Regnum Christi

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‘This institute is quenching a thirst in my spirit I didn’t even know I had’: The Lydia Institute provides a new ministry for professional women

For years, Mary Maher, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, watched the women in her life struggle to find a work-life balance, generously sacrificing themselves for the needs of their families and others, but lacking the time and space to address their own personal needs, particularly in the areas of self-care and spiritual formation. They’re pouring themselves out in service for others, Mary would think, but who is pouring into them? And how can I help? Yet when she would search for opportunities for small groups, faith communities, or spirituality events that might be of benefit, Mary consistently found that the meetings and activities didn’t suit or work into the schedules of the women she knew who worked outside of the home. Not finding a ministry specifically designed for the professional women in her life, Mary set out, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to create one herself.

The Doctor of Ministry degree at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago provided Mary the perfect opportunity. A professional degree designed to have direct application in pastoral outreach, the Doctor of Ministry combines research and analysis with the creation of real-life ministry to address a particular situation or need within the Church. “A Doctor of Ministry is about contributing to the practice of ministry, and lets Mary share the wisdom of what she has done and analyzed with the wider university community, and with the Church as well,” says Dr. Paul Hilliard, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at St. Mary of the Lake. “It is a very learned way of teaching us all how to better cooperate in the salvation of the whole world.”

When Mary began her Doctor of Ministry degree, she started to explore the spiritual needs unique to busy professional women, and how they might be better met in pastoral ministry within the Church. “For years, I watched my sisters and friends juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, spread pretty thin between work and home, their big generous hearts pulled in a million directions,” says Mary. “I felt such a desire to support them, and when I started digging into this theme and doing a little research, I quickly realized that my sisters and friends are not alone. There are overstretched, undernourished working women and professionals from coast to coast and around the globe.”

Mary’s research into the spiritual lives and needs of professional women confirmed her original concerns. While women make up 50% of the technical and professional workforce in America (including in corporate leadership, where they hold 52% of all managerial roles), only about 20% of them regularly attend religious services. And although 69% of women surveyed state they believe in God, and 59% profess religion to be important, the majority of them acknowledge that they have never attended a prayer or scripture group and are not actively engaged in parish life. “There’s a disconnect,” says Mary, “there’s a belief in God, but in the day-to-day, there isn’t an expression of that, for whatever reason.”

“Working women carry a heavy load – they are often times pulled and pressured, with no time to pray, and it is God they need more than anything else, yet often they go without the appropriate spiritual support for themselves,” says Mary, who in her research found that most of the ministries currently available in the Church were neither designed for nor marketed towards professional women. “More often than not, as Church leaders, we don’t notice that they’re missing from our small groups and our activities, or we notice that they’re missing, but we don’t know what to do about it. And I believe that as a Church we can do better.”

This was the challenge that Mary’s doctoral thesis project set out to address – to create a ministry that appealed to and was specifically designed for busy professional women and their unique spiritual needs. The result is The Lydia Institute, a faith-based community that provides professional women with opportunities for intentional spiritual development, Christian leadership training, and personal connection and mentoring, by offering scripture series, prayer experiences, retreats and personal spiritual coaching. “The Lydia Institute seeks to equip women for leadership in society and in the Church so that they can imbue with Gospel values their families, their workspaces, and their communities,” says Mary.

The inspiration for the project, and the namesake and patron of the Institute, is Lydia, a first century businesswoman, a dealer in purple cloth, who is considered to be the first European convert to Christianity and was vital in helping St. Paul establish and grow the Philippian Church. For Mary, Lydia is an icon of faith, a woman of worship and work, and a powerful example of purpose and passion. The feminine servant leadership embodied by Lydia became the model for the Institute and the subject of  its pilot project, a six-week small group scripture series titled “Biblical Womanhood and Feminine Leadership,” which studied some of the women in scripture who had, by living from their unique identities as beloved and beautiful daughters of God at the service of his plan, made a real impact on salvation history. “The goal of the series was to give these women a personal experience of God’s love, and of the Church as a place that they could consider their spiritual home, as a place where they could be cared for and nourished.” Mary ran this first program during Lent of 2019 with 14 professional women who were seeking purpose and peace in their lives, but were not actively engaged in the Church at the time. Each session included time for fellowship over wine and cheese, 30 minutes of scripture study and discussion, and space for sharing, reflection, and personal prayer. 

