Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Job Titles: Stay-at-Home Mom and Freelance Writer

Organization: Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Education: University of St Thomas (BA) and Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity (MA)

Susanna Parent, GIVEN ’16

“My key takeaway was that I was enough. GIVEN helped me realize that I had what it took to make an impact on the world…”

Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!

I am a Wisconsin native, along with my husband Brad. We now share our home in the Twin Cities where we love being close to the charm of old Saint Paul and when we’re adventurous, the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis.

I am a stay-at-home-mama to our three year old daughter and our son who is just old enough to attempt walking. One of my biggest blessings is seeing the love shared between them and how my son’s face lights up when his sister walks into the room.
My favorite days are when I am the first to wake up in the morning and get to sit with Jesus in the stillness just as the sunrise softly awakens the sky. A close second is when the sun slips past the horizon, the twinkly lights are lit, friends are together, and a good bottle of wine is shared.

Describe your professional work/ministry/family life. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?

Every week I am blessed to have the opportunity to indulge and develop my passion for writing! I love hunkering down in a local coffee shop to get into flow while working on whatever my next project is: an interview, book review, or writing about something else that is on my heart.

I’ve loved writing ever since childhood. In school I got excited to hear about paper assignments and in my free time I enjoyed crafting poems. I remember when my godparents gifted me a notebook to use specifically for my creative writing. My preteen self was eager to fill its pages with my handwritten ideas! Then, when I was dating my husband, he took notice of this gift I had been given and not only encouraged me, but challenged me to use it more by starting to pitch article ideas to various publications. Hence started my work as a freelance writer and today I write regularly for publications like Blessed Is She and Radiant.
The GIVEN Forum helped me to recognize that my desire to write was good and that sharing this gift with others brings delight to the Lord.

What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?

In addition to writing, I find great joy in bringing people together and fostering community. In my previous role as an Evangelization Manager with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis, I utilized this strength by bringing women together as I planned the Archdiocesan Women’s Conference, or by planning events for young adults to grow in spiritual and intellectual formation, as well as Catholic fellowship.
Today I utilize that gift by helping to plan gatherings in my own community. This includes facilitating a marriage group that my husband and I belong to, planning a ten-year college reunion for my study abroad group, organizing half-day retreats for the women at my parish, or simply inviting people into our home to share a meal together.

What women inspire you, and why?

It might sound cliche, but the woman who inspires me the most is my mom. She has a gift for seeing Jesus work in the little tiny moments of everyday life. I can fail to see the Holy Spirit at work because I am not asking for it, or not paying attention. My mom on the other hand, she’s not afraid to ask. She makes her petition known to the Lord, big or small, and she waits expectantly for Him to reveal Himself.

If we’re talking female saints, I definitely had a moment with St. Catherine of Siena in the Basilica San Domenico in her hometown. From then on I knew she would be an important intercessor for me. My devotion to her deepened even more intensely after reading Sigrid Undset’s wonderful work, Catherine of Siena.

Her heroic boldness led her to playing a vital role in ending the Avignon papacy and I love the fact that she was a Doctor of the Church. People said of her “Never has man spoken thus, and it is beyond doubt that it is not a woman who is speaking, but indeed the Holy Spirit.”

Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?

My husband Brad is the person in my life who is always there encouraging me to explore and experiment with my passions. His support is evident to me by his patient, listening ear when I go on and on about various ideas I have and by his genuine care for me to go out and try them. He helps to lessen my fear of failing because he knows that if something doesn’t turn out quite as I imagined, then that is the Lord’s way of pointing me in a more specific direction. This gives me the freedom to try new things, knowing that God will always point me towards the path he wants me to go on.

What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?

I seriously discerned a call to the Religious Life while I was in college. When I was sharing with my spiritual director about how I felt conflicted and confused about what the Lord was trying to show me in prayer, he asked me one simple question.

“Has Jesus proposed to you?”

His question left me silent and unable to answer. Holy hour after holy hour I prayed for the Lord to strengthen my desire for Him if I was meant to be His bride. I prayed that he would give me clarity and confidence in the direction he wanted me to go… but all this time I had been putting the pressure on myself. What my spiritual director was trying to help me understand was that if Jesus wanted me to be His bride, He would not only woo me and pursue my heart in a very special way, but He would also be the one to make the move, to let me know that He wanted me to be His and only His.

After praying with this, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Jesus had other beautiful plans for my life.

Prayer is essential for everyone, but especially for women who are active in the life and mission of the Church. Do you have any favorite devotions or prayers?

One of my fail proof prayers is the Memorare. There are seasons in my life when I feel closer to the Blessed Mother more than others, but I always have confidence that she hears my cry and sees my heart when I pray the words of this prayer.

It is a prayer steeped in hope that “anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.” It is also a humble yet confident plea where I stand before her “sinful and sorrowful” begging her to “despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.” It is a prayer that allows me to simply yet specifically go to her with all that I hold in my heart and to do so with confidence as I entrust my petitions to her.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

One of my favorite quotations is by Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God,

That is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,

What you will do with your evenings,

How you spend your weekends,

What you read,

Who you know,

What breaks your heart,

And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.”

What were your key takeaways from the 2016 GIVEN Forum?

My key takeaway was that I was enough. It helped me realize that I had what it took to make an impact on the world, and yes, while it would take action on my part, that action would be accompanied by God’s grace.

In a keynote by Sister Mary Gabriel, Novice Director of the Sisters of Life, she shared a quotation by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, saying “When you say ‘yes’ to God unconditionally, you have no idea how far that yes will take you.” The adventure which this implied had me captivated.

Gloria Purvis set this in stone for me during her talk on Reclaiming the Public Square where she asked emphasized three aspects of answering God’s call:  Are you willing?  What are you willing to risk?  You are able.

She followed this up by acknowledging, in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, that “prayer and comfortable living are incompatible” and that God doesn’t always call the qualified, he qualifies the called. Purvis called me on to give a counter-witness to what the world says it means to be a woman and my “yes” has taken me further than I had imagined, just like Sister Mary Gabriel said it would.

What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.

What I loved about my work in the Office of Evangelization was how I had such a great opportunity to work with other young adults, especially young women, and to learn from them what they hope to see more of either in the Church as a whole or in their local parish community. At the GIVEN Forum, a passion stirred up in me to help others experience the same peace and confidence I found in not only recognizing the gifts I have been given, but also the honorable responsibility to share those gifts with the world, the gifts that only I can give.

My action plan was called the Behold Series and it was created to help encourage women to fulfill the special roles they have, and to do so with boldness, heroic virtue, and authentic femininity. Each evening of Behold is designed intentionally with time for fostering community with other young adult Catholic women, a live presentation from a variety of speakers, time for Eucharistic Adoration, small group discussion, Q&A and weekly Action Steps. Topics throughout the series ranged from “What is Complementarity and the Feminine Genius?” to “Praying with Lectio Divina” and even “The Art of Catholic Entrepreneurship and Blogging”.

Behold was closely related to what the GIVEN Forum instilled in me. To help women recognize the gift she is, realize the gifts she’s been given, and give to the world the gifts that only she can give.

Behold was intended to support young adult women, ages 21-29, in answering this call.

Its impact has been shared through testimonials from Behold participants, including women who have committed to parish communities, formed strong Catholic community with other women they met in the series, and re-instilled in them a commitment to daily prayer. Even years after the first Behold Series has taken place, I still see fruits coming from it today.