institute, Colorado Springs, Colorado
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July 2008
In This Issue

Catholicism: A Relationship-free Faith?
4 out of 10 Catholics reported that they did not believe a personal relationship with God was possible. Yet, Sherry Weddell explains that personal relationship is not an imported, Protestant idea, but at the very heart of the Catholic faith.

Mary and Me
Ginny Moyer, a teacher, wife and mother in the San Francisco Bay area tells of how a Called & Gifted workshop changed her life and helped her find a new vocation.

Lay Initiatives: Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry
Our summer intern describes an interesting collaboration between laity and clergy in Illinois that focuses on helping people heal from a variety of spiritual and psychological wounds.

Making Disciples is a Hit, Again!
Each Making Disciples workshop has its own thrills. The participants in Benet Lake, WI, were almost literally "blown away" - by a tornado the first night! Fortunately, everyone remained rooted to the earth, and had a marvelous experience.

On the Web

This month nearly half a million people are expected to descend upon Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day 2008. Be sure to follow the proceedings here.

The Human Experience is the most recent film from Grassroots Films. Grassroots is an independent studio in Brooklyn and “aims to inspire and change the way people see reality.” The Human Experience “is the story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into the middle of the lives of the homeless on the streets of New York City, the orphans and disabled children of Peru, and the abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana, Africa. What the young men discover changes them forever. Through one-on-one interviews and real-life encounters, the brothers are awakened to the beauty of the human person and the resilience of the human spirit.”

Catholics Come Home is a new, very sharp site dedicated to helping lapsed Catholics return to the practice of the Catholic faith. In addition to their website, they have produced a number of very compelling television ads. Their website says “Catholics Come Home is an independent, non-profit charity started and supported by a number of Catholic families and individuals. We are a welcoming ministry for anyone who has left the Catholic Church, for whatever reasons. Whether it was resentment, anger, divorce, isolation, apathy, rebellion, or a lack of understanding of the faith, coming home has never been easier.”

Pope Benedict has declared June 2008-2009 the year of St Paul. Institute co-director Sherry Weddell blogged about the year and has links to various Pauline sites here.

OP Preaching The Dominican Friars of the Western Province maintain a preaching site where sermons preached by the Friars from across the province are conveniently archived for easy, weekly access. Fr. Mike Fones, OP's sermons appear on the site regularly. 


Making Disciples

This is a workshop for pastors, parish staff, and other lay leaders who would like to explore how to foster a culture of intentional discipleship and discernment in their parishes. The formation provided will help participants learn how to evangelize parishioners who will then worship, pray, give, study their faith, and discern God's call for them out of a loving relationship with Christ.
Full room-and-board or commuter rates are available. For information or to make reservations, contact Austin Eli at the Institute office.

August 10-14, 2008
Spokane, WA
5 p.m. Sunday evening through Thursday noon.
Location: Immaculate Heart Retreat Center is located just two short miles southeast of Spokane’s city limits. Nestled at the foot of Tower Mountain, it commands a view of rolling countryside to the west. Fifty-two acres overlooking the Palouse welcome guests to walk and reflect and let the cares of the world be lifted.
CONTACT: Austin Eli at the Institute Office at 1-(888) 878-6789 (toll free). Our local contact is Fr. Daniel Barnett, Pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pasco, WA and Vocations Director for the Diocese of Spokane (509) 991-7950.

September 12-13, 2008
San Francisco CA
(Archdiocese of San Francisco)
St. Dominic's Catholic Church

A special two-day version of Making Disciples being tested on selected pastoral leaders and significant lay volunteers.

Special Presentations

July 12 - 20
Seattle, WA
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church

Fr. Michael Fones, OP, will be preaching two weekends at all the Masses, and giving a presentation on Wednesday, July 16 at 7 p.m. on "Prudential Judgment and the Dilemmas of Voting." CONTACT: Tara Simons, Director of Adult Faith Formation - (206) 547-3020, x102.

September 26-27, 2008
Pueblo, CO
(Diocese of Pueblo, CO)
Pueblo Convention Center

Called & Gifted workshops (Spanish and English) will be given at the Diocese of Pueblo Ministry Conference
CONTACT: Sr. Francine Barber OP, Director of Lifelong Catechesis, or the Diocese of Pueblo at (719) 544-9861 ext. 115.

October 10-12, 2008
Conception, MO
(Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph)
Conception Benedictine Abbey
Catholic Lay Men's Retreat given by Fr. Michael Fones, OP
CONTACT: Amy Hoover, Adult Faith Formation Director, or the parish office at Our Lady's Immaculate Heart parish (in Ankeny, IA) at (515) 964-3038.

