The Women’s Ministry book studies are offering students a new way to build lasting and constructive relationships while enriching the mind spiritually.
Women’s Ministry, which is known for its focus on the feminine genius and for hosting encouraging events for women on campus, has designed a series of book studies this year to serve the university women in a new capacity.
Junior Sarah Stafford, a book study leader, said that after taking the idea to prayer and reaching out to women around campus to see what they thought, the ministry decided to give book studies a try.
Stafford said that ladies seem to be drawn to the book studies because it offers a more relational experience than an event would.
“That’s kind of where the idea came from,” she said. “We decided to switch from an event-focused ministry to a more relational one.”
This semester there were five book studies offered for Franciscan women, each one related to feminine themes in spirituality. Stafford said that they have met with a good amount of success.
One of the most successful study groups is the podcast study for graduate students. Emma Sisk, a Franciscan graduate student, leads group discussion in her house off campus every week.
Sisk said that she became involved in the book studies because she strongly values her involvement in the Women’s Ministry.
“It is very close to my heart,” she said.
Sisk’s group has been listening to and discussing the “Abiding Together” podcast from Ascension Press every Sunday night this semester.
The leaders of the study groups selected books on subjects about which they felt passionate and which they wanted to unpack and discuss in depth with others. The format of meetings varies from group to group, but all of them foster the benefits of a small group dynamic.
In Sisk’s group, they make their discussions special by drinking tea together. They also include a period of praise and worship to open the meeting, and they end each one with intercessory prayer.
“The discussion and sharing (are) life-giving,” said Sisk, “and the social and community dimension of meeting together weekly offers an opportunity to grow in relationship with each other and deepen our faith.”
Stafford, who leads a study on the book “Embracing Edith Stein,” said that she sees the studies as a good opportunity to build community and connections outside of household life on campus.
“It’s a good meeting place for community,” she said. “That was also the purpose of it, to provide a community that’s different than households on campus. It’s a more diverse group, a different group dynamic than what a household can bring.”
Even though she understands many people struggle with time management in college, Stafford recommended finding the time to join these book studies.
“They offer women a time to be open and share in discussion and questioning of the books we read,” said Stafford. “There’s not only growth in friendship but also of your mind and heart, as the books we read tend to be more spiritual and focused on feminine topics.”
The meetings provide the members with something special to look forward to from week to week.
“It has become the highlight of the week for the women who attend, myself included,” said Sisk.
She said that one member of her group described the meetings as “an oasis in the desert”.
“That was really encouraging for me to hear,” said Sisk. “Community and fellowship (are) so important, and I wanted to offer women a space where they can come and be themselves and feel supported and built up by one another. So often in today’s culture, women tear each other down.”
For any women interested in joining these book studies, they will be available again next semester, and anyone is welcome to check them out.
“I would really encourage anyone who is interested in joining a small group to do so next semester,” said Sisk. “It is a wonderful way to develop authentic friendships and grow both personally and spiritually.”