Media & News

A Catholic Moment – Mary’s Way

Carolyn M. Berghuis, MS, ND, CTN

(Samuel 24:3-21, 10-22A; Psalm 57:2, 3-4, 6 and 11. 18-19; Mark 3:13-19)

As I often do when reflecting on daily scripture, I asked myself why does the Church want us to read this particular scripture today? At first blush I was a bit perplexed, then today’s reflection began to take form in my heart as I sat in the Adoration Chapel after morning Mass. Revealing to me how God works through his children when they surrender to his will, when they say yes to him, my heart was taken by storm.

In both our first reading and our Gospel we witness the ever lasting impact a “yes” to God has on all of humanity. David, while tempted to harm Saul, chose Godly righteousness instead. The Twelve, well we know the rest of the story there. David would become a great king whose lineage would eventually give the world Mary, Joseph and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Twelve would become an integral part of the birth of Christianity – even Judas Iscariot woud play an essential part. I can only imagine that these men had no idea how powerful their yes would be!

What would the world look like if all of humanity said yes to God’s plan for their lives? What would the world look like if each and every one of us prayed a heartfelt daily rosary, a chaplet, or a novena for one another with love? Be still our beating hearts. Of course, we would have heaven on earth – immediately my friends. Love would permeate every inch of this beautiful planet; there would be no more pain, no more disease, no more loneliness, no more separation, no longer would we harm one another, no longer would we hate our brothers, and no longer would we experience the death of sin. Yes, our hearts would overflow with the goodness of love, grace, hope and joy. All would enjoy life as God originally intended so long ago in that garden.

Sadly, all of mankind is not ready to say yes to God today; however, we can individually choose to give him our yes and this will leave a positive imprint on our planet. We can choose to journey down the path God has created for each and every one of us as did David and Jesus’ Apostles. And how rich are the avenues available to us within our Catholic Church when we seek to give our yes – the Sacraments, the Mass, the outreach programs, the social events – the list goes on and on. Yes, the fellowship available to us within Catholicism is rich beyond our wildest dreams.

While our Church offers many opportunities to grow in love for one another and say yes to God, I would like to share with all of you an event called Mary’s WAY (Women Answering Yes), a beautiful dinner that brings the women of a parish together in fellowship and love. The event is lovely, full of beauty and held in honor of our Blessed Mother. During the event you will find the dinner table set with fine china and flowers, the menu is carefully selected, a spiritual speaker is invited to present and the men of the parish, dressed in their formal attire, serve the ladies. Feminine beauty is celebrated, motherhood is celebrated, sisterhood is celebrated and friendship is celebrated as a parish comes together to honor the humble yes of our Savior’s Mother.

I was privileged to be the speaker at a Mary’s Way dinner last October at All Saint’s Parish in Guilford, Indiana (USA), and I have to share with all of you that I was deeply touched by the love I felt in the hearts of the women there. The evening fostered an atmosphere of grace, love and beauty. This Mary’s WAY dinner, as they all do, spoke to the richness of our faith as the event honored both our Blessed Mother and her Son while fostering a sense of unity and love among the attendees. I was so moved by the event that I invite your parish to consider holding a Mary’s WAY dinner.

A little background on Mary’s WAY. Created in the heart of Ann Winkle, and born out of her love for Jesus through Mary at a diocesan retreat, Mary’s WAY supports our internal desire, as devout Catholics, to openly share our love for Jesus and Mary. Ann was blessed to grow up in a home where her parents and grandparents lived their Catholic faith, their yes to God was an everyday event! As a family they prayed the rosary and they kept Jesus and Mary very much alive in their daily activities for all to see. This eventually created in Ann’s heart a deep desire to create a space where other women could confidently do the same – openly express their love for our Lord and his mother. This vision included a renewal of the rosary for today’s generation. How beautiful!

Beginning in Ann’s small parish of 700 with 97 attendees, Mary’s WAY dinners have been known to draw upwards of 300 women. The speakers have been priests, Catholic lay women, singer/songwriters and other professionals. The topics have ranged from presentations on Fatima, Divine Mercy and St. Faustina, All Souls Day, End of Life issues, artificial birth control, human triumph, family miracles, and the power of forgiveness. Not only does Mary’s WAY foster an environment of Christian unity and love, it brings the Blessed Mother into our everyday lives. Yes, Mary’s WAY, and Ann Winkle’s yes, continues to open the door for God’s healing to enter into the world so that His will be done! Thank you Ann for your yes. I sincerely hope that many others experience the beauty I was privileged to experience at a Mary’s WAY dinner.