The response to the pilot project was overwhelming – the series was a transformative experience for each one of the women who participated. “This Institute is quenching a thirst in my spirit I didn’t even know I had,” stated one participant. “After 25 years as a Catholic, this is the first time I have felt like I belong in the Church,” said another. All of the women who participated expressed an increase in inner peace and a call to make real changes in their lives, especially in making time for daily prayer, but it was one participant whose experience particularly touched Mary:

“One woman said, ‘I arrived feeling like my life was a mess. In prayer time, I felt God the Father offering me his son, Jesus, as the answer to my problems and a way out of the mess.’ Just for that one woman alone, just for that one woman who received the gift of Jesus and knew there was a way forward for her, this project was worth it.”

Since that pilot series, The Lydia Institute has run several scripture studies – in-person and online –  including fall, winter, and Lenten series that reached over 100 professional women over the past six months, helping them find their purpose within the Word of God in a profound and personal way. 

Although Mary’s doctoral project is complete – she recently successfully defended her thesis, titled “The Lydia Institute: A Ministry for the Professional Woman,” and obtained her Doctor of Ministry degree – her work has just begun. The Lydia Institute will become a part of the Renew My Church program, a pastoral revitalization initiative out of the archdiocese of Chicago with whom Mary is working as an associate director of the Building the New Reality Phase. She is currently working on creating a five-week training course for future leaders within the Lydia Institute and collaborating with women from other dioceses who feel called to start a Lydia chapter in their own area.

And Mary knows that there are many more professional women to pray for, minister to, and invite to share their unique gifts with the Church. “There is incredible potential for holiness and mission that lies deep in the heart of every professional woman, those women out there that I pray this Institute will reach someday, and my prayer is that the Lydia Institute will be a place where professional women can encounter the love of Christ and take the light of the Gospel everywhere they go,” says Mary. “The mission of the Lydia Institute is to engage working women in the life and mission of the Church… one heart, one home, one office at a time.” 

Mary has been a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi for almost 24 years, and is currently serving in pastoral ministry in the archdiocese of Chicago. To find out more about The Lydia Institute and their upcoming events and series, visit their website at lydiainstitute.org.

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Living the Dream: Twenty-Five Years of Pastoral and Vocation Work

Tammy Grady has been working in the ministry of vocation awareness and discernment for most of her consecrated life. Ever since becoming a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi twenty-five years ago, she has felt God leading her towards vocation work in one way or another. And her current position as the Associate Vocation Director for Women Vocations for the Diocese of Dallas, Spiritual Director at both Benedictine College and SMU Catholic Campus Ministry and teaching Theology of the Body to young adults after being certified from the Theology of the Body Institute in Pennsylvania are just some of her latest roles in a life dedicated to helping young people discover God’s unique plan for their lives.

What does it take to be a vocation director, and carry out the important task of accompanying young adults as they discern God’s will for their future?  Tammy believes that while it’s important to have proper training and studies in theology, the spiritual life, discernment of spirits and on-going formation in order to be better equipped to help guide others, what is equally important is that, as Vocation Director, she also has a strong prayer life, her own spiritual director and mentors, and a sincere love for the young people whom the Lord entrusts to her. “It’s important to really care for the candidate or directee and to try to see them as Christ sees them,” says Tammy. Her role involves learning how to listen well, being attentive to the discernment of spirits in the heart of the other, and helping the directee to develop her own relationship with the Lord and learn how to detect His voice and the Movements of the Holy Spirit in her heart and in her life. “I also think that experience has a lot to do with it. Your own personal experience of discerning, and the more experience that you gain in helping others to discern prepares you,” says Tammy. “When I look back over my life, I think it’s been my own personal prayer, the experiences that I had and learned through my own spiritual direction, growing more aware of how to detect the discernment of spirits, and accompanying so many others over the years in their walk that have really given me both life and spiritual experiences which have proven to be invaluable for my own mission.”

Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life within Regnum Christi deeply influences her current vocation work. For Tammy, her decision to give two years to the Church in volunteer work was the first step of discernment towards the consecrated life. “No matter what vocation we are called to, our baptism calls us to be a self-gift and to serve others,” says Tammy. “My years as a missionary really opened my heart to the beauty of a life dedicated to self-giving. Building upon this experience, a few years later the Lord let me to see the immense beauty and joy that comes with dedicating oneself to God as the Bride of Christ and mother to spiritual children.” The charism of the call to evangelize and to build Christ’s Kingdom on earth, particularly on an international level, led her to Regnum Christi.

But the key to Tammy’s own discernment to the consecrated life, and in her life in general, was focusing first on building a personal relationship with Christ. “For my own discernment, what helped the most, was that I was not so much looking to discern, as I was just looking to grow in relationship with God,” says Tammy. “So as I opened my heart to the Lord, and grew more in a personal relationship with him, I started to fall in love with him, then it was He who led me down the path of discernment and towards Regnum Christi, and it really was him that was moving me and giving me the grace to respond.”

And this is precisely the attitude – one of radical openness to a personal relationship with God – that Tammy encourages in the young people she accompanies through the process of discernment. While her ministry often involves coordinating specific vocation-centered events, such as weekend come-and-sees and Marian dinners, which give university students and young adults the opportunity to meet different religious sisters and consecrated women and experience different forms of the consecrated life, her main objective is to provide a space for a relationship with God to take root and be nourished in the hearts of those she accompanies. “Spiritual exercises, retreats about knowing how to be open to bringing God more into their lives, doing pilgrimages – these help young people take time in silence and reflection to see and listen where God could be leading them in their life,” says Tammy. “Retreats, doing apostolic work, and going on pilgrimages really take people out of their everyday environment, and enable them to give back to others, allow God to work in their life, and allow them to have a spirit of openness and trust.”

Creating these opportunities for young women to experience the consecrated life and nurture a relationship with God is particularly important to Tammy, who saw a gap in the discernment resources for women. “There are a lot of opportunities for those discerning the priesthood, but not as many for women discerning the consecrated life.” For this reason, Tammy finds herself as a point person for many young women, not just within the Diocese of Dallas, but throughout Texas and in other areas of the United States, who are seeking information about particular orders, prayer resources, spiritual direction, and, as she puts it, “anything that could help them to see where the Lord could possibly be leading them.”

For Tammy, this is what vocation work means – not simply guiding someone towards a decision to a specific state of life, but accompanying them on their journey towards a closer relationship with God:

“One of the things that I see about my work in vocations is that I don’t really consider it or label it as vocation work, but rather pastoral work, because really, the human heart is looking for God. The general vocation is really a life of holiness, union with God, and friendship with him. The specific vocation – whether you’re being called to some form of consecrated life or the married life – is more of your own particular path. So with my work, yes, it has to do with specific vocation discernment, but also just helping students and young women and young men to know God more and to trust in His love.”

For Tammy, accompanying young people along their discernment journey is an honor and a gift. “I feel like I’m walking on sacred ground, helping them to see where the Lord has been leading them,” she says. Throughout her twenty-five years of consecrated life, she has journeyed with women on their walk towards their vocation as a Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, Consecrated Virgins within a diocese or a religious sister within a variety of different religious orders. “All of them have been a great blessing to me,” says Tammy. “It’s just been encouraging to see that God still calls, and that there are still young women who want to be open to become the Bride of Christ in this world and offer themselves to God, to bring about His Kingdom on earth.”

