Category Archives: Empowered Catholic Women (ECW)

ECW: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.” ~St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

A lot has been in the news lately regarding immigrants. From reforming legislation, to building a wall, to stricter vetting procedures, to blocking people from specific countries, there are many opinions on the issue. Regardless of where you might stand politically, as Christians we are called to welcome the stranger.  To treat everyone as Christ. This certainly includes immigrants and refugees. Most of us can trace our family history back and see that at some point, our ancestors were immigrants, too.  To hear the stories of immigrants, whether from history books or our own family members, whether hundreds of years ago or here and now, we know that there are many struggles they face.

The next empowered Catholic woman I want you to meet in this ECW series made a huge difference in the lives of immigrants, so much so that she is the patron Saint of immigrants!

Born in Italy in 1850, she spent most of her life battling health issues. In fact, when she first wished to join the religious congregation of Daughters of the Sacred Heart at just 18 years old, she was turned down for poor health. Instead, she was urged to teach at a girls school where she was quite influential. In 1877 she officially took her views becoming Mother Cabrini. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart with six other women. The Missionary Sisters founded seven homes, a free school and nursery to help poor children in schools and hospitals…all in the first five years!

Pope Leo XIII asked her to continue her work in New York City to help the Italian immigrants in the area in 1889. Despite facing many setbacks and even being told she should just go back to Italy, she continued on with her calling.  She taught the Italian immigrants, opened homes for orphans, and founded hospitals.  In fact, she founded 67 institutions including orphanages, schools, and hospitals across the United States including New York, Colorado, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as South America and Europe.

She became a citizen of the United States in 1909. In 1917 she died at the age of 67.  She was canonized in 1946 and her feast day is November  13. In 1996 she was named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Wow!

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was not wealthy, not a celebrity, not a politician.  She didn’t have much in terms of earthly possessions or worldly status, but she did have the Holy Spirit guiding her and through the Lord’s guidance she found a way to live out her calling and make a tremendous difference in the lives of countless people, particularly immigrants.  She was certainly not held back by being a woman!

As politics become heated and discussions on immigration become more prevalent in America, let us ask for the intercession of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, to guide world leaders in making policies to help those in need, and to guide us in our own lives to follow the Lord’s call. May we see by the example of this empowered Catholic woman that there is nothing we cannot do when the Holy Spirit is working within us.

+St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us+

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ECW: The Blessed Virgin Mary

The first ECW (empowered Catholic woman) I want to focus on in this series is Our Blessed Mother. She goes by many titles: Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, and many more. When looking at women honored and respected by the Catholic Church, you can’t get much greater than Mary. In fact, Mary is so much a part of our Catholic faith that it can be easy to take her for granted and not realize what a immense blessing she is.

From the first moment we meet Mary in the Bible, we meet a strong woman who does the Lord’s will fully and without reservation. She says YES to the Lord when asked to be the mother of the Son of God, even while she does not fully understand how this will happen. (Luke 1:26-38) Being a young, unwed virgin and finding out she was with child, she certainly had reason to say no. She could have been stoned for adultery! But she trusted in God’s perfect plan for her. That’s a pretty strong woman!

She visits her cousin Elizabeth who addresses her as most blessed among women. (Luke 1:42) And while Mary acknowledges that all generations will indeed call her blessed, she does not keep the praise for herself. She does not brag to Elizabeth  about how she was chosen or how righteous she is. No. She is quick to give all glory and praise to God. (Luke 1:46-55) And still today this is what she does. By acting as our mother, she does not take away from God but rather magnifies Him, points us toward Him and gently nudges us closer to her Son, the Savior of the world!

But Mary’s YES to the Lord’s will didn’t end there. It was more than a YES to have a baby, it was a YES to endure all that would come with being the Mother of God.  She travelled nine months pregnant on a donkey to a strange land and had her baby surrounded by animals and shepherds instead of family and friends. (Luke 2:1-20) She left the people she had known to escape to Egypt to save her son from Herod’s killing. (Matthew 2:13-17) And when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, she was met with the words of praise for the Messiah…along with a foretelling of the pain she  would endure because of her YES (and you yourself a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35)  But she didn’t complain. She didn’t run or hide or say to God, I’m done now this is all too much. No. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary raised Jesus and was with Him for 30 years.  After hearing those prophecies, I can’t help but wonder if she found herself during those 30 years thinking when will it happen? How will it happen? Can’t we just stay like this happy and together? Even if she felt this way, she never allowed it to interfere with what the Lord willed. She did not give in to temptation and hold her Son back from fulfilling His life-saving mission. Quite the opposite! After all, it was through Mary’s  intercession that Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. (John :1-12)

Those three years of His ministry must have been filled with joy and also pain for Our Lady. Surely she was amazed by the wondrous deeds He performed, the loving message He shared, His courage to speak out for what was right. And yet as people spoke out against Him, tried to trick Him into speaking against the Scripture, called Him names and plotted against Him, I am sure her heart was heavy. What mother wants to see her child ridiculed and spoken of in such a manner? Still the pain she faced in watching Him treated this way during His ministry was nothing compared to the pain of watching her only son put to death on the cross 