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February 22, 2016

What Can I Build?

Mary's Way

We are a family of fumblers when it comes to construction. Jeremy laughed at our happy dance when he married into our clan. You see, his uncles and brothers are skilled builders and contractors. Jeremy claims to be the runt of his family, relegated to hauling wood and cleaning up nails during family projects. But to us, he’s the master builder.

That’s why Keven and Erin picked a day when Jeremy was available to build a play set in the backyard for their children, our grandkids. Our three sons-in-law gathered early that Saturday morning, tools in hand, eager to get started, and thankful for the neighbors and friends who joined the effort. Plans were studied, wood was measured, nails were tapped, and over the course of a day, a strong sturdy play set emerged.

A lot more happened that day than the mere creation of a structure, though. Skills were offered, stories were shared, relationships were forged, and two wee-ones were served. All returned to their own homes tired, yet feeling blessed to have been a part of something just a little bigger than themselves.

I thought back to the day when Jayne invited the Church staff to join in the final “clean-up/touch-up” day for a Habitat for Humanity Home. I cannot be trusted with a hammer, but give me a vacuum and a rag and I am in my element, as small as that contribution might be. As I sanitized counters and polished cabinets, I thought of the bigger and greater hands than mine that had labored in love to make this house come to be. What a privilege it was to be an ever-so-small part of this amazing ministry.

Yet not all building projects are made with wood, nails, mortar and brick. Last night at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a different kind of building took place. For three long months, a team of grace-filled women lovingly labored to create our 2015 Mary’s Way. They held meetings, formed committees and created invitations. They planned a liturgy, engaged a speaker and processed registrations. They mapped out tables, called caterers and organized set-up/clean-up teams. They showed up early yesterday to haul tables and tablecloths, decorations and centerpieces, china and silver, crystal and party favors. And somehow they all managed to switch from t-shirts & sneakers to dresses & heels in a matter of minutes, ready to offer incomparable hospitality to the three hundred and eighteen women who arrived as their guests.

I’m not a woman who cries often. But when, through the faith-filled efforts of a small group of women, a stark parish hall is transformed into a banquet room, hundreds of Christian women gather in sisterhood and prayer, and one from that community offers public witness to the miracles of faith brought on by our Mother Mary’s intercession, something bigger than all of us happens.

St. Paul tells us that our gifts are given to us by God to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12). I believe Paul’s insight is at the heart of all of this building. Each of us is endowed with particular gifts. We are at our best in those moments when we’re using those gifts in community, for community.   Something deeply holy happens when our gifts are called upon to serve with others, for others. At moments like this, time and eternity touch, and the still small voice of God whispers in our soul, this is what heaven is like. And tears of grace well up in our eyes at the sublime realization that the kingdom of God really is at hand.

Our culture would have us believe that in times of loneliness, insignificance or emotional pain, the solution is to go out and buy something: the latest fashion, the newest gadget, a great steak dinner, or a great new craft beer. I wonder if changing the question from “what can I buy?” to “what can I build?” could lead us closer to the joy we seek?

Is there a building project out there that’s calling your name? It might not look anything like a backyard play set, a Habitat Home, or a Mary’s Way dinner. But I’m fairly certain that if you look around, you’ll find a group with a mission who needs something you can offer. And no matter how insignificant your gift might appear, to you or to others, you might just find a family like ours who hails you as their master builder!

Writer’s Note: A sincere thank you to the beautiful team of women who “built” our Mary’s Wayevent this evening: our fearless leader, Kimmie; her tireless committee, Jamie, Jane, Angela, Karen (three of them!), Denise, Maria, Tricia, Susan, Teresa and Haley; our inspiring speaker, Amy; and the men and teens who served us so graciously. Well done good and faithful servants!

