Tag Archives: women

Women with top focus

Ten percent of Legatus’ qualifying members are women. Three of them, Tillie Hidalgo Lima, Lisa Kazor-Christovich, and Pam Veldman, talked with Legatus Magazine about their professional journeys to the top. Although they have built impressive companies, all three agree that God and family are their greatest treasures.

Lightening Life Chores – For Better Business-As-Usual

Tillie Hidalgo Lima and her husband, Dave, are members of the Cincinnati Chapter. Tillie is the CEO of Best Upon Request (bestuponrequest. com), an on-site national concierge service provider for two business realms: for employers looking to improve employee recruitment, retention and engagement; and for healthcare providers, for improving their patients’ experience. It is a unique business that helps people to feel valued – serving employees, hospital patients, and pregnant/new mothers.

For employees, the service helps lighten outside responsibilities so they can better focus at work. It includes conveniences such as mailing packages, helping find a repairman, exchanging currency, taking a car in for an oil change, and much more. Non-medical patient concierge services help with things such as shopping for groceries for the family, buying and getting prescriptions, getting help with the admission process. The maternity concierge program for pregnant and new mothers helps with things from planning a baby shower to providing information on what to pack for the hospital.

Tillie worked for 13 years as a pharmacist and manager while their three daughters, Jessi, Natalie, and Sofia were young. Dave acquired the contracts of a concierge company that started in 1989 and then created the innovative concept of an employer-paid employeebenefit concierge program. “In ’96, he asked if I knew someone who was great with people and numbers, and gave me a wink,” Tillie explained.

She laughed and told him: “Dave, you can’t afford me.” However, they did indeed join forces. “My attention to quality, management experience, and looking out for customer well-being were a perfect fit.”

By 2002, Dave wanted Tillie to take over as the CEO. In 2003, BEST had 13 employees; now there are 135 in 44 on-site offices in 11 states. BEST became “Great Place to Work”-certified this year, and is receiving media attention and many awards.

Despite such success, Tillie’s heart was never far from home. In fact, the business has been a family affair. Their daughters would come by the office after high school and help out. Today, all three work at BEST. It was her daughter, Jessi, who developed the maternity concierge program. “She was able to deliver the Maternity Concierge proposal, then deliver her third baby,” Tillie explained.

Dave has taken on a behind-the-scenes role as a Holacracy coach, business advisor, and overall support person on the home front which includes picking up grandchildren after school. “I could not do what I do without him,” she said.

The two older daughters are married with children and everyone gathers most Sundays for family dinner with one strict rule: no business talk. Tillie’s Cuban-born parents, Alberto, 84, and Matilde, 79, often join them from Tampa, FL for the holidays. They came to the U.S. from communist Cuba to escape religious persecution when Tillie was just 10 months old. “My parents had friends shot by firing squads and put in prison,” she said. “There were many miracles of faith, courage, and love. My parents are my role models.”

Tillie’s personal values, the 7F’s, are “faith, family, friends, fitness, financial strength, freedom, and fun.” “Legatus provides a framework for us to grow in our faith,” she said. “Faith should determine how we live out our calling in every environment using the gifts we’ve been blessed with.”

Strong-Women-Led Company – With God First

Lisa Kazor-Christovich and her husband Dan belong to the Washington D.C. Chapter and have a blended family of six children and one grandchild. While Lisa was pregnant with her second child Jonathan, and her daughter Rebecca, was three, Savantage Solutions (www.savantage. net) was born in September of 1999. The company is an award-winning software development organization providing consulting, integration, technology, and support services to federal agencies. It has 100 employees with annual revenues approximating $17 million.

After college, with a degree in accounting, Lisa had gone to work for one of the big 8 firms and became the CFO. She created Savantage as a shell company and then merged a stock acquisition of one company and an asset acquisition of another. Her story of success includes healing from an abusive childhood and abusive first marriage. “When Rebecca was 18 months old,” she said. “I knew I had to figure out how I was going to change my life.” But then, she became pregnant with her son. “I went to therapy and started to sort my life out,” she said.

Lisa divorced when Rebecca was 5 and Jonathan 2. “I was a workaholic; it was my outlet,” she said. Her kids were often with her late at night at work. “I had a playpen and crib in my office; they would build playhouse in the cubicles.”

Four years after the divorce, Lisa met Dan at a conference. Dan was retiring from the Coast Guard and a friend of his who worked for Lisa made the introduction. “We’ve talked every day since,” she said. They married a year later in 2007 on a beach with a Baptist minister. After some church shopping together, Dan returned to the Catholic Church and Lisa went through RCIA. Their marriage was convalidated, after annulments.

