Returning to Mass: An Exercise for the Whole Self

By: Kitty Eisenbeil, Director of Formation

Well over a year ago we began the long marathon of COVID-19 restrictions which included shutting the doors of our churches and experiencing the separation from Christ in the Eucharist. Slowly but surely, diocese by diocese, we are seeing doors open once again and restrictions lift. We are also seeing the reinstitution of the Sunday obligation, which means we, as Catholics, have an obligation to attend mass and celebrate the Eucharist together every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. 

This return, while joyful, has its own set of anxieties and burdens that are important to address.  When we come back to mass do we want to just return to our same patterns, perhaps our same half-focused attendance, our same “Catholic aerobics” way of thinking? This is an opportunity to make a fresh start by diving deeper into our faith, but that means considering the ways the mass calls us to engage our mind, our body, and our spirit.

Mind

Mental health has taken a major hit during this pandemic. Anxiety about our health and the health of our friends and family can be overwhelming; it can almost paralyze us! 

We feel the separation from the Eucharist on such an emotional level, but then the fear of contagion takes over, quickly followed by a level of guilt at not putting this Sacrament into practice. Now here we are, over a year later, and some of us have not felt physically or emotionally secure in returning to mass, meaning the guilt may feel significant.

Recognizing and naming the emotions you experience when considering your return to mass are important steps to take. Is it fear? Are you worried about how long it has been? What will people think if you mask and they don’t (or vice versa)? What will the Sign of Peace be like?  Grab hold of what your emotions are during this time and recognize their source.

Body

Physical health is, of course, a serious issue to consider. If you are unwell, if your family is unwell, or if you have been in contact with someone with symptoms of/is positive for COVID-19, please stay home. 

If your mental health is a little shaky because of the physical side of this equation, it is important to weigh the risks. If you are healthy, what precautions are you able to take? Most parishes continue to have a social distancing section in the church, masks are still encouraged (or enforced in some places), hand sanitizer/hand washing is a must in any scenario, and removing yourself from the Sign of Peace and instead offering a “Wave of Peace” is perfectly acceptable.  But what will the other people say?? Well….who cares? Do what YOU need to do to help you get back to this beautiful Sacrament!

Spirit

The big kahuna, baby! This is where we live! If nothing else, let this be your guiding light back to the Eucharist. Our souls are fed by the Body of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar. We have been separated from our Beloved for so long and He is crying out to us to return to His heart.  Those feelings of guilt at being gone for so long? His love and mercy is infinite. 

Take some time to get back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so your soul is ready to receive our Lord. Before you get to Mass, review the readings and the Gospel and maybe do a little meditation or contemplation on what is being said to you through the Word of God.  

Maybe you previously had a lukewarm experience of the mass, or it has become a back burner part of your life. This is the time to reignite your life of faith. This is where we seek to reconnect, reunite, and reinspire.  

What makes the return to mass a little easier is the return to community. We are joining the whole Church, the Bride of Christ, coming together as a family to receive His precious Body and Blood. Let’s share our joy, together, as one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Welcome home, everyone!

God is the only constant

Dear Sisters in Christ,

Greetings from Pennsylvania! Our family has completed another PCS – this time to Carlisle Barracks, but it was just this time last year that we were settling into another new home in Virginia. With back-to-back, one-year assignments, the saying “change is the only constant” comes to mind.

I was reminded this past weekend in Mass, though, that this isn’t true. Father James Peak, an Army chaplain many of you have been blessed to know, reminded us that the only real constant in the world is God. What reassurance that is every day, but especially in times of change such as a PCS, or in times of crisis like the ongoing pandemic. 

Despite new restrictions and rules resulting from an uptick COVID numbers, MCCW is clinging to that one constant–our God–and is committed to finding new ways to move forward in our relationship with Him.

One of the ways we are doing this is through a special campaign that will begin this month and continue through Forum in April 2022. The campaign, “Reconnect, Reunite, Reinspire” (or RC3, as we are calling it internally) will give you tools, ideas, and encouragement as you return to in-person Mass attendance, invite others to re-engage with our chapel communities, and revive your local women’s ministries. 

