Grow in holiness
Servants of the
Magnificat, a women's faith-sharing organization welcomed to the Diocese of Oakland by the fourth bishop of Oakland, is eagerly awaiting the visit of the fifth bishop of Oakland to one of its cornerstone events.
Mark your calendar for Nov. 22.
Mary Johnstone, coordinator of Servants of the Immaculata Chapter, Oakland Diocese, Northern California, is reserving the biggest hotel venue she can find for breakfast that morning, at which Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, is scheduled to speak.
Magnficat's first breakfast meeting drew more than 550 women to hear its inaugural speaker, then-Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, who had approved the organization's presence in the diocese.
To that first breakfast, now-Archbishop Cordileone brought both his mother and godmother.
The breakfast meetings, which are held four times a year, include dynamic speakers, praise music — Sacred Heart Band is the "house band" — and the opportunity for women to share fellowship.
Magnificat's activities in the diocese, however, are not limited to four times a year. The Magnificat Prayer Group meets from 7 to 9 p.m. every last Wednesday of the month in the Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Church, 2039 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek.
The chapter is also committed to praying the rosary, individually or in groups, every 29th of the month, for the intentions of a New Pentecost, the Church and Freedom of Religion, The New Evangelization, Magnificat, Sanctity of Life, Marriage and Family and World Peace.
Born out of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Magnifcat began in New Orleans in 1981. In addition to chapters across the United States, there are chapters in Canada, the Caribbean, Malta, Poland, and Africa.
Johnstone became involved with Magnificat when her family was living in Atlanta. Its primary purpose is to inspire spiritual growth in holiness for women and to evangelize them to the fullness of faith.
After attending Magnificat meals, she recalled, "I would leave feeling so uplifted."
But there was no Magnificat chapter when she moved to Contra Costa County.
On March 26, 2008, she did something she rarely did: She turned on the television set. On EWTN Marilyn Quirk, Magnificat's founding coordinator, was interviewed by Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ.
For Johnstone, who had contemplated forming a chapter, the message was clear: "Now is the time." She sent for materials to found a chapter.
Magnificat requires the approval of the local bishop; during that time, Oakland was getting a new one.
With approval gained, 2½ years later, the bishop of Oakland was the speaker at the first breakfast.
To become a member, women sign a card, agreeing to pray for the ministry, and agreeing that the ministry will pray for them. Members pay for their meals, but there are no fixed dues. Magnificat does ask for donations. "People have been very generous," Johnstone said.
More than 1,500 women are on Magnificat's mailing list.
"Our whole objective is to encourage growth in holiness," Johnstone said.
The quarterly meals have much to do with that. Speakers often give personal testimony about their faith journey. "Speakers touch the hearts of everybody who's there," she said.
Future plans? "We'd like to see more young people," Johnstone said. Ministry opportunities abound, including hospitality, music and publicity.
An example of outreach to younger women was the appearance of Brenda Sharman, a former beauty queen and fashion model who shared her story about choosing to dress modestly in a world where the choices on the clothes rack may appear limited.
For Magnificat, the future also holds this plan: "Follow the Holy Spirit, whatever he's putting in our path."
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