By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

“What just happened?” people may ask when the Holy Spirit fans an initial spark of an idea into a roaring fire displaying God’s glory.

The organizers of Women of the Well, a Catholic Women’s Ministry, asked this question as they watched the response to their invitation to women who are thirsting for more in their spiritual life to “come get a drink of living water.” 

According to Becky Eldredge, who founded Women of the Well with Stephanie Clouatre-Davis, the idea first began last summer when she served as a panelist at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, “The Joy of the Gospel in America,” in Orlando, Florida. 

“The whole convocation set the peripheries,” said Eldredge. “How do we bring the joy of the Gospel to all people? So we got this invitation from the bishops and cardinals to ‘go home, notice what you notice, pray and then respond.’ ” 

She and Davis led a silent women’s retreat at Rosaryville Spirit Life Center in August 2017 and noticed after retreat ended, the women spent two more hours talking.

“I had read ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ and it talked about walking with people and encountering Christ,” said Davis. “So this time when the women were together we said, ‘Something’s stirring here.’ ” 

Davis and Eldredge facilitated a women’s day of reflection at the Catholic Life Center this past October and the response exceeded their expectations. Women of different ages, prayer lives and backgrounds attended. 

“We thought we would have maybe 30 women and over 65 women showed up on a Tuesday,” said Eldredge. “Once again it was a hungering for community. Women who were hungering and looking for something they could do in the midst of the realities of their lives. So these side conversations kept happening after the October retreat.” 

Women from different church parishes then gathered at Eldredge’s house for coffee. 

Davis said, “They were asking ‘How can we meet the need here?’ ” 

This past October Eldredge also spoke at a “Women’s ALIVE” gathering in St. Robert Newminister Parish in Ada, Michigan. 

“I was blown away,” said Eldredge. “There were about 200 women. They were gathered around round tables and there were speakers and prayer. They prayed together during dinner. I came back and said, ‘Y’all, there’s something to this format.’ ” 

Davis said, “As we kept praying and talking about the general format, women began taking little bitty parts. One would say, ‘Hey, we could have a host at every table if one woman would commit to hosting and bring a bit of food and some wine.’ ” 

The first event hosted by this committee of women was an Advent evening of reflection, “Making Room for God’s Greatest Gift” at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge.

“We were expecting about 60 women and about 200 women showed up. And I can remember our entire committee saying ‘What just happened?’ ” We were watching all these women come in and the candles were lit and they were saying, ‘Oooh,’ ” said Eldredge. 

Another women’s evening of reflection, “Mary’s Blues,” was held during Lent at St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge. It enjoyed the same success. 

The theme of the woman of the well will progress in upcoming events from coming to the well, the encounter with Christ, then being sent out. 

Dina Dow, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, spoke about spiritual, intellectual and physical thirst and the invitation to come to the well at an evening of reflection Sept. 23 at St. George. There will also be an Advent evening of reflection speaker Tammy Vidrine, director of campus ministry at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University in Baton Rouge and a Lenten evening reflection with speaker Kate Anderson, a cancer survivor who went on to earn her juris doctorate degree. 

Along with the speakers are musicians. 

“We want to celebrate the talent of our local women,” said Eldredge. 

Because the events’ locations shifts to different churches, it’s a chance to celebrate the diversity and charisms of the parishes within the diocese, said Davis and Eldredge. 

The committee meetings are held through video conferences, said Eldredge.

“One time we had 11-12 women on screen and at one point there were four different kids popping in,” beamed Eldredge. “There was another woman who video conferenced us from her car because she was a realtor, and she was in her car waiting to show a house. But she stopped because our conferences are about an hour and very intense and we get a lot done.”

And their work is something that deepens women’s spiritual lives. 

“I find the evenings to be quite stimulating. Having the opportunity to join hundreds of women and share my faith is nourishing for me. Listening to other people’s stories fills me with hope for the future. I am exhilarated by interacting with women who realize that God journeys with us in our ordinary day-to-day lives,” said Claudia Maxson. 

Faye Coorpender spoke about the organizers openness in recruiting the input and talent of women. She attended the St. Aloysius event and suggested that next time people be given more time for table conversation. 

“My comment was welcomed and affirmed, and I was invited to join the core team for the next event,” said Coorpender. “And that’s how it’s been each time I’ve been a participant in planning or participated in a retreat evening. I’ve felt welcomed, heard and loved. The grace with which this team of women interact is a testimony to their desire to be witnesses of Christ’s love in the world today. All are truly welcome.” </span id=”27″

Davis and Eldredge do not credit the ministry’s success to their own efforts, but the collaboration of women yielding the fruit of evangelization. </span id=”28″>

And above all they credit Jesus and Mary. 

“I think Mary is such a great accompanier. I think she’s a big part of this in drawing us to her son,” said Eldredge. 

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