Friday, 13 April 2018

Pull Up a Pew #9 Jenny Ryan ~ The Ryan Table

The importance of the dinner table is underestimated in today's culture. Our life is so full of activity and to do lists that time for meals gets squeezed and dinner can become a quick affair that doesn't necessarily take place around a table and mostly happens on the go. 

A couple of times during lent while the family were eating we took turns reading aloud the Gospel of Mark. It struck us as we read that Jesus went from one meal to another and that some of the greatest things he taught to his followers happened around a dining table! To this you can imagine the children exclaimed... "You see! We always knew Jesus was Italian"...

We always joke that the ideal pass time for an Italian is talking about food while seated at table for a meal and even online I can never resist a beautiful photo of some home-cooked food in a family setting so when I stumbled across @the_ryan_table while checking my Instagram, I was hooked. Jenny was always cooking something new and the pictures reflected a happy household full of children, good food and love and care for the family. I had the pleasure to chat with her several times and decided I wanted to get to know her better.

Here on the blog with us today is Jenny Ryan: 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your Catholic background.
Like one of my favorite religious authors, Caryll Houselander, I like to call myself a rocking horse Catholic. I remember very well when my father came back to the faith and my mom converted. I was six years old and a very holy priest guided my parents to the Catholic Church. When they entered the church and turned their civil wedding into a Catholic sacrament I was so proud to be their flower girl. I never could understand why my poor mother hated it when I proudly told strangers that I was at my parents wedding! We started attending Mass every Sunday and I fell in love with everything about the church. I was at a great age to be enchanted with the many beauties of our faith. I went on to get my degree in theology and worked for a time as a campus minister. My faith certainly was challenged with the gift of motherhood. I would say it was through my vocation as wife and mother that my faith truly started to mature. God's love and mercy is very much found in struggle, and there is plenty of that to be found when trying to live one's vocation!

2. When did you discover your passion for cooking? Was is something you matured with age or was it always there and accompanied you growing up?
I am so glad that you asked. It came first out of necessity, and even boredom. I struggled with leaving work and becoming a full-time mom. I wanted a hobby but I couldn't think how to find the time to do a hobby and I am not a crafty/hobby kind of person. I happened to watch the movie, Julie and Julia. It's a true story about a young woman who decided to cook her way through Julia Child's cookbook and blog about it. It was an inspiration to me and I started a blog about being a mom the next day. However, It wasn't until we discovered that one  of my newborn twins had a milk allergy that I truly started to cook. I suddenly had to eradicate every drop of milk, cooked or raw, from my diet. I felt as though I was starving for a few weeks, nursing twins, caring for my two and three year old, and trying to sort through what I could and couldn't eat. Even the smallest amount of milk would cause my poor baby to scream. As I read label after label I realized that even the bread we ate had milk. I started struggling through the process of learning to make my own bread, then soup, and my love of cooking took off from there.

3. Why is it so important to make the table the focus of family life?
The table is the schoolroom of life and relationships. It is where we learn to make connections, to ask questions, and to listen with interest. It is around the table that we learn manners and to eat what we are served (and what a valuable life lesson that is!). Besides the wonderful skills family meals teach, it is the one place where, if done intentionally, we stop what we are doing to focus on each other, connect, and love without distraction. Traditions and memories are formed around food. I like to joke that one of my life goals is to be a better cook than any of my children's future in-laws so that they come to us for the holidays. But in all seriousness, good food and good times keep your family coming back for more good food and good times.

                                                            Follow Jenny on IG @the_ryan_table

4. Can you tell us your greatest success and greatest cooking disaster?
I would say my greatest success was very recent. We are a big fan of St. Joseph in our house and I heard that the tradition is to cook Italian food for the solemnity celebrated on March 19th. I got together with one of my friends and we spent the day making homemade tortellini. Not only was it fun, but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be! We made a four course meal (if you count ice cream as a course) out of it. The kids were thrilled and excited for our “fancy dinner.” I was very proud of the taste of everything, and overall it was a great food memory and now a new family tradition.