The campaign will make use of social media, video content, printable resources for your chapel, and more. We will be kicking off the Reconnect, Reunite, Reinspire effort the last week of August with a mini-campaign designed to get you ready to return to mass and to invite others to join you. 

You are each invited to participate online as we model this effort beginning Friday, August 27. Then download all of the materials and use the campaign in your own community to begin reconnecting, reuniting, and reinspiring others. 

You can learn more about the mini-campaign as well as the full Reconnect, Reunite, Reinspire effort in our Auguest special issue of The Well. We hope and pray that it is just what is needed to help your community cling ever tighter to the one true constant in our world — God. 

Yours in Christ,

Kim Miller
MCCW President, 2018-2022

Reconnect, Reunite, and Reinspire

As we approach the 18-month mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, how are you feeling? Tired? Anxious for life to get back to normal? Us too!

To help revive and revitalize all of us, MCCW is introducing Reconnect, Reunite, and Reinspire. This special nine-month campaign will give you tools, ideas, and encouragement as you return to in-person Mass attendance, invite others to re-engage with your chapel or parish community, and revive your local women’s ministries. 

Here is a sneak peek of what we have in store for you:

The Mini-Campaign

Beginning at the end of August, MCCW will model a mini-campaign focused on returning to in-person Mass attendance. Videos on the importance of mass attendance and preparing yourself to return to mass, fun ideas for engaging your friends or members of your community, and more will be made available for you to use in your family or in your chapel or parish. Check out “Returning to Mass: An Exercise for the Whole Self” by MCCW’s Director of Formation Kitty Eisenbeil in this issue of The Well for the first resource in this mini-campaign.

New and Like New Resources

Do you love MCCW’s Illuminated Rosary or the Cider Service? Looking for new programs and ideas for your women’s ministry? MCCW will roll out a new or updated program or resource each month beginning in September 2021. Watch our social media networks and website so you don’t miss out. 

A Fresh Website

Speaking of our website, be on the lookout this fall for a new, fresh look and feel for MCCW’s website. Designed with you in mind, the new site will be easy to navigate and full of ways for you to reconnect, reunite, and be reinspired. A revamped resources section will make it easier than ever to find and use programs and tools in your local chapel or parish. We can’t wait to share it all with you!

MCCW Mass Journal

The catechism tells us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” and so it will play a central role in MCCW’s Reconnect, Reunite, and Reinspire campaign. One of the ways we will do this is by creating a special MCCW Mass Journal that you can use to engage more deeply in the mass. Beginning at the start of the new liturgical year, the journal will include each Sunday’s readings as well as readings for special Solemnities and days that are important for MCCW (daily readings for Forum, anyone?) The Mass Journals will be available for individual or group orders in late fall. 

Stay tuned for all this and more as we reconnect, reunite, and reinspire!

Together in Tampa

By: Rebecca Lockhart, Director of Communications

At the end of June, 14 MCCW board members and regional coordinators gathered for the first time in almost two years. The worldwide board convenes, usually, once a year in person for a working weekend full of brainstorming, planning, and preparation for our Worldwide Forum. This weekend was no different but extra special. With COVID keeping us apart for so long we were all overjoyed to get together in person again. While Zoom is a wonderful tool there is nothing like sitting in the same room together sharing a meal. 

Women began to arrive Thursday, and early Friday morning we hit the ground running with brainstorming and planning what the next year will look like for MCCW. Our goal is to find new ways to connect, unite, and inspire the women in our Catholic military communities and the board had wonderful ideas that we are excited to put into action in the coming months. 

On Saturday we took a short break from our hard work and spent the morning exploring our host city for Forum. We spent time in Sacred Heart Catholic Church for mass, found some wonderful sights to see, and even ate at the oldest restaurant in Tampa. We can’t wait to share all of these things with you in April! 

The rest of the weekend was back to work with a site visit of the hotel, our announcement of the Forum location, and a full overview of what Forum will look like. 