October 16-21, 2008
Ettal, Germany
Benedictine Abbey of Ettal

Military Council of Catholic Women European Conference. Sherry Weddell and Fr. Mike Fones, OP will present the Called & Gifted workshop and a variety of short seminars on governance, discernment, stewardship, and the role of the laity in the Church.
CONTACT: Amanda Hoffer, MCCW-Europe Conference Director at 011-49-9493-951370, or 011-49-1601-488481, or by email -, or

Called & Gifted Workshops

August 25, 2008
West Seattle, WA
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
Holy Rosary Catholic School
Workshop for teachers and school staff.
CONTACT: Kris Brown, Principal, or the School Office at (206) 937-7255.

August 28, 2008
Issaquah, WA
(Archdiocese of Seattle)

St Joseph Catholic School
for teachers and school staff.
CONTACT: Peg Johnston, Principal, or the School Office at (425) 313-9129.

September 7-9, 2008
Lakeway, TX
(Diocese of Austin)
Catholic Church of the Resurrection of the Lord at Emmaus
A workshop given over three evenings.
CONTACT: Linda Chavez, Director of Adult Faith Formation, or the Parish Office at (512) 261-8500.

September 26-27 , 2008
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston, SC)
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

CONTACT: Kate Tierney at (864) 234-2471; or, by emailing

October 17-18, 2008
Salem, OR
(Archdiocese of Portland)
St Joseph Catholic Church

CONTACT: the Parish office at (503) 581-1623.

Interviewer Training

Learn how to help others (as individuals or in small groups) to discern their charisms.
* Basic listening skills and spiritual maturity (best if practicing Christian for 2 years prior)
* Must have attended live Called & Gifted workshop or listened to CDs or audio tapes, took Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, did some personal discernment, had a one-on-one personal gifts interview.

August 1-2 , 2008
Boise, ID
(Diocese of Boise)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church

CONTACT: Carol McGee, Pastoral Associate for Adult Education, or the Parish office at (208) 344-8311.

August 15-16, 2008
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston)
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

CONTACT: Kate Tierney, at (864) 234-2471; or the Catherine of Siena Institute office: 1-(888) 878-6789.

October 3-4, 2008
(Archdiocese of Dubuque)

CONTACT: Linda Manternach, Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese, by her email;
or email Austin Eli, or call the Institute office at 1-(888) 878-6789.


Support the Institute

The Catherine of Siena Institute is a religious non-profit with 501C-3 status. We receive no financial support from any diocese or from the Western Dominican Province, but are entirely self-supporting. Your donations and gifts-in-kind are essential to our ongoing operations.

Please consider participating in planned giving with the Catherine of Siena Institute. As you write your plan for the future help us expand our efforts in the formation of intentional lay disciples.

To learn how you can help us, please contact our office, at 1-(888) 878-6789, or e-mail Fr. Mike Fones, O.P.

Thank You

Once again, thank you to Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patricia Mees Armstrong for their help in editing this edition of the e-Scribe. Fr. Paul Wicker always leaves the door of his home open when Fr. Mike's in Colorado Springs. Col. Liz Anderson is serving our country temporarily in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but continues to let Fr. Mike use her spare car. Please keep her in your prayers. Finally, thanks to Joe Waters for his great work on this e-Scribe!


Mary and Me: How God Made Me a Writer and the Called & Gifted Made Me Realize It!
by Ginny Kubitz Moyer

Writing.  Of all the charisms on the inventory, that was my highest score.  I would have predicted that the highest would be teaching (I’m an English instructor), or perhaps knowledge (I’m a voracious reader).  But no; it was, tantalizingly, writing.

It was January of 2001, and I was attending a Called and Gifted Workshop in San Francisco.  The weekend was beyond transformative.  I was at a crossroads in my life, hungry for direction, and the workshop showed me – in a way that had never seemed so compelling – that God had a plan for me.  And, it seemed, that plan included writing.

On the one hand, it wasn’t surprising; I’ve kept a journal since age twelve, and writing has always been a deeply spiritual exercise for me.  But other than the long letters I’d send to friends and the short stories I’d shared with a college class, my writings had never found an audience outside of myself.  If this was truly a charism, my writing was supposed to be out there, shared freely with others.

Discernment came easily, thanks to a good friend with whom I shared the events of the workshop.  A writer herself – and a deeply spiritual person – she suggested that we meet periodically and share our writings with each other.  So we did, and as I saw that my pieces could touch and inspire her, I became empowered to share with others.

Ginny MoyerBefore long, I was publishing articles in Catholic magazines, both in print and online.   Four years after the workshop, an editor read a piece I’d written about Mary and modern women and encouraged me to write a book proposal.  In this serendipitous way, Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God was born.