I have had many food disasters. Goodness. I would say the worst was in our first year of marriage. We were living in a little apartment and I decided to try and make steaks for the first time. I did not have a clue what I was doing. It didn't take long for me to fill the apartment with smoke, burn the steaks entirely, and ruin our brand new cookware. We opened the patio doors, fire alarm blazing and smoke billowing out. We as we choked on the smoke flowing through the doors we heard sirens and dreaded seeing fire trucks pull up under our patio. Luckily, the sirens were not for our false alarm. I did eventually, years later, learn how to make a wonderful steak.

5. What is the secret of a happy kitchen?
We must remember  why we cook. Ultimately, like all things we do, it should be done for love. We can get (or is it just me?) stuck on our own idea of how we wanted a dish to turn out or an evening to unfold. As things don't turn out the way we wanted or expected, we can lose our temper, our joy, or our sense of humor. We don’t want to run around frazzled and resentful like poor Martha. Jesus wasn't upset with Martha for making all the food someone had to prepare dinner! His gentle reminder to her had to do with joy and peace! “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things . . . " Serving with love is to cook alongside Jesus and “choose the better part” Sometimes a happy kitchen means cereal for dinner because that is what you can serve with a smile and sometimes it may mean homemade pasta with an appetizer and desert. "If we have not love we are nothing" but if we cook with love, well then, we we have the luckiest family around.

6. Not every woman feels attracted by the art of cooking and presentation but most of us have to do it as a service to our family and for the survival of the species! How would you encourage reluctant cooks to embrace art of cooking and what advice would you give them?
The first step for me was to let go of any resentment from being the one who "had to do it". Once you accept that someone has to cook, and it turns out that person is you, then you can start challenging yourself and having a little fun.

I recommend taking some special time to cook once a week. Don’t set out to make a great meal every night, I don’t know if anyone caring for a bunch of humans can do that! Once a week is a great place to start and you may have to get creative with this time if you have little ones around. Maybe your spouse can take them out for a bit, maybe a friend can come over and keep you company while your kids play together, you can try preparing dinner during nap early in the day, or maybe your kids are old enough to enjoy cooking with you    think outside the box. Once you have a night picked out for some special cooking time then pick a dish you enjoy eating. Search the internet for a recipe that looks like you could handle, or at least attempt with moderate success. When it comes time to cook, pour a glass of wine, turn on some music, and just try it. I started with bread, trying it at least three times before I got something edible. Once I was confident in that skill it led to my desire to learn more. Find a food you really want to learn how to make, start there and build upon that.
7. Are you a clean or a messy cook?
Goodness. Messy. I am truly working on that. Slowly.
8. What is your favourite single ingredient?
I love onions. I love how versatile they are and how they affect the food. I love caramelizing them, or using them raw and finally minced in a salad. It's amazing how you can change the flavor of onions and how they can change a dish.  

9. What dish has the greatest religious meaning for you?
I can't think of one. I will say that I love all food with ritual or community. I love artichoke because when we eat it we gather around, pull off leaves, and dip in the same bowl   it's very communal. Coffee is also ritualistic and communal in nature. I love to share coffee with others because it means friendship and sharing confidences. I didn't answer your question, so sorry! But these types of foods are more significant to me than others because of the relationship they convey.

10. Can you share a favourite Easter recipe with our Catholic Mothers?

My favorite would be my family’s  no-rise cinnamon rolls. Growing up I made these with my dad for any special occasion and now my kids love making them with me. It’s a simple recipe that can be prepared the night before and then popped in the oven for breakfast. I love even just thinking about eating them with friends and family as part of a celebration.

Jenny met her husband, John, at Belmont Abbey, a Benedictine Catholic college. There she earned a bachelors in Theology Pastoral Ministry. Although born in Canada, Jenny has lived her entire adult life in the United States. Jenny and John have been married for almost 11 years and live in North Carolina with their six children, 9, 8, 6, 6, 3, and one due in August. Jenny enjoys cooking with and for her family, hosting others in their home, and is currently learning how to garden and keep flowers (mostly) alive. You can find Jenny regularly over at

Friday, 16 March 2018

SPUC Youth Conference 2018

Ettore (age18 in June)

The day started like any other, it was a Friday and the weekend was coming. I just needed to get through a double period of chemistry and then I was free. But my weekend was going to be very different. I was going to engage in something truly meaningful!