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June 26, 2015

Mary’s W.A.Y offers women a new path to ’connect’

Kevin Cullen –

CARMEL — Ann Winkle believes in miracles. At age 5, she saw how prayers to the Blessed Mother brought people back to Jesus, and helped save the life of her own mom.In 1965, her 35-year-old mother — pregnant with her 11th child — suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. The surgeon said she would likely die or be in a permanent vegetative state.Rosie Condit was a devout Catholic who prayed a decade of the rosary each day for each of her sons and daughters. As she fought for life in Cincinnati’s Mercy Hospital, friends, family, doctors and nurses filled the waiting room. They knelt, prayed the rosary and asked God to spare the young mother. When the surgeon emerged from the operating room, he said that he had just been part of a miracle. Mrs. Condit not only survived, she eventually learned to walk and talk again. She and her husband, Jim, recently marked their 58th wedding anniversary. They have 11 children and 59 grandchildren.“I think of all the rosaries offered up for our family,” Winkle said. “If God had taken my mother years ago, I think we would all have been different people.”She told her story to 314 women May 4 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School at the first annual meeting of Mary’s W.A.Y. (Women Answering YES to the Lord) at the parish. Winkle, of Aurora, Ill., founded the organization in 2002 to bring Catholic women together and unite them to Jesus through his mother’s openness to the will of God. Most the nine chapters are in the Indianapolis area.“It is our desire to promote modeling Mary’s way as we live our lives,” said Lorita Doucette, who introduced Winkle. “As women we, like Mary, assume a grace-filled responsibility to be the host in this world to carry life and to carry light.” Mary, she said, “provides a perfect way for women to know Jesus.”Parishioner Karen Semler — the mother of six — said the evening allowed busy women to attend Mass together, enjoy a catered meal, meet other women and hear an important message. “It was great to see a group of women together, united in the same faith, hearing a talk about Mary, sharing fellowship in Jesus Christ,” she said. Semler called Winkle’s talk “beautiful. It was so inspirational for someone to speak so eloquently about her faith and how important it is to have the Blessed Mother in our lives.”

“We were so pleased, overwhelmed,” said organizer Kimmie Hamilton, who had hoped for 150 attendees. Most of the women had children at home, so the event provided “a mini-retreat where people were able to be filled spiritually. It was about the Blessed Mother and about the spirit of family … everyone walks away with something different; everyone is at a different place in their journey.”

Winkle, married and the mother of four, organized the first Mary’s W.A.Y. after noticing that many Catholic women tended to gather only at Mass. She felt they needed another way to meet, share their love of Jesus and Mary, nurture Catholic traditions — especially praying the rosary — and draw strength from each other. “I believe Our Lady has something very special for each one of you. Thanks for slowing down and answering ‘yes,’” Winkle told the women. “… Faith can hold us together; when you share it with each other, it is a deeper friendship.”

Teresa Schutzman, of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, is one of Winkle’s sisters and a former teacher. She had attended Mary’s W.A.Y. dinners at other places. She said they offer the challenge to “perhaps go to the next level spiritually, through the rosary or adoration, and knowing that everybody in that room is saying a Hail Mary for you every day. It is the working of the Holy Spirit that so many women are seeking to please God and honor his mother.” Winkle’s parents also attended.

“I was blessed with parents who loved the faith,” Winkle said. “My mother loved the Blessed Mother and she constantly prayed the rosary. I remember her doing laundry practically one-handed; there was constantly a rosary in the other hand.”

Her father, an accountant-turned-lawyer, attended Mass daily. The Condits lived five doors from their church, and the children attended the parish school. Priests and nuns often visited their home.

Then came Rosie’s aneurysm. Countless prayers were offered for her recovery by neighbors, friends and family. It brought some of them back to their faith. The prayers were answered and Mrs. Condit emerged from a coma. Doctors feared possible complications for her baby because of the strong anti-seizure drugs they gave her, but her 11th child, David, weighed 9 pounds and was perfectly healthy.

“They saved not only one life, but eight lives. He has seven children,” Winkle said.

“God has used our family in many beautiful ways,” Winkle said. Many of her siblings, nieces and nephews are “working for the Lord” in various ways, she said. Winkle, a former special education teacher, is carrying on that work, too. Mary’s W.A.Y. gatherings have deepened the faith of thousands of Catholic women. She encourages each one of them to try each day to bring another soul to Christ.

Regular Mass attendance is not enough, she said. She urged women to pray the rosary daily, preferably with family and friends, and to pray before the Eucharist in an adoration chapel. “In today’s world, I truly believe we need to surround ourselves with people who support our Catholic way of life,” Winkle said.