Jesus’s crucifixion was beyond difficult for His followers to face. They were confused, filled with sorrow and dismay and fear. So troubling was His suffering and death, that we do not see them present with Him at His death. They followed Him for years but in the final moments could not stay beside Him.  Mary was by His side to the very end and beyond. (John 19:25-27) She did not accompany Him to Calvary to beg that He change what was to happen, to scream for the soldiers  to stop, to say to Him as did the others, “save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) No. She stood, stood, at the foot of the cross silently. Not buckled in grief or crumpled on the ground weeping, although perhaps inside she wanted to do nothing more than just that. She trusted fully in the Lord and through Him was given the remarkable strength to stand there while watching her son suffer and die because, though she may not have understood it, she knew that this was His plan and she was not going to go against His will. And after He rose from the dead, and even after He ascended into Heaven, she remained faithful to the Lord and devoted herself to prayer with the disciples. (Acts 1:14)

What incredible faith! We can learn so much from Mary’s example of obedience to the Father. She said YES to have a baby, but she also said YES to every bit of suffering and every moment of joy. She knows what it is to suffer. She knows that there is pain in this world because she has lived it. And now from her place in heaven, she hears our cries and seeks to draw us ever closer to her son, Jesus Christ. She wants to console us in our grief and sorrow by sending us into His loving, outstretched arms where she knows we will find peace.  She wants to share in our joy when we see the glory of God displayed in our lives.  She loves us as her children, for she is our mother. 

When it comes to empowered Catholic women, perhaps none was more filled with the Holy Spirit than Mary. And what a tremendous gift that we have her, not only as an example to look up to and admire, but also as an advocate for us! She is not just a distant holy woman we can read about and that’s that. She is present to us here and now through the the communion of Saints to pray for us and guide us on our faith journey. May we learn from her  example to live according to God’s will for us and to accept our joys and our sufferings.  And when we find ourselves struggling to do so, may we turn to her that she may intercede for us and bring  us closer to God. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

Empowered Catholic Women


What does it mean to be empowered? Particularly as a woman? 

I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile. As many of you know, I struggled with infertility for years and was blessed with a miracle baby boy just six months ago. As I started to think about what direction to take this blog in, this is the question that lit the fire within me

What does it mean to be an empowered woman?

In the months since I published my last post, mainstream media here in America has had a lot to say on the topic. With the election of Donald Trump as President, so-called champions of women’s rights and feminists have come out in full force to demonstrate the importance of women and to empower women to make a difference and be all they can be.  

Or at least that is the message they claim to send.  But in reality, many of these groups seem to think an empowered woman is only one who thinks like them. After all, only one who supports all women’s rights, including the rights to birth control and abortion, could truly be empowered as a woman. And so conservative organizations and the Catholic Church in particular are seen to be “anti-woman.” A Church refusing to allow women priests, opposing birth control and abortion must be opposed to the success of women, right? That crazy Catholic Church just wants all the women to stay home and keep house and have babies and never contribute anything more to society…at least this is the message that seems to prevail. But let’s really think about what empowerment means.

Empowerment, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “authority or power given to someone to do something.” By this definition, it seems the most empowered women would be those receiving their power and authority from the highest source.  Whoever has the highest authority themselves would be able to bestow the greatest authority onto another to do great things.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18

Of course our Lord and Savior holds the highest authority! So those who act according to His will are certainly empowered to do great things.  The Catholic Church, the church that Christ Himself founded, believes this to be true also. In fact, those who follow the will of the Lord and live extraordinary lives of faithfulness are recognized by being pronounced as Saints. And sainthood is not limited to men! In fact, many of the most influential Saints in the Church were women! Catholic women who were empowered by the Holy Spirit, who used the gifts given to them by Jesus Christ who holds all authority, and who accomplished great things. Things like becoming scholars, fighting battles, founding hospitals and schools, caring for immigrants, going to places no one else would to care for the poor, the sick, and the dying. They were women who risked their lives to do the will of the Lord. Women who perhaps received little to no recognition in the secular world for their greatness, but who were instead honored by the Catholic Church. Certainly doesn’t seem very anti-woman to me!  The Church shows us through these amazing women that to be empowered means embracing the gifts God has given us to do the things He calls us to. Women have special and unique gifts that allow us to do incredible things. 

Over the next several weeks, I’d like to highlight just a few of these inspiring women. Women who live thousands of years ago, and women from our own lifetime. Women who are mothers, teachers, scholars, and more.  Women from various backgrounds and walks of life who had one thing in common; they were empowered Catholic women.

Follow along with the ECW (Empowered Catholic Women) series weekly to learn more about amazing women of faith including…

Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Joan of Arc

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

…and more!