My brother and I met up at home in London then left for the North. After a two hour journey and a taxi ride we arrived to the conference centre, late as Italians  normally are, but better late than never (we unfortunately missed Fiorella Nash’s talk on the fact that women are being told that their babies are hijackers or parasites, which I heard was very good) . We had a quick fish dinner and enjoyed the life themed quiz night, team names were very amusing, the pick of the bunch was ‘should have gone to SPUCsavers’. The prizes were also life themed, for example ‘Cadbury’s marvellous creations’ were the prize of choice as we are all a marvellous creations!

The next day the day started as any good day should, with Confession and Mass followed by another great thing, English breakfast! Then we had many different workshops, I went to the workshop on social media use for the spreading of the pro-life message, it was very useful and told us to avoid the week long flame wars on the comment sections of facebook and instead try and bring it into real life. 

Then we had a talk on the effects of assisted suicide laws given by Prof. David Paton, who warned of the great dangers of implementing an assisted suicide law.

Later we had a talk on the rights of conscience in European and international law, and why British medical staff should be protected. An important talk for those of us who were planning a career in medicine (of which there were many.) He explained the protections under the law which conscientious objectors had in an aspects of medicine, be it doctors, nurses or pharmacists to not perform abortions or sell abortifacient drugs and contraceptives. It was a relatively positive talk on how justice triumphs in this case, giving us the right to object and not face any consequences like being fired. Having filled our stomachs on a lunch of chilli con carne followed by cake we moved on to the next talk. This one was given by Prof. Patricia Casey on mental health and abortion. She's a psychologist who has dealt with many cases of women who have been affected by abortion both indirectly and directly. I particularly enjoyed this talk as she dissected studies done on whether or not abortion causes mental health. She commented on the fact that we do tend to exaggerate the consequences of abortion on women, of course some feel regret,  but many deal with it ‘well.’ In addition she spoke of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of women developing post abortion mental health issues, like being coerced, being a teen, history of previous mental health issues or religious beliefs. Although this may not seem very useful to the apologetics side of things, it does help us to speak the truth more fully. However she didn't leave without giving us ammunition, the studies also said that women who seek an abortion and did not receive one did not have an increase mental health issues. Basically discounting the fact that abortion is a cure for the so called dangers to the mental health of the mother. So the 96% of abortions done in the name of preventing damage to the mother's mental health are carried out for a reason that has no basis in science. But hey what do we know we're just crazy antiscience nuts, for some reason in this case several peer reviewed studies on the topic don't mean anything!

 Then SPUC Scotland gave a talk on the work Project Truth does by spreading the pro-life message and getting to the heart of the issue by having genuine conversations all around Scotland in a tour bus. This was followed by March for Life organisers who rightly said ‘people always ask us why Birmingham, and so this year we decided to do it in London instead, in the capital.’ he urged us to come and do something instead of being bystanders to a genocide. So I invite you all to come, the greater the number the better it will be. We cannot stand and do nothing, especially since we know the extent of the evil that is happening all around us.

Then there was a talk by Prof. Priscilla Coleman who gave a stream of statistics on the effects of abortion on mental and relational health, and good couples that undergo abortion have their emotional and sexual relationships fractured for good

Dinner was next and that was followed by ceilidh a fun night of dancing and socialising with like minded young people, (we even met people via Catholic mothers!) which is refreshing to someone like me who is usually the only one in the room with a different opinion, don't get me wrong I enjoy debating and putting my ideas to the test and an opinion echo chamber is not good, but from time to time it's nice not have to be on your guard.

After the ceilidh we stayed up talking into the early hours of the morning trying to solve the world's problems.

The day started with Sunday Mass and then breakfast. This was followed by a panel of speakers who answered questions about pro-life apologetics, they helped us to answer difficult questions like abortion in the case of rape and the backstreet abortion question. We need to change minds one conversation (or debate) at the time, and we need to give good answers to difficult questions.

