WINE gives boost to women in evangelization work in the Church

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org | twitter

Kelly Wahlquist was sipping on a glass of wine, overlooking a Napa vineyard as she pulled up the news on her laptop.

Newly named Pope Francis had just given one of his first impromptu airplane interviews, in which he called on a more "profound theology of women," Wahlquist told a group of women at a Nov. 2 talk hosted by the Daughters of St. Paul at Pauline Books and Media in Crestwood.

Wahlquist, who travels the country as a Catholic speaker and evangelist, was intrigued. She emailed 20 of her female friends around the country who have leadership roles in Church ministry, and asked them if they could get together for a weekend to discern and pray about what the pope had said.

They agreed the Church needed to do a better job of reaching women where they are. Wahlquist had connected with women through Bible study and small faith group sharing, in her home Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and in her travels. But recognizing women's busy lives, she raised the question: "Were we really meeting them where they're at — in their journey, their suffering and pain, in their yearning to hear about their dignity and vocation?"

Therein was the beginning of WINE — Women in the New Evangelization, a movement Wahlquist and her friends started to empower busy women with the tools to strengthen their relationships with Christ and to guide them in becoming naturals at evangelization. The centerpiece of the effort is a book club, which can be used in small-group settings.

Wahlquist said she felt called to heal the Body of Christ, which has been battered, bruised and broken. "If we are to build up the Body of Christ, we need to share our gifts," she said.

Much like Theology on Tap for young adults, WINE is an attractive option for women because it gives them a place where they feel like they belong; while the materials present the truth of Church teachings, they're delivered in a way that highlights a woman's gift of relating to others.

"We've been given these incredible gifts in our womanhood," she said. "We've been given ... the gift of receptivity, of sensitivity, of generosity — those maternal gifts. Whether you're a mother or not, you've got these gifts. This is where we find our happiness, our joy, our peace."

The key to evangelization, for women especially, is connecting with people on a relational level. "We're not going to attract people by going to their brains — some we will — but you're going to attract more people by ... connecting with them heart-to-heart," she said. "It's what we're created to do as a Church."

Work in evangelization relies not on converting others, but by planting the seed, she said. And women, through their gift of being "radically relational," have an important role in that work. "You've been created to evangelize the world," Wahlquist said. 

>> Reading and WINE

The Read Between the WINEs Book Club offers materials to help women develop relationships with Christ and each other in a small-group setting.

Books include "Created to Relate," written by Wahlquist, which explains the natural gift women have for maintaining life-giving relationships and the key to living the Gospel fully and joyfully. "Walk in Her Sandals," a collaborative of writings from 10 Catholic women writers and edited by Wahlquist, was released last month.

The Daughters of St. Paul will host a six-week WINE Book Club featuring "The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living," by Lisa Hendey. The club will meet on Wednesdays from 1-2 p.m. beginning Jan. 18 at Pauline Books and Media, 9804 Watson Road in Crestwood. Call (314) 965-3512 for more information.

To learn more about WINE, visit www.catholicvineyard.com. 

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