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Diving Into Divine Community

Today Convivium sits down with Beth Davis and Nell O'Leary of Blessed Is She, a Catholic women’s community committed to deepening a life of prayer, daily Scripture devotionals, and creating a supportive sisterhood that stretches across North America. 

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Topics: Community, Faith
Diving Into Divine Community January 17, 2018  |  By Beth Davis, with Nell O'Leary, Hannah Marazzi
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Convivium: If you were to describe the vision and mission of Blessed Is She for someone who had never encountered your community, what would you say?

Beth Davis & Nell O’Leary: Blessed is She is a Catholic women’s community committed to deepening a life of prayer starting with daily Scripture devotionals and supportive sisterhood. We begin with the Word of God and grow as sisters as we share our hearts. We believe in beauty pointing toward the Divine, and we strive to live a Eucharistic life.

In all that we do - from the daily devotions to products to brunches and retreats - we are striving to invite women into transformative relationship with the Blessed Trinity.

C: Take us back to the beginning. Where did the idea for Blessed Is She first emerge?

BD & NOL: Jenna Guizar, our wonderful founder and creative director, saw a need for cohesive and inclusive Catholic women's ministry over three years ago. She saw what our Protestant sisters were doing so beautifully: inviting women into a relationship with the Lord through Scripture and community, and envisioned a ministry with similar values and aspirations rooted in our Catholic Tradition.

At its heart, BIS was developed for the purpose of helping women of faith “dive into community and improve [their] prayer lives.”

C: You now engage 40 writers who contribute to the authoring and sending of a daily devotional that arrives in the inbox of thousands of women. Share with us more about how the BIS team seeks to fulfill its mission.

BD & NOL: Our larger online community is authentic and vulnerable because our writers are authentic and vulnerable, not just in their devotions, but in relationship with one another. We share our stories, our hidden struggles, our heart-bursting joys with our readership. Each writer is a woman I know personally and am growing in relationship with. These are holy, real, funny, kind women who are engaging in their communities. We pray as a team on Mondays (the Joyful Mysteries!) and meet in person once a year for a spiritual and team retreat. We text, message, and talk to keep our connections strong within our own team. I watch our writers share their love and joy for their relationships with God in our regional Facebook groups everyday!

C: Blessed Is She facilitates retreats, regional groups, and workshops, bringing women who have connected to this vibrant online community together in person. How would you articulate your theology of community?

BD & NOL: I'm not sure it's as formal as a theology of community, but sisterhood is one of our core values. Blessed is She was born out of Jenna's own desire for community and the desire for relationship written in the heart of every woman. These days everyone is online, so why not go where they already are and create a community - with Christ at the center - there.

C: Do you see much dialogue between women inter-generationally or across different seasons of life?

BD & NOL: Absolutely. This is one of my favorite things about the ministry. We have a few staunch prayer warriors, our older sisters who are retired, that truly pray for every prayer request in the regional Facebook groups. The threads asking for advice always show the myriad of experiences and seasons of life our sisterhood spans. Everything from a college woman requesting roommate help to a mom looking for godparent advice to a mother of an adult child who has fallen away from the faith: we talk about it all.

C: Blessed Is She says, “We believe social media can be used for good.” Would you tell us about your vision for online connection with our readers?

BD & NOL: We meet our sisters where they are. We are partaking in the New Evangelization and bringing beauty to a place where often people feel unloved, snubbed, or left behind. Our inclusive social media outreach makes for great blossoming friendships, uplifting content, and reinforcing that it's not simply a "highlights reel" but a sisterhood of compassionate love and encouragement of each other doing the hard work of living out our faith.

C: Is there is a theme to the questions that women of faith are asking?

BD & NOL: We often hear women feeling alone as they transition in their state of life or faith journey, both converts or re-converts. We are glad to have a space of welcoming in the Church.

C: If you were to identify some of the challenges facing young women trying to be faithful in this day and age, what would you say?

BD & NOL: Because of the prevalence of that "highlights reel," young women of faith share about their struggle to be authentically themselves. To share about their beliefs, to not partake in cultural norms that defy those beliefs, things that it looks like everyone on social media is doing-- be it casual sex relationships, loathing their body shape and size because it's not the "model size," etc.

C: How are the BIS devotionals prepared? Are there topics that you find the Blessed Is She community returns to again and again?

BD & NOL: Our writers pray over the readings for Mass for the day they are assigned. They then write in a draft or two a reflection on those readings, a narrative story weaving in what struck them and an encounter or experience from their lives. They widen their scope from their own experience as a student, girlfriend, mother, employee, grandmother, sister to tie into a universal call that we all can hear coming from the Divine Word. Our editing team comprises a Managing Editor, a Theological Editor, and an Assistant Theological Editor. They work with the authors to ensure clarity and theological accuracy to the devotionals. Our creative team curates the images and social media scheduling. Off we go.

We touch on turning back to Our Lord, the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the challenges of vocation, and allowing Our Lord to heal our hearts. We also occasionally write on the saint of the day, which is always a treat to read.

C: Have women from other Christian denominations joined your online community? If so, how do you approach ecumenical dialogue?

BD & NOL: Yes! Our Facebook groups are open to women 18+ who are interested in participating in a Christian Catholic community. We adhere to the Magisterium and teachings of the Church. All dialogues are respectful and loving, with our sisters from different faith backgrounds, helped especially by our compassionate moderators. We've seen conversions happen as a result of this loving, supportive online community!

C: Tell us about your Blessed Brunch series. I understand that these brunches are hosted in various countries and bring together women around the table for a time of prayer and sharing.

BD & NOL: We just LOVE the Blessed Brunches. Jenna came up with this years ago as our foray into helping women meet other Catholic women in their area in a low-pressure, no-pressure way. It’s like a big group first date. A woman signs up to host and then we spread the word that a brunch has been announced in a particular city on our site and social media channels. We provide her with a format, prayers, and general information on discussion questions, etc. It's usually a potluck but sometimes the gals meet out for a drink. Or do a dinner instead of brunch. The relationships we hear about forming from these initial meetings are incredible.

C: How do these personal gatherings affect the BIS community?

BD & NOL: Brunches often go on to form study groups to do our journals together or our Blessed Conversations series. That is a seven-part series of stand-alone group studies on seven topics from the Catechism. It's designed for groups of any size and shape and has a companion leader guide written by our director of operations, who is a PhD in Psychology, MaryRuth Hackett. To meet in person and have something to discuss and read and learn together is a powerful, life-changing event. Often women reach out to form a group or host a brunch because they are feeling isolated, alone, or stuck on their faith journey. It's so joyful to help them along the way with sisters!

C:  Is there a particular word of encouragement that you would like to share with our readers?

BD & NOL: God loves you so very much, dear sisters, dear readers. He longs for you to feel, experience, and believe this. And you are not alone.

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