Then there was the highlight of the conference (in my opinion) Aisling Hubert ‘counting the cost - a winnable battle. ’ It was a tough talk about the reality of the injustice that is going on all around us. And that we must be ready to lose our life for it. ‘If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.’ (Matthew 10:39) and what is a more just cause than the defence of the innocent. Hubert told of taking some abortionists to court for performing sex selective abortions, but her case was dropped on two occasions because it was not considered to be in the ‘public interest’ and she was stuck with £47,000 legal fees at the age of 20. She was faced with a choice, to go to prison or attempt to pay the fees. After long consideration she did not want to put the burden of the fees on others so was willing to go to prison. A few weeks before she was due to pay a Christian charity came to the rescue and helped her to pay the legal fees, despite her acceptance of going to prison. We saw a harrowing video of actual abortions being performed at different stages of gestation, to show us the reality of what is going on. She compared the pro life movement to the American civil rights movement, and spoke of the horrors that they went through to defend human dignity, and told us this is what is awaiting us, but there is also a great reward: eternal life. So we should take up our cross and follow Christ.

We ended with that rallying cry, a call to arms with Christ as our model and general leading us to battle. ‘with God on our side who can be against us?‘

Mattia (age 16)

My experience at the SPUC youth conference was quite overwhelming. It made me wake up and realise the extent to which abortion is a crime against human rights.

The array of talks that there were from how to be pro life on social media to the psychological effects abortion can have on a woman kept you eager to listen as you were always listening to something different. This was all of course accompanied by good laughs, new friends and a lot of food.

The talk that I will remember the most was the last one where Aisling Hubert showed us a video of an abortion taking place. I was instantly disgusted and teary eyed. However it was necessary to help us understand the horrors that take place within an abortion clinic. Straightaway I realised that I wasn’t doing enough to help these poor innocent and defenceless babies. This really pushed me to think where to go and what do next to further my journey as a pro-life activist and to expose the atrocities that take place within an abortion clinic but are so carefully swept under the carpet by today’s media and our modern day society.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Pull Up a Pew #8 Meet Fr Mike Schmitz

A couple of months ago when yet another great YouTube video from Fr Schmitz was shared on the Catholic Mothers' wall I said to myself... 'He is the next on my list! I am going to interview him on behalf of my Mothers group!' 

Although I was sure he'd be too busy I tried. God granted for this to happen through the help of a great friend and thanks to Fr Mike's kindness.

As a mother of two growing boys I always wonder where God will lead them and what He will ask of them as men. I pray for them, as I do for all our children, that they may say Yes to God when he calls and that they may respond positively to whatever plan He has for them.

Our duty as parents is to lay the foundations of our children's Faith so that growing up they will clearly recognise the voice of the Lord and will leave their nets to follow Him to whatever He asks of them.

A phrase that Pope St Pius X said often comes to my mind: 'A vocation comes from the heart of God, but goes through the heart of the mother'.

Whenever we watch and listen to any of Fr Mike's YouTube videos with my children, my sons especially are full of admiration for him, as for me, all I can think of is how blessed his mother must be.

In the Interview below, Fr Mike Schmitz, answers some of the questions our Catholic Mothers from around the world asked him about his own vocation, the role that his family and in particular his mother played in his vocation and much more.

In our virtual conversation I was touched by Fr Mike's openness, humility and willingness to serve a stranger... I'm full of gratitude to Fr Schmitz for taking the time to give me this interview and share his insights on making a home that nurtures the next generation of priests!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

March for Life UK 2018! SAVE THE DATE!

YES! This year we march in LONDON on the 5th MAY 2018!!!

Our family will join the march for the second time and we are so happy we won't need to travel as much to get there.

March for Life 2017 was held in Birmingham (which is quite a drive from London), the weather was really terrible, when the march started the rain came down heavy on us, but that did not discourage anyone. What a sight that was: people from all nations peacefully marching together side by side in defence of the unborn. A beautiful witness for us and for our children, who came home full of great questions.

The opposition tried to stop the march several times with some success... but we got through in the end  and as the rain came down even harder on us, we offered our little discomfort for those women and children who have suffered and still suffer the effects of abortion.

Last year's experience has left us full of admiration for the people actively involved in the fight, people in the front line always ready to take upon themselves insults and unfair attacks; mothers, fathers, religious, men, women and young adults courageously standing there to give a voice to those who can't speak for themselves.

We feel very honoured that on the 5th May, London will be hosting the march this year and both myself and the older children are hoping the get involved a little bit more. It is the city where we live after all, and like good hosts we feel the need to serve and help as much as we can to facilitate the success of such an important event.