The weekend was filled with wonderful work, much-needed fellowship, and lots of prayer. We are so excited to get back to being with all of you in person after so much time apart and hope to see you all in Tampa in April 2022. 

Captions:

AMS Auxiliary Bishop Neal Buckon shares his thoughts on the most pressing needs in our Catholic military communities. 

The MCCW Board of Directors, Regional Coordinators, and AMS Auxiliary Bishop Neal Buckon in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where many of the Forum 2022 liturgies will be held. 

 

A Gift With Immeasurable Value

Dear Sisters in Christ,

Can I share my excitement with you? I spent the morning putting the finishing touches on plans for the MCCW leadership team’s first in-person meeting in nearly two years. Two years is a long time — I can’t wait to see our team again. As I write, the location of the meeting is being kept under wraps because we don’t want to spoil the announcement of our Forum 2022 location, but by the time you read this, you will know that we will be gathering in Tampa in April 2022 for our first post-pandemic Worldwide Forum! Can you see why I am so excited?

These in-person meetings are so important for our team and our ministry. The time together allows us to make great strides on the projects and initiatives that are most pressing. Being on the ground in our Forum host city provides great opportunities for planning and prep work. But most importantly, the time together allows us to grow as a team. 

If military life has taught us anything (not to mention the extreme circumstances of the past 18 months), it is that being together is a gift with immeasurable value. This issue of The Well is like a mini-celebration of that theme — togetherness. 

You will read more about our in-person meeting and find out what our team accomplished together during our time in Tampa. We’ve included an update about what all the women of MCCW accomplished when we came together to support our co-sponsored seminarians. Our history feature will share the stories of many women who came together to make the Fort Carson CWOC what it is today. And you will see a beautiful ad promoting our next opportunity for ALL of us to gather – Forum 2022 (did I mention it will be in Tampa next April?).

I hope that as our world slowly returns to a more normal footing, you are experiencing the joy of togetherness as well. And I am praying that those reunions will continue until next year when we can all be together at Forum!

Yours in Christ,

Kim Miller
President, 2020-2022

Recognizing Our Volunteers: Kelli Powell

Organizations like MCCW exist because of the good work of volunteers. Some of those volunteers are out in front, performing tasks we see and that are easy to identify. The work being done by other volunteers is harder to see – it is all behind the scenes, and you might not even know it is being done or that it needs to be done. 

That is the kind of work done month after month by Kelli Powell, MCCW’s digital resource manager. Kelli transcribes the minutes from MCCW’s board meetings, manages our distribution lists, manages all of our @mccw.org email accounts, and does so much more. In the past few months, she has coordinated several password resets for our accounts – a task that comes with no shortage of one-on-one troubleshooting and an enormous number of details to keep straight. Kelli does all of this quietly and efficiently, and because of her work, the rest of MCCW keeps humming along doing the flashier, public tasks. Kelli – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your commitment to our ministry!

One for the History Books

By: Eleanor Gentilini

There are many women’s ministry groups at military chapels around the world, and although they are all different in many ways, there is a common thread of SERVICE. One of the groups that has personified this virtue for decades is Our Lady of Fort Carson in Colorado. After recently attending funerals for some of our former members and remembering their legacy of service, I was prompted to make known the contributions of eight remarkable women I have known who have gone to their eternal reward. Those of you who have been with MCCW for a while and have attended conferences, retreats, and forums, may remember them and enjoy knowing a little more about each of them.

Adele Doefler (2007) – a petite German woman who always looked as if she stepped out of a fashion magazine. After knee or hip surgery, she quickly returned to wearing her spike high heels and never missed a beat.

Erika Wittman (2012) – served on the board as Vice President, was a Lector at Mass, sang in the choir, and was a Master Gardener who shared her love of plants and flowers. She especially enjoyed the beautiful grounds at our regional retreat twice held in Malibu.