Tammy has also helped women discern their vocation to Holy Matrimony through Christian marriage.  “I’ve been very impressed by young women who have taken time to discern where God is calling them and in their openness discover that He is not calling them to the consecrated life, but to married life as a wife and mother. Their personal relationship with God leads them towards a commitment in seeking to make a difference in the world as an apostle; either as a Regnum Christi member and/or a strong active member of the local Church coupled with preparing themselves for the beautiful vocation of being a wife and mother in the world.”

While the COVID-19 crisis has created new challenges for Tammy’s vocation work, which she believes is better accomplished through face-to-face meetings and in-person relationships, she has noticed a benefit that has come from this unprecedented time as well: lockdowns, quarantines, and the general slowing down of everyday life necessitated by the pandemic have created more space for contemplation and discernment in the lives of the young people with whom she works. “People have more time for reflecting, and I find more people reaching out for discernment and asking deeper questions about life and the future,” says Tammy. “While it’s not the best platform, technical platforms have been useful in connecting with these young people and even serve as a forum for retreats, small group sharing, prayer moments and Q & A sessions.”

On Sept 1st, 2020 Tammy celebrated her 25th Anniversary of Consecrated life to Christ her Bridegroom and King. Reflecting on many of those years being involved with vocation work, Tammy can say that she has never tired of the ministry of accompanying young people through the journey of discernment; in fact, she considers vocation work her dream mission. “Really, I feel right now that I am kind of living a little bit of the dream in what I do,” says Tammy. “It’s beautiful to be able to help people to discover where the Holy Spirit and Christ are working in their life. There are young people still today who have a great heart in wanting to know where the Lord could be leading them, to put God first in their life, and make a difference in this world. To be able to play a role, no matter how small, in this process is a gift that God has granted me and I am forever grateful.”

 

 

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Patience and Hope in the Heart of New York City

Father Jason Smith, LC, stands on the sidewalk in the middle of bustling Manhattan, and rings the buzzer to enter the building. He’s the parochial vicar at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City, and he’s come to bring communion to one of the parish’s eldest members. “Father, I’m gonna open the window and throw down a key!” Father Jason hears, and from an open window several floors up, a key comes flying out, perfectly tossed, right into his hands on the busy street below.

Certainly, when Father Jason was a young boy growing up in the quiet community of Forest Lakes, Minnesota, he never would have imagined his life looking the way it does today: working as a parish priest in a busy basilica in the middle of a hectic and humming metropolis. Yet since his ordination at St. Mary Major in Rome in December of 2006, Father Jason has spent his entire priesthood in New York.

The first six years of Father Jason’s priesthood were dedicated to youth work in the New York Tri-State area, running Regnum Christi Mission Corps, directing high school ministries, and offering spiritual direction during summer discernment programs. It was during this period that he struck up a friendship with Monsignor Donald Sakano, the pastor at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral at the time, and began working with him on a variety of apostolic initiatives like missions, marriage preparation, retreats for young adults, and even an art exhibit for the Year of Mercy. When Monsignor Sakano retired in June of 2019, it only made sense for Father Jason to continue the work he had begun at St. Patrick’s, this time as the parochial vicar.

As the parochial vicar of a dynamic and historically significant parish in the heart of New York City, Father normally keeps busy celebrating the sacraments and collaborating with the basilica administrator, Father Brian Graebe, on various apostolic projects, particularly the marriage preparation program and its follow-up program, Cana Uncorked, a Regnum Christi apostolate for engaged and married couples. But for Father Jason, being a parish priest isn’t that dissimilar from the other roles he’s held since joining the Legion of Christ. “It is really not that different from what I was doing before: celebrate the Sacraments, form Catholic leaders, and serve the needs of the Church,” says Father Jason. “If anything, it has helped me to focus my time and energy better by channeling my creativity to a specific place, and creating a mindset of being a missionary priest in Manhattan.”