Throughout the morning there will be workshops, live music, a pro life exhibition, opportunities to pray and to meet old and new friends before the March starts. (Click here for more info)

There will be the chance to listened to some great speakers too!

This year's 'March for Life' keynote speakers have lately been announced:

Clare McCullough one of the founders of the Good Counsel Network fighting in the front line of the Pro-life movement for over 20 years.

Noel '
'Noel is Irish born and has spend over 18 years in the NHS where he worked in both psychiatric intensive care and for over 4 years in obstetrics and gynecology surgical theaters assisting in surgical abortions. During his time in mental health he supported more people with post abortion syndrome than postnatal depression and when he made his journey from indifference to pro life he suffered horrendous bullying where he worked as for becoming pro life. His personal testimony is changing minds in the Republic of Ireland where the government are pushing to repeal the 8th amendment and make on demand abortion up to full term.'

As with all big events there is an army of people involved behind the scenes to ensure the day will run smoothly. There are many ways in which each one of us can help in assuring the success of such an important day, here are 3 suggestions:


                              Image may contain: text

Could you organise a coach, mini bus or simply a group to come to this years March for Life? We can help you!
We can tailor posters that advertise your coach, we can give you our official posters and leaflets, there is a pulpit announcement that you can have along with an insert to a newsletter in your parish. We are here to help you. There is a coach page on our website and also a travel info page which has loads of useful information.
Please contact us if you are bringing a group 


2. COME TO THE MARCH, just come along, encourage as many people as you can to attend the march. Share the event among the people that you know. Don't hesitate... come! You will not regret it, come and join us. Let's stand together side by side to witness to the dignity of the unborn.

3. DONATE. Behind every grand event there are also a lot of expenses to face and as we all know not much happens if there isn't money available. People's generosity is always surprising and very moving. No matter how small your contribution is, it will make the difference, so don't be shy... DONATE NOW, organise coffee mornings, table sales... do what you can to support the cause, your reward will be greater in heaven where an unfortunately great number of children will be there to open the gate for us.

We are all really looking forward to this and we hope to see you there too! 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Pull Up a Pew #7 Meet Beverly Stevens - The Woman Behind Regina Magazine

Anyone who's been inhabiting the Catholic internet in the last few years will not have failed to notice the arrival of an innovative and unique new media presence in the shape of Regina Magazine. Fascinating articles and stories interspersed with beautiful photography and a combative style in the comments section blend to make Beverly Stevens's brainchild one of the most distinctive and attractive new Catholic media outlets. I had the honour of interviewing this inspiring Catholic wife, mother and magazine editor on my virtual yellow sofa to find out more...

Tell us a bit about yourself? What is your Catholic background?
I was brought up Catholic, in an Italian immigrant family in New York. I had great Dominican teachers, up until their Community imploded in the wake of Vatican II. Then, like most young Catholics, I dropped the Church. After learning the lessons that living in the world without the Faith teaches one, I returned. Just in time to accidentally stumble over a beautiful indult Latin Mass in the Connecticut suburb where I lived. I was blessed to be able to raise my kids in the Faith.

What inspired you to create Regina Magazine?
I was teaching Finance on an MBA program on an RAF base in England, and the idea of creating a Magazine wouldn't leave me. I think it was Our Lady. I finally gave in, though I didn't tell my husband for a good three months. We became a 501C3 organization in 2016, so now we can accept tax-deductible donations from US taxpayers. 

What would you say is unique about Regina?
If you're talking about the Magazine, people tell us it's the stunning visuals. I also think it's the intelligent, non-specialist writing. For example, we show ordinary Catholics that it's possible to have beautiful, deep liturgy without getting into the weeds in the partisan liturgical wars. And beyond liturgy, REGINA shows beauty that is possible, unique to the Catholic way of life.
If you're talking about REGINA's popular Facebook Page, I think it's the policing. Social media attracts all kinds, and we are often warning and banning people who cannot behave themselves. This creates an atmosphere where normal people can feel free to comment, learn from what we post and from each other. It's pretty unique.
For both, I would say it's the international perspective. We have fans and readers from over 50 countries.