Kathy Wallace (2013) – when the chapel had no parish coordinator, Kathy maintained all the Religious Education, Volunteer Hour, and Sacramental records. She also served several terms as Treasurer and continued serving MCCW through 10 years of dialysis.

Catherine Maxwell (2016) –  led a weekly prayer group for vocations, for the sick and suffering, and for all in need of prayer. She also organized a Divine Mercy Novena. Catherine also sent birthday cards to each of our members every year, counted the offerings, and sang in the choir.

Kathleen Whitehead (2020) – Known to all as Kit, served as Co-President for several terms with Pat Vacik whom she had known from previous chapels. As a Lector, Kit made the Word of God come alive. She was always active in the chapel community while caring for her severely handicapped sister. 

Maria Ryan (2020) – former active duty service member, hospital pharmacy volunteer, altar linen minister, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and member of the advisory board to the Commander of Fort Carson. Maria’s devotion to the Blessed Mother led her to make four pilgrimages to Medjugorje.

Pat Vacik (2020) – Served as Co-President for several terms with her friend and buddy, Kit Whitehead. Pat always had an interesting tale to entertain. In later years, when symptoms of childhood polio returned to cause a myriad of problems, Pat carried on with her positive spirit.

Ursula Ramos (2021) – Red Cross volunteer for decades, organizer of Lenten Soup Suppers (cooking to set-up to clean-up), and maker of baby hats for preemies born at the post hospital. In 2004, she carried the Olympic torch as it passed through Colorado Springs enroute to Salt Lake City. Ursula was the most recent to pass away in May of this year; she was 98.

All of these women gave so much of themselves throughout the years and touched so many lives, that we are forever grateful. I can picture them continuing one big eternal MCCW Conference together.

Tell Us Your Story: Do you have a story about a special CWOC or MCCW sister in Christ who has passed on? Send a short vignette with the year of her passing and a photo (if available) to historian@mccw.org. We will catalog these stories in our MCCW history archives. 

Prayers for Our Promised Priests: A Vigil in the Archdiocese Where the Sun Never Sets

By: Denise Hummel, Director at Large

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”  Matthew 18:20

Our first-ever prayer vigil was an enormous success! MCCW ladies, from all around the globe, connected over Zoom and united in prayer. During the entire 24-hour vigil, never once was a Sister in Christ left alone to pray. Reflections from our guest speakers inspired those who were virtually gathered. The greatest highlight was hearing the vocation stories from the AMS co-sponsored seminarians. Many of the reflections can be found on our Youtube channel.

The goal was to encourage the women of MCCW to adopt a sense of spiritual maternity and begin to pray more intentionally and fervently for the young men discerning their call to the priesthood. We surpassed our expectations and goals. 

In the weeks from Pentecost Sunday to the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we initiated a stewardship campaign and raised over $5,000 from our PayPal online donations. Thank you to all of you who sent in a donation via our website. To those of you who mailed a check, we also thank you for your generosity.  If you made a contribution, please complete this form. Once our Director of Stewardship receives your completed Google form, she will mail you a thank you note and gift.  

We thank you for showing your love and support to the AMS co-sponsored seminarians. We know all MCCW members are dedicated to praying together for our promised priests. Your generous financial contributions to the MCCW perpetual charity help the formation of future promised priests.  

With Love: From the Holy Spirit to the Sacred Heart

By Kitty Eisenbeil, Director of Formation

We did a remarkable thing, us women of the MCCW. Devoting time to prayer, specific time with specific intentions, for the sake of our beloved seminarians and promised priests, was a unique gift. This required sacrifice, some suffering, discomfort, and intentional thought and action. All for something of which we will most likely not see the fruits. It is beyond our time and space, the graces that will fill these young men for whom we prayed.

Let’s talk about how God uses time, space, tradition, and intentions. While we might say things just happened to line up, it is by no accident that we brought our 24-hours of prayer to reality on the feast of Pentecost, where we remembered how the disciples were enlivened with the Holy Spirit, their hearts set on fire with love, and finally found their way from their hiding places to reach the corners of the world to speak that love into the world. The Paraclete, literally meaning “to call alongside”, drew them out and walked with them as the Incarnate God once did, now exposing to them more fully what Divine Love is.