The book, published earlier this year by St. Anthony Messenger Press, features the stories of 46 women, ages twenty-four to ninety-two.  Each woman reflects on her relationship to Mary, sharing stories that are compelling, comforting, challenging.  An eating disorder activist explains Mary’s role in helping her battle her anorexia; a mother describes how Mary gives her the patience to deal with her two young children; a marketing executive shows how Mary gently led her back to Catholicism after twenty-five years away.

As writing always does, the book stretched me in surprising ways.  Weaving so many disparate stories into one narrative was the core challenge of the book, a creative exercise that I loved.  Talking to a large number of women, seeing Mary through their eyes, was spiritually and personally rewarding.  

Since publication, I’ve been touched to hear from many women (and some men as well) who have found their own lives stretched by the book.  For some, the book has awakened fond memories of Mary; for others, it has created a relationship with Mary where, formerly, there was none.   Others have talked about the transformative power of hearing other women’s personal stories of faith. 

When I reflect on my own faith story, it’s evident to me that I owe the book to the Called and Gifted Workshop.  Without it, my writing might have stayed a personal pursuit, or it may have taken years for me to risk putting it out into the world.  When I could see writing as a charism, though, it became clear that sharing it with others was more than just a nice idea.  It was a way to become more fully myself – and to make the world more fully Christ’s.

To learn more about Ginny and Mary and Me, visit her website, , where you can read an enthusiastic review by Mike Hayes of Busted Halo. You might also like to order Mary and Me here at, or through the St. Anthony Messenger Press Online Catalog.

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Lay Initiatives: Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry
by Joe Waters, Catherine of Siena Institute Summer Intern

Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry is a ministry of healing and reconciliation located in Vandalia, Illinois. OSMM was founded in the late nineties by two lay women, Debbie Pryor and Vanessa Keck, who decided to host a conference in their small town of 6,000 people after a rather disappointing trip to a Catholic conference in Chicago. Their conference was originally initiated for the evangelization of their parish, but with little support from their parish or the wider community they successfully relied on registration fees from participants to fund the conference. And it worked! Since that first conference (1997) they have put on 10 large conferences with nationally and internationally known speakers.

Through the strong influence of Father Francis Rookey, OSM, an internationally known priest and healing minister they shifted the focus of their ministry to healing and reconciliation. Though their focus has shifted to healing and reconciliation they continue to have a large conference every year in the late fall and now have monthly healing retreats. These retreats are always led by at least two priests and feature daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of penance, time for private prayer, spiritual direction with certified spiritual directors, and healing prayer. The retreats bear fascinating titles such as “Deep Healing in the Ocean of God’s Mercy,” “Inner Healing through Our Lady of Reconciliation,” and “Healing the Heart’s Wounds.” They now have two houses, one of which is used by priests and religious, and by the initiative of the Bishop of Springfield the Blessed Sacrament in reserved in OSMM’s chapel. 

Their relationship with the priests who have been influential in the work of their ministry is particularly interesting for those committed to fruitful lay-ordained collaboration. Debbie spoke movingly about how their ministry and specific vocations were called forth through the ministry of priests, particularly Father Rookey and the ways in which priests facilitated their discernment and have continued to come forward to provide encouragement and guidance. They also directly collaborate with priests in every retreat that is put on at OSMM. One or two priests lead each retreat, but about 20 other lay people assist as prayer leaders, musicians, and spiritual directors. All in all, OSMM is an excellent example of true collaboration in which priests function according to their vocations and call forth the gifts and vocations of the lay collaborators without any rivalry or opposition.

Having spoken on the phone recently with both Debbie and Vanessa, I was deeply impressed by their commitment to the Lord and the Church. Both of them are intentional disciples who went through tremendous conversion experiences that set them on this path of reaching out to the suffering and wounded. Our world is in great need of healing and reconciliation, and it is beautiful to find lay apostles dedicated to bringing the Gospel’s message of healing, reconciliation, and mercy to the world. 

For more information, visit or call (618) 292-9852.

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Making Disciples is a Hit, Again!
by Joe Waters, Catherine of Siena Institute Summer Intern

For four days in mid-June, nearly 40 pastoral ministers and parish leaders gathered at a Benedictine monastery in rural Wisconsin with Catherine of Siena Institute co-directors, Fr. Mike Fones, OP and Sherry Weddell, Institute summer intern, Joe Waters, and Institute teacher Barbara Elliot for the Catherine of Siena Institute’s workshop on evangelization and discipleship, Making Disciples. For these four days the presenters led participants through an orientation to intentional discipleship, the need to create a culture of discipleship, the thresholds of pre-discipleship, how to have a threshold conversation, the role of charisms in evangelization, and the possible applications of this material in parishes and other ministry settings. We will offer this workshop again in Spokane, Washington in August, in the Archdiocese of Omaha in November, and next summer back in Colorado Springs. More information and a brochure about Making Disciples are available at

