Like any superb recipe, the women’s group at Divine Savior Parish is a blend of just the right ingredients—a dash of spiritual retreat with a sprinkling of music blended together with healthy portions of prayer, fellowship and celebration.
WinGS, Women in Growth Spiritually, which meets monthly at Divine Savior’s sparkling new church in Orangevale, is a ministry that was launched four years ago and hasn’t stopped for a breath since. Mary McGuire, one of its founders, said that 90 women representing a diversity of professions, ages and spiritual backgrounds were at the very first meeting.
“It feels like God has taken and flown with it,” she said. “There’s always an unexpected surprise here. It’s almost like coming to a mini retreat mixed with a birthday party.”
Like so many of the women in the group, McGuire has grown her gifts, which happen to be in music and drama, since becoming active in it. Besides serving in the parish’s music ministry, she has organized everything from skits to full-scale productions like “Women of the Bible,” which the women’s group performed for the entire parish community.
Coordinator Terrin Henderson says that while McGuire was not formally trained in music, she’s been something of a miracle worker in creative programming.
“One day (McGuire) was sitting in church and felt God said to her she would be leading the choir,” Henderson recalled. “She now plays the piano by ear and leads us in music. I can’t believe what God has done through her.”
Henderson has a story of her own about linking up with the women’s group. The mother of four children ages four to 17, Henderson says she thought she was “just too busy” for WinGS until asked to share her own testimony of faith on the power of prayer. After that meeting, feeling the warmth of fellowship with the women of faith, she “was hooked.”
“I had for years been thinking why can’t we as Catholic women do something like this— get women excited, bring them together,” Henderson said. “We all need to be filled up with encouragement and with the Lord.”
While meetings feature a variety of guest speakers addressing topics ranging from Bible study and forgiveness to abuse of women, prayer has become a powerful component of WinGS’ gatherings. In the beginning members were invited to pick up prayer request slips which would be prayed over at the next meeting a month later.
Prayer group leader Ellie Brodie says that was before the news got out about how “prayer, the Holy Spirit and people together can make a difference” in people’s lives. Since then there have been countless testimonies of spiritual healing and peace of mind brought about through prayer.
“Many women had never had that experience of being prayed for, prayed over, touched, and felt such peace,” Brodie noted. “Now there’s always someone new seeking prayer.”
Salvatorian Father Thomas Tureman, pastor of Divine Savior, says WinGS, which now draws from 50 to 150 people each meeting, plays a vital role in the life of the parish.
“God’s love comes to us in many forms. When people come together in faith and prayer, it strengthens the church and community in general,” he said. “WinGS has introduced to us an important sign of our spirituality as Catholics.”
The organization also embraces newcomers like Vickie Cool, who discovered Divine Savior and WinGS when she moved to the Sacramento area two years ago. Since joining the women’s group, she has become a eucharistic minister and become part of a church family.
“I feel like I’m coming back to a spring and getting refreshed,” she said. “I can go back out and face the world…knowing I have women I can come to if I need spiritual guidance.”
During a recent meeting of the women’s group, Deacon Lee Ellis from the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla., was the guest speaker. His message, which focused on how Catholics can best understand, defend and explain their faith, tapped into another popular activity at WinGS—Bible study.
“Groups like WinGS are happening all over, throughout the Catholic Church,” said Deacon Ellis, whose ownership of a Catholic book and gift store has connected him with a broad base of Catholics in his home state of Oklahoma.
“There is nothing that will hook you more deeply than to dig into Scripture to find….the covenant God has made with us as church,” he said.
McGuire says that while the women’s group she helped found is still evolving, it has already exceeded the original vision.
“I feel like I asked God for a cookie and he gave us a banquet,” she said. “WinGS is a comfortable place to leave all the pulls of life and feel the wonder of God.”
For more information on WinGS, call (916) 965-8041.