Magnificat: A seed planted 37 years ago flowering

“This is a historical day for all of us to be together,” said current Magnificat international Central Service Team coordinator Donna Ross on Jan. 21. “It doesn’t happen all the time.”

The occasion for the Central Service Team’s visit to Magnificat’s District 4 Metairie headquarters was a blessing by Father Beau Charbonnet,  chaplain, of the group’s remodeled office, headquarters for 37 years, and a joint planning meeting.

Having chapters and members worldwide, Magnificat can only do so much by tele-conferencing, Ross said, so central service team members travel annually for planning meetings and visitations with local chapters to get and give updates and for prayer.

With Magnificat’s birthplace in New Orleans, this visitation was a mini-reunion that also honored long-time prayer warriors, including co-founder Marilyn Quirk.

“Some of the Central Service Team had never met Marilyn, so it gives the opportunity to get to know some of the original founders,” Ross said.

“It’s so amazing to realize that we began with a little nucleus group and God began to move in our midst,” Quirk said. “It’s all because of him, and it’s all because of Our Lady, because she who said ‘yes’ has echoed throughout our ministry. … God who is mighty continues to do great things throughout our country, this region. … We have no idea what lies ahead, but we continue to say yes to echo Our Lady’s words.”

The other “Marilyn bookend,” as Ross called her, Magnificat co-founder Marilyn Heap, reminisced about a history of the group’s offices, first with volunteers. Then, as the ministry expanded, the group added a secretary and office space and finally moved into its current Lions Hall office on Metairie Road, where “wonderful accomplishments” took place and “wonderful, lasting friendships” were born.

“It is amazing what God has done,” Heap said. “The Lord just kept taking us from one level to another. God who is mighty has done and continues to do marvelous things for those who stay in his land. So, stay in his land. Stay in Magnificat.”

Growth of Magnificat

From its beginnings in 1981, Magnificat is now an international ministry inspiring women to grow in faith. Chapters are in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Malta, Poland and Africa and encompasses seven languages. New chapters are continuously forming, Ross said, including one in Fort Worth, Texas, Magnificat’s fourth Spanish-speaking chapter, and 27 additional inquiries.

“It’s not that we initiated them,” Quirk said. “It’s word of mouth. We don’t advertise.”

It can take two to five years to form a chapter, a process that Ross says the group does not want to rush.

“It is discernment along with logistics,” Ross said. “It’s an exciting thing when people become a chapter. It’s been a journey.”

Prayer is central to the ministry, and in fact, was key to Magnificat’s selection of its third spiritual advisor – Houma-native Msgr. David Toups, now rector of St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Florida. Jesuit Father Harold Cohen and Father Kevin Scallan held the position previously. Msgr. Toups’ name arose in prayer, even though Magnificat members didn’t know him.

“It seemed like God couldn’t have picked a more perfect person for us,” Ross said.

Msgr. Toups sent a sent a videotaped message and blessing for the meeting, encouraging the women in their life of prayer, daily Mass attendance and time with Mary, their “patroness and mother who wants to lead them closer to Jesus.”

Using the San Damiano cross – upon which St. Francis of Assisi prayed when the Lord spoke to him – Msgr. Toups blessed the group.

“Jesus is bigger than everything else,” he said. “Jesus is bigger than every problem, he is bigger than every issue. … So, we have to be reminded of that in our own life. He can handle it.”

Traveled from afar

Service team member Sara Ford, a cradle Catholic from Las Vegas, attended the New Orleans gathering. She conducts prayer meetings and a Bible study in her house and travels three hours to attend Magnificat activities.

“It’s been life-changing,” Ford said about her Magnificat affiliation. “From spiritual growth – not only my own personal growth, but you meet people from around the world and learn of their spiritual growth. How they share with others is beautiful. It’s women sharing faith with women. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the key to it – the gifts received from the Holy Spirit and how I now incorporate them into my daily life. Magnificat teaches and shows you. You can relate to the testimonies people give, seeing them come out of the darkness into the light.”

Donna McNamara, part of Magnificat since 1987 and the Metairie chapter coordinator, summed up her experience.

“In my coming to Magnificat, I was so aware that the Lord had led me there,” McNamara said. “I knew it was the path he led me to be on. I had a big family, and in the midst of raising them, I knew I had this prayerful existence of all the women I came into contact with who supported me in so many crises. It has been a blessing to have this sisterhood.”

Magnificat has published several books, including, “Magnificat Proclaims,” a guide for presenting “Life in the Spirit for Youth,” and recently released “Magnificat Proclaims Holy Orders” and the 20-lesson study of women in the Bible called “Woman Called by Name for Such a Time as This.” The Central Service team is planning for its July 2019 international conference in New Orleans. Magnificat headquarters are  at 1629 Metairie Road, Suite 3, Metairie. Call 828-6279 or visit

Christine Lacoste Bordelon can be reached at

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