Learning I am Beloved
Throughout the process of praying about where the Lord was guiding me and how he wanted me to serve Him, He simply spoke to me of my belovedness. He wanted me to experience what it means to be genuinely loved.
The origin of the word beloved comes from the verb “belove,” which means “to be pleased with.” Jesus was showing me that He was pleased with me and that through my experience of His love He would lead me in the direction He wanted me to go.
This simple truth, spoken in such love, was a huge relief for me. It was like Jesus took off the weight I had placed on my shoulders, expanded my view, and enlarged my opportunities. Rather than the opportunities overwhelming me, they excited me!
Discerning My Gifts
I paid attention to the desires of my heart, and I wanted to weave all of these things more prominently into my life. What I found as I dug deep was that these desires revolved around experiencing Christ through beauty, community, writing, and being present to where God had me in the moment. Not only did I want to bask in the joy that these things brought to me, but I wanted others to experience the same peace I did in recognizing my desires and realizing that they were good and could be fulfilled. Jesus had filled me with confidence, and I wanted all women to experience such great strength.
Behold is Born
Pope Saint John Paul II had a great love and respect for women. He makes this evident in his Letter to Women. Here he writes of the feminine heart and invites women to reflect on a variety of responsibilities which they share, whether they be personal, cultural, social or ecclesial. He states the importance of women in the Church as well as the roles we have in the family and in the world. With his words as the inspiration moving me forward and the help of the Holy Spirit, I created the Behold Series for young adult women. Behold is intended to help encourage women to fulfill the unique and important roles they hold, not just to drudge through them, but to do so with boldness, heroic virtue and authentic femininity. When doing so, women will bring more light into the world, and the world will notice.
I was guided in this project not only by the words of Saint John Paul II, but also by my local Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis. He had made a Call to Young Professionals and in this call he provided specific and tangible ways in which young people could serve the Church. He emphasized 5 key points:
- Zealously participate in parish life
- Keep growing in faith through prayer, study, and conversation
- Discern your vocation; and having discerned, live it wholeheartedly
- Serve others
- Joyful evangelization
When I looked at these key points, I found that they so strongly connected with my heart’s desires. I knew there was a way to encourage and equip young adults to respond, and I was hopeful that with the Holy Spirit, the Behold Series would provide the support women needed in order to more fully answer their individual calls.
The Holy Spirit led me to create an eight-week series for young adult women to help them better understand their identity and mission and from there, be emboldened to share their gifts with the world. Each evening included fellowship, live speakers, time for prayer in Adoration with guided reflections, small group discussion, Q&A with the evening’s speaker and action steps to help them follow through with their goals.
Just a few of those on our local speaker team include a university professor, a priest, an editor & stay-at-home mom, a foundress of a religious order, and an alumna of the GIVEN Forum 2016. The topics covered include Complementarity and the Feminine Genius, Praying with Lectio Divina, The Art of Catholic Entrepreneurship and Blogging, and The Laity: Set Apart to Engage the World.
God Continues to Work
With Behold launching in 2017 and continuing in 2019, God has left me in awe of how He comes through for us when we truly seek to serve Him.
Not only did He come to my aid when I was looking for direction, but through the series, he also provided for the needs of dozens of other women as well! Young adult women grew in Catholic community together, not only during the eight weeks of small groups, but even beyond the series.They were inspired to join parishes, and most importantly, they regained their identity in the eyes of a loving Father and deepened their relationship with Him through daily prayer.
In short, they were inspired to follow our Mother’s example in Luke 1:38 where she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Through the witness that these young women are, they are proclaiming the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary did in her Magnificat. The Mighty One will do great things for them, just as He did for me when He pointed out the way.
Susanna Parent GIVEN ’16
Susanna Parent is a Wisconsin native, who now begins her mornings brewing French press coffee in the home she shares with her husband and daughter in charming old Saint Paul. In her spare time she works on freelance writing at her favorite local cafe. When the sun sets, you’ll find her with friends enjoying a glass of red wine, preferably outside underneath twinkly lights and when not exploring all that the Twin Cities has to offer, she is indulging her wanderlust spirit with her family. You can find her writing at fiatandalily.