Story and photos by Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
When the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus’ fearful disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost, he gave them the courage and other necessary gifts to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world.
“The Holy Spirit was a fresh anointing on these individuals. It changed from that moment on how they were going to go forward. That is what happened this weekend. We have had a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit,” said Donna Ross, speaking at the July 22 conclusion of the 15th International Leaders’ Conference of Magnificat, a nearly four-decade old ministry founded in the Archdiocese of New Orleans that fosters the evangelizing prowess of Catholic women through prayer gatherings, Bible studies and other faith-based activities.
“Ask the Holy Spirit. Engage him. Partner with him. He will make it easier for us,” Ross said. “You have been called to change lives. And we have been doing that for 37 years through this beautiful ministry. And I don’t think God is done with us yet, do you?”
Ross, a former lapsed Catholic who resides in California, knows about the power of the Holy Spirit to energize and change lives firsthand.
Her participation in 20 years’ worth of Magnificat-led, Friday-night prayer meetings brought her back to her faith and ultimately led to her becoming coordinator of the ministry’s Central Service Team in 2017.
Should radiate joy
Ross urged the 360 conference attendees to continually check themselves to make sure they are not exhibiting what Pope Paul VI called “a lack of fervor manifested in fatigue, disenchantment, compromise and, above all, a lack of joy and hope.”
Ross reminded them of Pope Francis’ similar caveat that as Christians, “we shouldn’t be running around looking like we’re going to a funeral.”
“We’re supposed to be full of joy and love and peace and patience and generosity and kindness. That’s who we should be!” Ross said. “People are attracted to those kinds of people, aren’t they? Because what you are, then, is the light of Christ!”
To steel themselves for the work of evangelization – and like Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room – Ross said Magnificat members must dedicate themselves to prayer, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. She urged them to partner with Mary and to become consecrated to her if they had not already done so.
“Whatever consecration you’re using, the result is the same. It’s a connection with Our Lady unlike (you had) before,” Ross said, bringing up another plus of participation in Magnificat: evangelizing their own husbands.
“If you plan to hang out with our Blessed Mother, where does your spouse want to be, but with her?” Ross said. “Align yourself with her. Be with her. Ask her. She’s our mom. … She wants to help us, and sometimes we just forget to ask. So, don’t be shy!”
Church needs to evangelize
Ross observed that evangelization is essential to the very survival of the church. Before he became pope, St. John Paul II remarked that those living in the 20th century were on the cusp of the greatest historical confrontation humanity had ever faced – a “final confrontation” between the church and the anti-church; between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. St. John Paul described this topsy-turvy world as an era in which “good” was called “evil,” and “evil” called “good.”
“I think we’re there,” Ross said. “(Magnificat) is not a ‘fringy’ movement. This is the life of the church! The fervor of the early church is what we are trying to get back to. This was a norm. So, don’t any one of you fall prey to (those who say), ‘You guys are just out there.’ Don’t let people try to embarrass you for your faith, your love for the Lord, your calling on the Holy Spirit, your wanting to touch hearts, because the goal here is pretty serious. I don’t know about you, but I understand eternity’s a long time.”
Strength in numbers
The heady work of evangelization is made less daunting by the Lord’s command that his disciples go out, two by two – something Magnificat strives to model in its gatherings of women featuring talks, Bible studies, prayer time, meals and other chapter-level activities. Attendees at the recent conference represented some 80 Magnificat chapters in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Malta, Poland and the Virgin Islands. Ross noted how Magnificat itself, which began in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in the early 1980s as “a little potluck on Saturday for a few hundred women,” had miraculously grown into an international ministry with its own canonically-written handbook and a biennial international conference.
“You tell me that wasn’t the hand of the Holy Spirit? That’s pretty amazing!” said Ross, urging conference attendees to launch or revive lapsed Bible studies and prayer groups – the catalysts for the ministry in its early days – upon their return home.
“That’s our fuel for the fire!” Ross said. “If you do not have a prayer group in your area, it is time to regroup. When two or three gather in his name, he is there in the midst of them.”
“This is about salvation – It’s not about the event (you’re hosting),” Ross added. “It’s about the experience of Magnificat. You are giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work on the people that he invites to that occasion.”
Beth Donze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.