Tell us about the team behind Regina Magazine?
First, everyone is a volunteer. Second, our writers, photographers, editors, film-makers, social media support and designers have come from all over the world. Third, while some are professionals, most are amateurs who simply love the Faith and want to see its beauty demonstrated. 

Who is Regina Magazine aimed at?
I started out thinking I was creating a Magazine for Catholic women over 50. I now have a Magazine and a Facebook Page where the median age is 35 -- about equally male and female, and about 80% Catholic. 
REGINA Trips, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on Catholics aged 21-35. 

Let’s face it, Catholic media has not exactly been at the forefront of art and design for a long time, while Regina is full of beautiful images. What inspired you to put so much effort into the visual aspect of the magazine?
Well, I am Italian-American, and Italians are possibly the most visually-oriented culture in the West. Also, I lived and traveled around Europe -- old Christendom -- for seven years, until recently. It struck me that the most evocative and beautiful sites are inevitably connected with the Church and the culture she inspired around her. 
In contrast, moderns are surrounded by ugliness. Almost everything built after WWII, in most of the world, is ugly. Now, this ugliness ranges from the banal and depressing all the way to the over-the-top grotesque. This especially applies to Catholic churches.
The architects of the Counter-Reformation knew what they were about. Beauty draws people. In a world such as the one we inhabit today, showing people Catholic beauty is bound to draw them to the Faith.
And the best thing is -- there are SO MANY Catholics out there creating the Good, the Beautiful and the True. All REGINA does is give them a platform.

What publications, Catholic and secular have been most influential in your editorial formation?
Well, I liked the intelligent perspective of First Things and the Wall Street Journal. But too much dense type turns people off, especially online. 
I also remembered how easy it was to read People and Rolling Stone back in the day, because of their interview format.
Finally, the old LIFE Magazine was a huge hit, because of the photos.
So I came up with a Catholic LIFE Magazine, chock full of images and interviews with interesting people.

While many print magazines and newspapers are floundering or moving online, you’ve taken the revolutionary step of starting a print edition of Regina magazine, what was behind that decision?
Honestly, because we were hounded into it. I got tired of the emails complaining that people wanted to hold REGINA in their hands. So after four years, we decided to take the risk. 
Now, whether people will support the Magazine is still an open question. We will have to see how sales go for this edition, before taking any more steps. (The Magazine can be purchased HERE)

Many of the most famous and successful magazine editors have been women, what do you think the feminine genius brings to a role like yours?
I have no idea. It's just natural for me to do this. Possibly because it's creative work that doesn't require much in the way of confrontation, unlike my days on Wall Street. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to showcase what others are doing, and to spread the real Faith.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Pull Up a Pew #6 ~ The Answer to a Calling ~ Jenna and the 'Blessed is She' Ministry

Next week I will be hosting the third 'Blessed Brunch' in London. I am really looking forward to getting to know the ladies who have signed up,  many of whom I will be meeting for the first time...

Growing up I always used to avoid hanging out with girls as much as I could... I went to an all girls convent school so every day I had no choice, but once the school day ended most of my friends were boys as I enjoyed their company much more and most of all (unlike most of my female friends) I enjoyed playing all sorts of sports. 

Looking back at my life I see God's incredible sense of humour. 

Today my life is very different... I don't do much sport... and not only has God sent me 4 daughters... I am constantly surrounded by women, and what is more I now feel the NEED to be in contact with like-minded women.

Being a mother and especially a Catholic mother in a secular country can be even more isolating...

We are in this beautiful world but we are not of this world and for that reason we Christians  are drawn towards each other and feel the need to form communities where we can grow in faith and help one another to focus on our ultimate goal... Heaven.

Although the world keeps on insisting that there is no difference between men and women, and everyone seems to play along with this 'Emperor's New Clothes' scenario... I've discovered that women's spiritually is quite different from men's and that it is vitally important to build a community of spiritual sisters.

The 'Blessed is She' community was introduced to me by a friend and has already given many of us food for our souls, great material to deepen our knowledge as we explored Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and has provided many opportunities to live, experience and form little communities of sisters brought together in Christ.

Sitting on my virtual yellow sofa today is Jenna Guizar, the lady who was inspired to start it all...


