“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

These are words that I have often prayed on and pondered in light of Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation.  But now, these words have a whole different meaning. They have an immensely personal impact on me. They resonate with the story of my own life and God’s call to me, especially through the 2016 GIVEN Forum.

In 2013, I entered religious life with the hope that I would be there for the rest of my life. I was firmly convinced God was calling me there, but a few months in, I noticed something. I felt like I was not becoming the person He had created me to be.

When God first presented this new call to me, I rejected it… I found so much of who I was in the fact that I felt called to give my life to Him in religious life. But during this time, He helped me to see that I found too much of my value in what I did, versus the reality that I was a daughter of God.

I ended up deciding to leave religious life after much prayer, with a deep love for my community, and with God leading the way. In that trying period of my life, when I had nothing to cling to but God, the way I found Him was through praying with art. In particular, I found Him by praying for months on end with the image of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico.

“In that trying period of my life, when I had nothing to cling to but God, the way I found Him was through praying with art.”

Two years later, I applied for the GIVEN Forum, still unsure of what my action plan would be. When I arrived on campus, I knew I had a lot of wounds and pain that I had to give to God, especially regarding my discernment. I knew I had gifts, but had difficulty finding them. And in this, all I could say to Him was, “I know you have called me here, but I don’t know why. I give you my discernment and the pain I am going through. Make it holy.”

“I know you have called me here, but I don’t know why. I give you my discernment and the pain I am going through. Make it holy.”

And He did. He blessed me beyond what I could have imagined in an act of complete surrender.  

GIVEN was a time of immense grace. It was a time when I truly experienced the love of God through prayer, meeting other faith-filled and inspiring women, and also in the development of my action plan.

My action plan was to create a 5 week program for women praying with Mary’s feminine genius through art. I grew up loving art, and it became a way I encountered God during the time when I found it challenging to pray. When I was doubting my worth, God strengthened me by praying on Mary and reflecting on her beauty in art with Scripture. Especially at the moment of the Annunciation, praying with an image gave me encouragement and helped me to receive the gift God created me to be.

“When I was doubting my worth, God strengthened me by praying on Mary and reflecting on her beauty in art with Scripture.”

Finding the healing God was bringing me through praying with art, and seeing it line up with my gifts, I felt drawn to share what I had experienced with other Catholic women.

During this program, I walked with my fellow sisters in Christ. Through art, we prayed together. We enjoyed fellowship and community. We discussed Mary’s feminine genius and how we could apply it to our own lives. Most of all, we brought Christ to one another.

This program changed me and the women around me. By week 3 of our program, I knew I couldn’t keep what I had found to myself. God was at work. Now, 3 years later, we are an organization called Behold, which provides different programs for women to pray on Mary’s feminine genius through art.

The 2016 GIVEN Forum was a gift beyond words to me. Because of GIVEN, I received God’s immense love for me: by the many friendships He has given me through it, by praying about and sharing my gifts with others, and by finding Him through my vocation with Behold.

Katie Woltornist

Katie Woltornist, GIVEN ’16

Katie’s bio