And one of Father Jason’s favorite parts of that mission is bringing Holy Communion to the elderly parishioners of the basilica. “Above the trendy fashion stores, the award-winning restaurants, the art studios, and the boutique gyms of SoHo, in tiny apartments that are like true time capsules, are a hidden number of elderly who have lived in this neighborhood since the early forties,” says Father Jason. Here, in entering the homes of his parishioners, he steps back into another era, and encounters the lively faith of the basilica’ eldest members.

In one apartment, Father Jason greets Rocco, a ninety-nine-year-old WWII veteran who has been faithfully married to his wife, Sue, for over seventy-five years. On their wall hang their First Communion certificates from their childhood, their wedding photo, and a papal blessing from Saint John II for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

In another apartment, Father Jason asks the elderly parishioner, confined to her wheelchair and on dialysis, how he can pray for her. “Oh, I’m perfectly fine,” she replies, “Let’s pray for all those young people out there. They are always out so late; I just worry about them.”

As Father Jason goes to leave another elderly parishioner after bringing her Holy Communion, she grabs both of his hands. “Here,” she says, as she slips him a five-dollar bill, “this is from the heart, because you brought me the greatest gift ever: Jesus.”

These encounters with his parishioners are the moments that Father Jason cherishes most about his role as parish priest at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. However, his pastoral ministry has drastically changed in the past few months, as New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and all public masses in the Archdiocese of New York were indefinitely suspended. The previously vibrant neighborhood of Nolita where St. Patrick’s is situated, which is known for its charming boutiques and sidewalk cafés, has completely shut down. Once thriving businesses are closed. The streets, usually full of pedestrians and sidewalk vendors, are empty. “It’s right out of an apocalyptic movie,” says Father Jason. “Most people have left. The restaurants, stores, art galleries, and gyms are all boarded up. There are very few people walking the street. There is a rise in crime.”

Indeed, the Legionary community in New York City felt the impact of the pandemic firsthand when five Legionaries within the community were infected with COVID-19. Fortunately, all five have recovered, but all priests who had had contact with them, including Father Jason, had to be quarantined at the LC community home for over a month and a half.

“It has been very hard,” says Father Jason, of the pandemic’s impact on the parish of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, and on the community as a whole. “Our vibrant neighborhood is empty and shut down. Most of our younger parishioners have left the city. Our older ones are staying sheltered in place.” One of his biggest concerns in the upcoming months is getting people back into the basilica, once public Masses are finally allowed to resume. “Our congregation is made up predominantly of young adults; most have left,” says Father Jason. “My hope is they will return to the city and, of course, return to Mass.”

Certainly, for Father Jason, the pandemic has been a school of faith, trust, and above all, patience. “We are now waiting for things to begin to slowly open up, but with Manhattan being the epicenter, it is hard to make projections about what we will do,” he says, as he patiently awaits the reopening of the city and, ultimately, resumption of public Masses at the basilica. “I imagine all of these realities will shape our pastoral response.”

Despite the difficulties and, in particular, the uncertainty of living and ministering in the epicenter of a pandemic, Father Jason remains, above all, hopeful. “I have no idea what awaits. There is so much that is unknown,” he says. “What I do know is that New Yorkers are resilient. We will bounce back. But it is going to take a lot of prayer and hard work.”

You can find Father Jason on Instagram at @frjasonsmith, where he live-streams daily Mass and the rosary with other members of the Legionary community in New York City.

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Linking Liturgy to Life – How a Parish in Houston is going from Maintenance to Mission

St. Simon and Jude parish in the Woodlands TX (North Houston) takes foot washing very seriously.  That’s right. Holy Thursday 2017 the pastor, Fr Pat Garrett, decided he wanted the Holy Thursday foot washing to be more than just symbolic.  He invited the people in the pews to spontaneously wash one another’s feet and to also leave their shoes at the altar as an offering to the poor.  The result?  An extra half-hour of liturgical foot washing and almost 700 pairs of shoes left behind for the poor!