And here we have ended our call to support these young men, our seminarians, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. This devotion, brought into existence through St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, is a devotion to realizing absolute and all-encompassing love. When you read the autobiography of this saint, you may be struck with the suffering Christ spoke of to her.  Is this what He wants her to know about His heart? How He suffers? No. Not at all. He sets His Sacred Heart, one full of unending and exceedingly beautiful love, against the degradation of a sinful world. How clearly and magnificently it shines! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) remarks on the Sacred Heart: “‘He has loved us all with a human heart.’ For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that… love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings without exception” (#478). St Margaret Mary’s words barely touch it when she said, “Could you realize what happiness it is to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you would despise all else to love but it alone.” 

But why is this important in our call to pray for and support our priests? Do we know what we pray for when we ask God to bless our priests? A priest stands as the Person of Christ when he celebrates the sacraments. And this is not figurative speech; he literally is the channel by which Christ enters into our lives through baptism, confession, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, anointing of the sick, and, most frequently and expressly, the Eucharist. His hands, his mouth, his eyes, and his ears are used completely by Christ. So, what of his heart? Is not his heart transformed into the Sacred Heart? In order to unite himself fully with Christ, wouldn’t it seem best for him to take on the wounds of Christ, including His pierced heart? More importantly, when he takes on these wounds, does he not then take on that unending and divine love, which obliterates the sins of the world and gathers the beloved to His Heart?  Christ told St. Margaret Mary, “The infinite riches of My Heart will supply for and equalize everything.” When the heart of a priest is united in the Sacred Heart of Christ, he draws our hearts more perfectly to receive the infinite riches and be equalized in Christ.  

So we pray in a two-fold way: that the hearts of our priests and seminarians are united more perfectly in the Sacred Heart of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit will call them alongside Himself to love more perfectly the Beloved of Christ – His Bride – His Church, and all of us.

Want to read more?

  • The Autobiography of Saint Margaret Mary
  • Dear Father: A Message of Love for Priests by Catherine De Hueck Doherty

Transitional Whirlwind: Balancing the Calm and Chaos

Dear Sisters in Christ,

It has been a whirlwind since I last wrote to you! We wrapped up the five virtual retreats, held regional and worldwide discernment processes, welcomed several new team members, and kept the gears spinning on many MCCW projects and efforts. MCCW feels a bit like that image of the duck – calm and gliding across the water on top and kicking like crazy underwater to keep afloat and moving forward. 

One of the things we are working on behind the scenes is our eventual return to in-person programming. Like you, we are very eager to re-connect and reunite in person. Also like you, we aren’t exactly sure when that will happen. We are working hard on plans for both our European Regional Retreat this fall and for Forum 2022 next spring so that we will be ready to gather with you as soon as it is possible. (On that note – be watching our social media next month for some teasers on the Forum location, and stay tuned late in June for the BIG announcement.)

We have also been looking at the best ways to connect, unite, and inspire our sisters in Christ in the Asian Region. Because of continued pandemic restrictions, our team has decided that the Asian Regional Retreat this year will be virtual, planning is underway for an amazing event. We’ve roped in AMS Auxiliary Bishop Muhm and we are putting into practice all the lessons learned from our virtual events last month to bring our sisters in the Asian Region an amazing retreat. More details to come soon!

In the meantime, our team has continued to find ways, both tested and new, to inspire you from afar. Read on to learn about a tried and true MCCW resource that will help your chapel-level women’s ministry plan the way forward. Also, find how we are planning to unite our global sisterhood in prayer for the AMS co-sponsored seminarians, our promised priests. 

Finally, know that amid all of our frantic paddling, we are making time to pray for you. We pray for the individual intentions you share in our social media community, we pray for your ministries, and we pray for you as part of our global military family. Please keep us in your prayers, too!

Yours in Christ,

Kim Miller

MCCW President, 2020-2022