Tell us briefly about yourself and your faith journey so far.

I am a wife and mother of four girls (one in the womb!). I saw Jesus' face for the first time looking straight at me when I was 16 years old, and I haven't been able to rid myself of that memory since then. He has moved me and transformed my life and who I am in so many ways. The Lord has blessed both my husband and me with free spirits, and we love moving in whatever direction we feel called to as a family. Blessed is She is one of those examples.

What is 'Blessed is She' and what inspired you to start it? 

Blessed is She is a women's ministry that began in September 2014. I was looking around the Catholic Church and wanting to find a good, solid, welcoming women's community, and I kept coming up dry. Where do I fit in? was one of my main questions -- as a young wife and mother, as someone who doesn't work in young adult ministry but also doesn't fit in with beautiful ministries for older women. So the Lord opened my eyes to start something. I reached out to about twenty other writers and bloggers I knew and asked them if they'd like to start this women's ministry with me. A few said no, but a lot said yes, and then Blessed is She was born.

  When I picture God I always see Him sitting on a throne and I can’t lift my eyes to His face. I tend to keep my head bent just gazing at his feet. I always thought of it as reverence, but lately I question if something else is holding me back—Fear? Self-doubt? Guilt of past sins?I don’t want my prayers to God to feel distant or awkward. I want to be able to imagine myself holding the hand of my Heavenly Father and pouring my heart out to Him. I want to know in my heart, and not just my head, that God loves me as a precious daughter..Read today's #BISdailydevotion written by @bobbi_rol on the site.

How does Blessed is She work? 

Blessed is She sends out daily devotions every single day on our website and in your email, along with the daily readings from the Lectionary every day. We have over 40 writers, and they all read the readings, pray about it, and write based on 1. How the Lord is speaking to them through the readings, 2. their stage and phase in life (we have college students, single women, married women, mothers, grandmothers, and sisters on the writing team!), and 3. How this applies to women everywhere.

Who are the women behind Blessed is She and how were they chosen? 

All of the women are right here: They are either the initial group I reached out to three years ago (just ladies I friended on the internet), friends of friends, or women who are writing beautiful words online. I found Erica Tighe, our designer, on Instagram!

Why did you feel it was important to spread this ministry to Europe? 

The Lord really just took it there. It wasn't intentional by any means (not a lot of this was, at the start). We just kept moving where the Lord wanted us, created products women were asking for, helping them find resources to build Catholic female friendships in their own cities and towns.

Why do us women need each other on this journey towards Heaven? 

Catholic female friendships have been life-changing for me. Whenever I am going through a really rough time in my life, I am continually loved on and picked up by my friends. They know me sometimes better than I know myself, they can speak life into me when I though hope was lost, they pray with and for me. Female relationships rooted in Christ are truly going to change our lives, and I deeply desire those friendships for every woman.

Tell us about the new study course ‘Blessed Conversations’. 

Blessed Conversations studies were made out of our desire as a Blessed is She team to meet women in real life. We do not want to be just an online ministry, we want women to meet, to pray together, to hear each other's stories, to be in relationship with each other. We created studies to help facilitate small or large group get togethers for a deepening relationships with the Lord and with each other.

                                           No automatic alt text available.

What would you say to every woman who feels called to starting/leading a BiS group but feels inadequate for the task? 

I am the last person I would have asked to start a women's ministry, let me tell you! I lack organizational skills, I am SO not type-A, I have always sort of started things and then not followed through, I am simple and not so heady with theology and catechetical knowledge. The list goes on and on. The same is true for you, in your own personality that the Lord gave you. You may feel or seem different than what the "perfect" person for the job would be. But nope. If He set it on your heart, then it's for YOU. Not for the girl next to you or in front of you. It's for YOU. He will equip you, just like he did the apostles, just like he did the Saints. None of us will ever feel perfectly adequate. So we take our inadequacies, and we say, "Lord, do with me what You will!"

Are there any plans for a future Blessed is She Conference in Europe, perhaps in London? 

That would be amazing! We are organizing six retreats throughout our main regions of the US for 2018, but it would be a dream to come to Europe! It's just a matter of God opening up the right doors to make it happen. We are always open to where He'd like us to go next.