Here is a sampling of participant comments from the June Making Disciples:

  • “Thanks again for an inspirational opportunity to learn about intentional discipleship. We were so fired up in the car on the way home to incorporate these ideas into our bible study at Christ King. We want to train our small group facilitators to recognize the thresholds and become more proactive in helping move participants along the road to intentional discipleship. We see where we have a great opportunity to do that now and need to make the most of that…You’ll never know the profound impact you are having on people” – Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
  • “This is all excellent. This was awesome! Thank you for your ministry to us.” – Twin Lakes, Wisconsin

The Institute staff and seminar presenters would like to thank the incredibly energetic Brenda Jasinski, who was our local champion on the ground. Without Brenda's help, and dogged determination, the workshop would not have been a success! God bless you, Brenda!

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Catholicism: A Relationship-free Faith?
by Sherry Weddell, co-director, Catherine of Siena Institute

It is always startling for me to listen to serious Catholics respond to the idea of "personal relationship with God" as has happened over at Mark Shea's blog, Catholic and Enjoying It, on June 26 during a discussion of the Pew Forum Survey on the U.S. Religious Landscape. For example, in response to the survey results which indicated that 40% of adult Catholics do not believe a personal relationship with God is possible, some Catholics responded:

“I’d also note that having a 'personal relationship with Jesus' is such a staple of evangelical rhetoric that many Catholics may be saying 'no' as a way of saying that they don’t experience God in the same way that evangelicals say that they experience God. That is, Catholics meet the Lord in the Sacraments and in the liturgy of the community, not just in private unstructured prayers.”

“Some Catholics might hear a reference to 'personal God' and think it refers to an Evangelical understanding of Christian faith. But overall it leaves me scratching my head. What the heck is meant by 'personal,' anyway?”

“If I pray to God, isn’t that a sign of something personal? I am not praying to someone or something abstract. But I agree that catholics are not taught culturally to think of that as a 'personal relationship.' At least I know that I did not look on it that way. Much of the poll results could be attributed to linguistic tone deafness of a sort.”

To which I responded:

Hey everyone! What is so difficult to grasp about “personal” and “relationship;” as in relationships we have with others in our lives - family, friends, co-workers, etc?

What I found mystifying is how seemingly normal adult Catholics, all of whom have some experience of personal relationship or they would never have lived to grow up, suddenly freeze when the idea of relationship with God is proposed.

We all have some experience of relationship and we routinely talk about our relationships - with our parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends, etc., and you don't expect someone to ask, “Just what do you mean by 'personal relationship' with your spouse or your child or your friend? Relationship is something that Protestants talk about. That’s not something Catholics do.” Do we really believe a Protestant is another species or order of being and their relationships are so totally different from our own? We are all human beings here with the same basic frailties and capacities for grace and response to God, and there is only one God. It is absurd to talk as though Protestants and Catholics are from different planets in this matter or seeking to relate to a different God.

I’ve never read of a saint who reacted that way when asked about their relationship with God. Most of them couldn’t shut up on the subject. The psalms are filled with language that presumes a personal relationship with God. The psalmist complains to God, laments over personal sin, implores the divine mercy. Some of the psalms are communal in nature, but many are the individual pouring out their heart's desire.

Marriage, one of the most intimate human relationships possible, is used as the great metaphor for every Christian’s relationship with God in the scriptures and therefore, is part of the Catholic tradition, and the foundation of the whole theology of the body.

Relationship is the crux of our whole understanding of heaven, which is eternal life in the presence of and participating in the life of the Blessed Trinity. Even the Trinity, as understood by historic Christianity, is profoundly personal and relational. Relationship and self-giving are intrinsic to the very heart and nature of God.

God is profoundly personal and relational. And so are human beings. When we were baptized, we were baptized into Jesus’ relationship with his Father. We became adopted sons and daughters of God and, therefore, Jesus is now our brother as well as our Lord - an extremely intimate relationship.

Relationship - whether mediated and nourished by the liturgy and sacraments or not - is the heart of this whole drama in which we are all engaged.

Pope Benedict began his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est with these words:

“'God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him' (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: 'We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.' We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life.


“A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism...Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the 'goodness and loving kindness of God' (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.” [38]

As the Pope said to the young people of America:

“What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies. Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should 'pray constantly' (1 Thess 5:17). Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path." (cf. Spe Salvi, 33)

Catholicism is not a “relationship-free” faith.

If the idea of a “personal relationship with God” gives us pause or strikes us as foreign, we need to re-evaluate our own understanding of the faith and, more to the point, our own lived relationship with God.

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The Catherine of Siena Institute is affiliated with the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California