“Everyone in this room has the same love and devotion. It is time to connect … keep the faith and pass it on … let us try to imitate Christ in his love, and always take the Blessed Mother with you.”

The Chicago Tribune

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May 16, 2010

Mary’s WAY finds balance with religion

Joan Cary –

Aurora woman brings women together through faith

Ann Winkle witnessed a miracle when she was just 5, a kindergärtner in Cincinnati. Now more than 40 years later, she tells the story to women as if it happened yesterday. That’s how much it has affected the Aurora woman who founded Mary’s WAY (Women Answering Yes), a ministry to bring women together in faith and closer to the blessed mother Mary. Ann was the sixth of Rosie and Jim Condit’s 10 children. The oldest was just 13 when Rosie Condit suffered a brain aneurysm. Doctors said there was no hope for the 35-year-old mother, and to make matters worse, she was six weeks pregnant with her 11th child. Word spread quickly through Mercy Hospital in Cincinnati, and throughout the building folks dropped to their knees to say the rosary for this young mother and her large Catholic family, Winkle recalls. Months passed. Neighbors, relatives, nuns and priests came to the house to help raise the children. Rosie Condit carried the baby to term, and doctors delivered the couple’s 11th healthy child by cesarean section. “It took years for my mom to recover,” Winkle says. “She raised her children from the couch. But she did recover, and I believe it was through her faith in the Blessed Mother and the healing power of prayer.” Now Winkle takes a photo from the mantel in her Aurora home and shows her parents surrounded by their 11 grown children and 60 grandchildren. She describes her parents’ unwavering faith. It has been the foundation behind her belief in the rosary and her devotion to Mary. Winkle, a former special education teacher and the mother of four, attended a women’s conference in Rockford in 2002 and felt inspired to start a women’s ministry focused on creating a greater connection to God through Mary. The idea was welcomed at her former parish, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Aurora, so she formed a small committee. Three weeks later 100 women came to the first Mary’s WAY event for dinner and to hear a guest speaker. “I took that as confirmation that the Lord wanted this to go forward,” Winkle says. “In our world where there’s a lot of despair, I felt like women needed a place to go where they could be with women of like faith and like spirit. Women are always taking care of everyone else. It is so difficult for them to take care of themselves.” Mary’s WAY is now active in seven Illinois and Indiana parishes, and two others are developing, one in Aurora and another in Pennsylvania.

Although rosary, prayer and service groups have spun off the original idea, Winkle says Mary’s WAY focuses on two dinners a year with guest speakers. At the most recent Mary’s WAY dinner sponsored by Winkle’s current parish, Holy Cross in Batavia, Winkle welcomed 210 women from high school age to retirees for dinner and to hear guest speaker the Rev. Jim Parker of East Dubuque talk about miracles. “Ann has a great love for the faith and a great deal of energy,” Parker says. “It is wonderful to pray on our own, but when we come together as a group, it strengthens all of us.””I don’t want to ask you to do anything but listen, take home what you will, and do what you will with it,” Parker told the women. “We bring you here to supply you with inspiration to be closer to Mary. Prayers to Our Lady do not fall upon deaf ears. Where Mary is, healing take place.”Molly Petersen of Naperville was in attendance. She started a Mary’s WAY chapter at her church, St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, in February. Petersen describes Winkle as “an amazing woman who is alive in her faith.”

“Ann is so special, so approachable,” Petersen says. “Through Mary’s WAY she gives women a chance to do something they don’t often do as women and mothers, to have fellowship with other women and to reignite that spark in their faith.” Other women have said that the group has reawakened their devotion to Mary. Petersen says, “It has reminded me of how important it is to get my rosary in every day even when we’re so busy and we don’t think there’s another minute in the day. The gift of the rosary keeps us centered in our daily lives.”

What women take from Mary’s WAY events is up to them, Winkle says. But she is pleased that more Catholics are reacquainting themselves with the rosary, and that women are finding the healing graces of Mary, whom Parker calls “the great intercessor on our behalf.”

“Women put themselves last, often hiding sadness and discomfort because they do not want to make anyone else uncomfortable,” says Winkle, “At Mary’s WAY, the women eat first, not last. They take time for themselves and for their faith.”

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

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November 20, 2009