HARTFORD, Conn. — The Women of Hope Ministry (WOH) at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church here claims its roots as far back as the mid 1990s, when it began exploring developments in women’s spirituality.
Over the years, it has strived to address the needs of women in both the parish and the community. The ministry attempts to shape people’s minds and hearts through education, prayer and advocacy.
One educational program sponsored by WOH has been the Women of the Bible, featuring lessons applicable to today. A quilt representing the women of the Bible was made by participants, and now hangs in the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry. The quilt has also been taken to other parishes to share these women’s stories.
Other educational offerings include a dramatic presentation on the Martyrs of El Salvador, lectures on the Discipleship of Equals and the role of women in the early Church and today, as well as sponsorship of well-known authors Joyce Rupp and Patricia Livingston.
WOH has experienced a labyrinth walk, an interfaith service of lamentation, a sunset cruise with prayer and reflection on the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and meditations on the women medieval mystics.
Advocating for Women
In reaching out to women in the community, WOH advocates for victims of domestic violence through educational programs and clothing drives for the Interval House Shelter every October. The ministry has also sponsored successful parenting programs for teenage mothers, a game night and other support for the women of Catherine’s Place transitional housing, and a grandmother program.
One of the advocacy projects that resulted in a separate outreach is the Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS). Founded by Sr. Paula Hagen, OSB, MOMS provides an opportunity for mothers to grow in their spirituality and to see their motherhood as ministry. MOMS has provided a special place for these women to bond and to find their own unique place in the parish community.
Another facet of WOH is the Muslim/Christian Women of Hope and Faith. This ministry started after reaching out to the Muslim women in the greater Hartford area after Sept. 11, 2001. Women of both faiths believe that getting to know one another personally and learning about each other’s faith traditions help to overcome the prejudice and bigotry that result from ignorance. This relationship has developed into personal friendships and many gatherings of dialog, prayer and advocacy. Women of both faiths recently worked together building a Habitat for Humanity house for a single mother in Hartford.
WOH welcomes everyone, women and men alike, to most gatherings. Each spring, the group brainstorms and welcomes suggestions for programs addressing the issues and needs of women. Often, these suggestions result in programs offered jointly with other ministries in the parish, such as the Committee for Social Justice, Adult Faith Formation, or the Clare Art Gallery.
Exploring the Feminine Images
This year, the ministry is providing a variety of experiences. In line with a parish theme of “Images of God,” an evening exploring the feminine images of God was recently held. Upcoming offerings this Lent and spring include: “Spirituality of Women in the Arts,” a twilight retreat focusing on how women cope with grief, and a reflection on the Joyful Mysteries done through liturgical dance and dramatic proclamation.
The group will also welcome Betty Anne Donnelly, one of the seven American women who met with Vatican officials in October to discuss the role of women in the Church, who will share her experiences at a spring gathering.
The Women of Hope Ministry strives to be a regional center for addressing women’s concerns in the Church and society. With staff support and parish resources made available to provide these opportunities, WOH feels blessed and responsible for sharing the mission of this ministry with all. Inspired by the richness of the Gospel, the example of Saints Francis and Clare, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be women of hope for all those whose lives we touch.
— Pat Curtis is a pastoral associate at the Hartford parish. She can be contacted for information about the ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org.