Wednesday, 28 May 2008 11:56
Written by Joe Waters
My name is Joe Waters and I am the summer intern here at the Catherine of Siena Institute. I am a Masters of Divinity student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and my work with the Institute this summer is in partial fulfillment of the pastoral field education requirement for my degree. One thing I hope to do this summer is profile a number of exciting lay initiatives that we have discovered through our work across the country.
The first such initiative that I wish to profile is Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry
in Vandalia, Illinois. OSMM was founded in the late nineties by two laywomen, 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. The conference was 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 ten large conferences with nationally and internationally known speakers. Though they have shifted the focus of their ministry to healing and reconciliation they continue to have a large conference every year in the late fall and now have monthly healing retreats as well. 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 cover fascinating topics 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.
Having spoken on the phone recently with both Debbie and Vanessa their commitment to the Lord and the Church deeply impressed me. 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.