This is a sneak preview of a story which will be running in an upcoming edition of the BC Catholic.
Over a hundred women gathered at the Italian Cultural Centre the evening of February 18 to attend a her-storical event: the launch of the ENDOW project in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
ENDOW (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women) is an initiative of a group of women from the Archdiocese of Denver who came to know and love the teachings of Pope John Paul II through regular, informal study sessions on this topic.
“A group of women were starting to read John Paull II’s writings,” explains Terry Polakovic. “We’d never heard of them before, and we loved them. We kept on saying to ourselves, if we love them this much, surely there are other women out there who would love them just as much.
“And so our Archbishop, Charles Chaput, gave us his blessing to start this organization.”
ENDOW offers tools to provide women with solid doctrinal formation using study materials based on the writings of Pope John Paul II, Thomas Aquinas, Edith Stein, and other great Catholic thinkers. Study groups are led by trained facilitators from within the diocese. To accommodate women’s busy schedules, the groups meet according to the members’ availability. There is no homework involved.
From its 2003 start in Denver, ENDOW has spread throughout the United States from Alabama to Wyoming, as well as to a few cities in Canada, mainly in Alberta.
“When Archbishop Miller asked me to start ENDOW here in Vancouver,” says Michele Smillie of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, “I jumped at the chance.”
|Michele Smillie welcoming participants to the ENDOW launch.|
The dignity and vocation of women is a subject dear to Smillie’s heart, ever since she read Mulieris Dignitatem. She says that the words of Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter on women brought tears to her eyes.
“John Paul had a great understanding of the feminine genius and used stories from Scripture to show the interaction between Jesus and the women in his life and the women whom he came in contact with.
“It was as if John Paul understood a woman’s heart.”
Helping girls and women to know who they are before God, Smillie believes, is the only real solution to what she calls the “big picture problems”: the sex trade, pornography, abortion – just to name a few.
“We need to ransom femininity from misunderstanding, misconception, and abuse,” agrees Archbishop Miller.
In his address at the ENDOW launch, he reminded the gathering that Pope John Paul II always referred to the “anthropological question” – attributing modern ills to the fact that people have lost the sense of who they are.
“We are created male and female in God’s image,” Miller said. “Therefore men and woman are equal but different, each with unique gifts.
|Archbishop Michael Miller talking like an Italian, with expressive hands.|
“The differences between men and women are not accidental. Masculinity and femininity are not subsets to being human: rather, they are the essence of who we are.”
An impoverishment of humanity, Miller said, has resulted from bypassing the role of women in society.
“Inadequate consideration of the condition of women in history has led to an instability in society. There is among human beings a lack of peace, inordinate competition.
“We need to correct our scale of values and give equal importance to the gifts of men and women. Historically, there has been more appreciation of men’s abilities in the outer world and not enough of women’s gifts in the order of love, in the home and rearing of human beings,” Miller observed.
“One of women’s unique gifts is precisely their capacity for accepting others simply for who they are, not for their abilities or their usefulness.”
ENDOW, in Smillie’s view, is a timely and effective way to help women discover, develop, and explore all the possibilities of their God-given femininity.
“ENDOW gives women a chance to talk to each other, to teach and support and build each other up.” This fellowship, Smillie hopes and believes, will lead to a greater love of God and of one another, and to a joyful and faith-filled enrichment of women’s lives which in turn builds up their families and communities, the Church, and society at large.
ENDOW study guides are designed for women of all ages and walks of life, including girls in middle and high school. For a complete list of all the current ENDOW materials available, please click here.
ENDOW requires all small study groups to have a trained facilitator. There will be a facilitator training workshop on April 16 (venue to be announced). For more information please contact the Respect Life Office at 604-683-0281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.