“It was amazing!” said Charlene Alexander, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi on the pastoral staff.  “So many people left their shoes behind and went home barefoot or in the 300 pairs of disposable flip flops that had been donated for this moment. Tears of joy and forgiveness abounded as the foot washing was taking place! Sincere embraces were exchanged after each foot washing…this is what moved me as I observed this most extraordinary moment on that Holy Thursday. I had never seen anything like it.”

It was clearly a Holy Spirit moment. The movement of generosity and desire to live this act was contagious. People of all ages were bringing each other forward and washing one another’s feet and leaving their shoes behind…Did Fr Pat realize beforehand what was going to happen?

He said afterwards: “I wanted the people to have the liturgy tied to a spiritual experience and tied to a missionary outreach.  It was prayer, service and mission all in one! I was surprised at just how needed and heartfelt the moment became.”

One could say that Fr Pat has encouraged a way of Christian life in his parish that is discipleship rather than mere catechesis.  Sharing the truths of the faith is one way to evangelize, but it’s incomplete by itself.  Discipleship is more than just transmitting ideas, it’s sharing a relationship. And this is exactly what happened when liturgy became life. “Attempting to catechize families who have not been evangelized is like planting seeds in concrete. It doesn’t work” added Charlene.

Are they doing it again?  This year they are planning a coat drive with similar dynamics.  Hopefully it won’t be too cold out as many people are sure to leave their coats at the foot of the altar!

 

 

For more information:

How to Set-up a Holy Week Mission

– More info on Mission Youth Missions here.

 

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Regnum Christi Charism Meets Chicago Parish

What happens when the RC charism begins to grow in one of the oldest parishes in Chicago?  What’s that thing called when the Holy Spirit starts to touch hearts and lives and begins to transform culture? It’s called The New Evangelization.

Yes, Immaculate Conception Parish, Highland Park, Illinois, has been serving the faithful for more than 170 years.  By Roman Catholic standards that is fairly recent, but at the time, Illinois had been a state for less than 30 years and a young lawyer named Abe Lincoln had just been elected to his one term in Congress – as a Whig.

Our story is about the RC charism played out in a parish setting. The players: Eleanor Segraves and Mary Maher, both members of Chicago’s Regnum Christi consecrated community.  The charism’s impact on the parish can be seen in various apostolates and activities, but Advent by Candlelight might be the most obvious.

Starting with the punchline, the 2017 Advent by Candlelight event was a remarkable success.  More than 300 attended the sell-out combination retreat, dinner and social gathering. This event is the single most attended event at IC, and it’s all women.

While many parishes do similar pre-Advent events and often emphasize the social aspects, most especially table decorating, and by that, I mean, “Who’s table is the ‘best dressed’?” Mary, Eleanor, and the committee of women from the parish wanted to put the focus on the spiritual, with simple meditations on Mary, our model as women, testimonies by women from the parish, beautiful music from a women’s ensemble, and candles. Lots of candles.

“Advent by Candlelight is a spiritual evening for women in the parish and the greater community,” Eleanor said. “They come and intentionally prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ.” Mary added, “We realized when we began working at this parish that people were ready for something more. They were hungry for a deeper experience of God but struggled to find time for prayer. Advent isn’t a peaceful season for most women. Our culture focuses on presents and party planning, but we wanted this special night to be a moment of grace for them.”

The first Advent by Candlelight occurred in 2015.  Mary was leading a women’s bible study and one afternoon, one of the members said, “We are receiving so much through this small group, but there’s got to be a way we reach more women of our parish.” After a high-spirited, idea-filled afternoon, they decided to propose Advent by Candlelight.

With a little more than a month before the event date, preparations began.

