Celebration of Catholic Women’s Vocations – Mary Ruppert

At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI spoke of “women impregnated by the Spirit of the Gospel,” and more recently Pope Francis has called for a “new theology of women.” There are thousands of Catholic lay women discerning how to share their gifts and responding to ministerial calls. In many cases, these women are well-trained and highly educated professionals who bring a wealth of life experience to their work in parishes, diocesan offices, faith-based non-profit organizations, hospitals, schools, and many other settings.

This post on Mary Ruppert is the third in a series which celebrates Catholic lay women’s vocations and profiles some of the many women who are enriching the life of church. Past profiles include Kate Burke (New Lectio Divina) and Rita Emmenegger (medical missioner) If you know a woman in ministry that you think should be profiled, please email me.

– Rhonda Miska

John Schofield and Mary Ruppert have been friends through L'Arche for eight years. (photo: Bethany Keener)

John Schofield and Mary Ruppert have been friends through L’Arche for eight years. (photo: Bethany Keener)

“It was a frustrating experience…at first. I wanted to do something.”

So describes Mary Ruppert her first experience of L’Arche – an inter-denominational Christian community which includes people with intellectual disabilities (called “core members”) – during a spring break service trip with Loyola University. She and her fellow students found themselves receiving hospitality, sharing meals with core members and assistants, and learning about L’Arche philosophy as well as helping out around the house. Compared the students who had gone to do construction and home repair over spring break, Ruppert felt like she wasn’t doing enough.

That all changed the last day of the service trip when the group met up with some L’Arche community members at a local church. Ruppert recalls, “this one core member saw us come in the door and his face just changed in an instant from stoic and serious to utter joy. A huge smile. He starts waving with two hands – like he didn’t have enough arms to wave he was so happy to see us. All we had done was walk in the door. I realized it’s not about what I can do, it’s just that I exist. I’m here.” Continue reading

Celebration of Catholic Women’s Vocations – Rita Emmenegger

At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI spoke of “women impregnated by the Spirit of the Gospel,” and more recently Pope Francis has called for a “new theology of women.” There are thousands of Catholic lay women discerning how to share their gifts and responding to ministerial calls. In many cases, these women are well-trained and highly educated professionals who bring a wealth of life experience to their work in parishes, diocesan offices, faith-based non-profit organizations, hospitals, schools, and many other settings.

This post on Rita Emmennegger is a second in a series which celebrates Catholic lay women’s vocations and profiles some of the many women who are enriching the life of church. Last month’s profile was on Kate Burke and her New Lectio Divina ministry.  If you know a woman in ministry that you think should be profiled, please email me.

– Rhonda Miska

Rita Emmennegger - nurse and medical missioner

Rita Emmennegger – nurse and medical missioner

About once a year while I was growing up and attending Sunday Mass at St. Bernard’s parish in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, Rita Emmenegger would speak in place of the homily. She shared the story of her medical mission work in Nicaragua and of her hospitality to Nicaraguan children in need of medical care. For me, her testimonies served as one of the first windows into the larger world – a world I could hardly imagine – far beyond our comfortable suburb.

Years later, as a college senior, I received a phone call from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps inviting me to spend two years serving in Cusmapa, Nicaragua.  It was memories of Emmenegger’s Sunday morning stories that helped bolster my courage to say yes to that call, and to step into that larger world.  So, as I continue this series which celebrates the ways women discern and answer calls, it feels fitting to hold up the life and ministry of Rita Emmenegger: nurse, medical missioner, wife, mother of four children, and foster mother to seven Nicaraguan children.

Continue reading

Celebration of Catholic Women’s Vocations: Kate Burke

At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI spoke of “women impregnated by the Spirit of the Gospel,” and more recently Pope Francis has called for a “new theology of women.” There are thousands of Catholic lay women discerning how to share their gifts and responding to ministerial calls. In many cases, these women are well-trained and highly educated professionals who bring a wealth of life experience to their work in parishes, diocesan offices, and faith-based non-profit organizations. With this profile of Kate Burke and her ministry, I am launching a series of blog posts which celebrate Catholic lay women’s vocations and profile some of the many women who are enriching the life of church. If you know a woman in ministry that you think should be profiled, please email me.

– Rhonda Miska

Kate Burke - founder of New Lectio Divina ministry (photo: Michael Bailey)

Kate Burke – founder of New Lectio Divina ministry (photo: Michael Bailey)

It was a cool, rainy spring evening when I gathered with six other women for a ninety minute session of New Lectio Divina. As we trickled into the church shaking off our umbrellas, Kate Burke, our facilitator, invited us to sit in a circle of folding chairs in a corner of the church sanctuary. She informed us that half the proceeds of her ministry go to a parish in central Haiti, and then invited a few moments of silent prayer to open. Next, she passed around copies of two psalms. Psalm 130 – a psalm of penitence – which begins “out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.” And psalm 150 – a psalm of praise – with the refrain “praise the Lord!”

Well-conditioned from my scripture courses at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, I had a knee-jerk reaction to begin exegesis on the texts. What was the original Hebrew of some of the key words in each psalm? When were they written, and what do scholars speculate about the author’s intent? What would various commentaries have to say? I felt a twinge of anxiety. How could we spend ninety minutes of fourteen verses of scripture with nothing more than the words on the page?

Continue reading