“They have to have an experience of God’s love,” Mary explained.  “That is what we have to offer as consecrated women and this is at the core of our charism—small groups, personal accompaniment, and strong spiritual experiences.”

The Pastor of Immaculate Conception gave his permission for the event before Mary even finished explaining the concept. He had always wanted an event like this for Immaculate Conception.

“It’s the Blessed Mother’s parish, she wants this to happen,” he said.” And I want to pay for the event myself. It will be my gift to the women of the parish.”

The ladies planned, budgeted, purchased decorations and ordered food. They were hoping and praying for 50 women. Days before the event, more decorations were purchased and more food ordered. Registrations had hit 170.

The crowd surprised everyone, perhaps because it was near the 170th anniversary of the parish.  Ironically, the crowd number 170, made the food bill a little higher than the Pastor has expected but he couldn’t have been more overjoyed at the turnout.

The 2016 event drew 204 women and, despite a $25 price tag in 2017, the crowd hit 300 – a sellout for the parish facility.

“As I stood outside the room saying goodnight to women the first year, I was overwhelmed by how many seemed to have been deeply touched by the event,” Mary said. “It was almost as if you could feel the Regnum Christi charism in the room. Something had happened that was not our doing. It was a tangible experience that Christ’s Kingdom was among us. He was near—Emmanuel, God with us.”

This year the committee decided to focus the testimonies around three elements: spirituality, communion, mission – the three aspects of evangelization outlined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for Adult Faith Formation, and central aspects of the Regnum Christi charism.

Marta Stepniak, Vicariate I Director of Life-Long Formation, a key leader in the Chicago Archdiocese responsible for advising 70 parishes, attended the event and wrote the following, “Thank you is not enough to express my gratitude for the experience of Advent by Candlelight. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and the Holy Spirit was truly present. The reflections were joyful, full of trust and love. I want that! I want that joy, that trust, that love! Incredible!”

“Those reactions are so deeply moving for us,” Eleanor said.  “We didn’t invent Advent by Candlelight; it happens all over the country. But I do think what makes Immaculate Conception’s event special is the gift of our charism infused into every aspect of the event. Christ wants to touch hearts, and he wants apostles full of love, that reach out to those in need.”

Mary added, “The Northshore of Chicago can sometimes feel like a spiritual desert, but the Holy Spirit wants to do something in and through us. He wants Christ’s Kingdom to come. Now.” There are people in the pews waiting to be invited to share in the mission of Evangelization. Our small groups are one way people can live spirituality, communion and mission. Advent by Candlelight is a powerful example of the transformation from a group of friends to a team of apostles.”

 

Eleanor Segraves is from Atlanta, Georgia and proud of it! Before she was consecrated she studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville from 2002-2006 and then was a Regnum Christi Mission Corps volunteer in Louisiana. She was consecrated on August 18, 2007.  During her formation years in Rhode Island, Eleanor traveled to Toronto and also helped with the accreditation process of Mater Ecclesiae College. She worked on the road team to Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska from 2010-2012. Now she is full time in Chicago working as the Director of Religious Education at Immaculate Conception Parish in Highland Park.

 

Mary Maher grew up in Michigan, the second of six children. Her family is originally from Chicago, thus her sports loyalties; she’s an especially avid fan of the Cubs and the Fighting Irish.

She’s been consecrated to God for sixteen years and has served in Rhode Island, Mexico and throughout the Midwest.  She holds a degree in Religious and Pastoral Studies from the Anahuac University. Her ministry has been primarily focused on faith formation of adult women; she is a spiritual director, and leads speakers series and spirituality groups.  She’s also worked extensively with youth, as a spiritual coach, retreat leader, service coordinator, and director of international mission trips. (Building a house for a poor family in Mexico is one of her personal favorites!)

Mary loves to pray hard and play hard; some of her hobbies are running and spending quality time with family and friends. Next August Mary will resume higher studies as she pursues her Doctorate of Ministry (Pastoral Theology) from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL.

 

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!