Since Dan was retired, he not only helped me out at Savantage but also took care of the home front. “It was perfect,” Lisa said. “He managed our personal life and I had an assistant that managed the business side, so it maximized my ability to attend the kids’ events physically and mentally, too.”

Lisa considers the monthly Legatus meetings “a lovely spiritual date night.” She enjoys learning more about the faith and getting to know other Catholic business leaders. The value of giving back to the Church and community aligns perfectly with Savantage ideals. The company gives between 30- and 50-percent aftertax profits to charitable causes. “Just as we want to help our customers succeed, we also want to help our communities succeed,” Lisa said.

She credits Savantage’s success to God bringing so many of his “strong women” together—the leadership is 75 percent women. They even have a prayer chain at work. The company priorities are: God, family, work, and self, in that order. “And if you tend to prioritize yourself over God, family, and work,” Lisa said, “this probably isn’t the place for you.”

Building Family, Business, Faith On Sure Footing

Pam Veldman met her husband Bernie when they were teenagers. They now have five children (the youngest is in high school) and five grandchildren under the age of four. This year marks 20 years as co-owners of Dienen, Inc., Surestep (www.surestep.net) and Transcend Orthotics and Prosthetics (transcendop.com), specializing in orthotics and prosthetics for children. Pam is vice president/COO and Bernie is the president/ CEO. They are members of the South Bend Elkhart Legatus Chapter in Indiana.

While Bernie served in the military as a U.S. Army Ranger, Pam worked as a legal secretary. After four years of service, Bernie went to work for The Tire Rack in South Bend, IN, also owned by Legates. Four years later, he was recruited by his future brother-in-law, who owned and operated an orthotics and prosthetics business. Bernie managed the fabrication lab while Pam worked from home doing transcription and caring for their three young children.

Bernie soon became a certified prosthetist orthotist, able to fit patients with corrective and supportive devices. Coincidentally, at this time, they noticed their oldest son had severe pronation which affected how he ran. Bernie developed a unique custom lower leg brace that corrected his pronation and allowed flexibility to run, jump, and play. It became known worldwide as Surestep.

Pam and Bernie were able to buy one office of their brother-in-law’s practice with the goal of serving as many children as possible while marketing the Surestep brace. “We started with just the two of us and two employees,” Pam explained. “Bernie provided patient care and traveled around the U.S. educating on the benefits of Surestep, while I ran the office and had our fourth child.”

Three years and one child later they built their current office, initially with only 25 employees. Today, they have about 130 staff members in that same office and another 100 employees at 13 Transcend locations throughout the U.S. Their Surestep products are sold to thousands of companies in the U.S. and 33 countries around the world.

“I have worn many hats over the years,” Pam said, “from managing human resources, billing, accounts receivables, customer service, trainer, coordinator, facilities design, board member, decision maker, trouble shooter, even a little IT, but my favorite hat is as mom.”

Most of their children work for the business now, while Pam and Bernie are looking forward to scaling back one day.

“Having our once-a-month [Legatus] ‘date night’ with a focus on faith rejuvenates us,” she said. “We love the opportunity to share our faith and learn more about it, and how to better incorporate our faith in our work and home life. We have gone on pilgrimage to Italy which was amazing. The other pilgrims were so wonderful; we think about them often. I benefited from going on the Women’s Enclave retreat recently with other women Legates, and the kinship and immediate connectedness was wonderful.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer



15 Shared Lessons

  1. Learn from mistakes, but keep emotions out.
  2. There is value in every movement, even the backward ones.
  3. Be generous in everything—time, money, knowledge, talent, etc. Isn’t that the best way to show gratitude to God for all He has bestowed?
  4. Build trust with the say-do ratio. Be transparent, authentic, and reliable. How you do one thing is how you do everything.
  5. Delight your team members, customers, and clients by anticipating their needs.
  6. Try your best, let God do the rest. Release and receive grace by embracing God’s plan for your life.
  7. Surround yourself with thought leaders – like a board of advisors, business coach, or CEO roundtable. Borrow brilliance. Iron sharpens iron, and asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.
  8. Be a lifelong learner.
  9. As a CEO, be the Chief Encouragement Officer. Listen to your team, as they are sensors for your organization. Make people and culture your priority; results will follow.
  10. Follow the Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would want done unto them.
  11. Start your meetings with a mission moment.
  12. As long as you stay close to God through prayer, trust your instincts, even when those around you have more experience and advise you otherwise. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  13. Trust God to put good people in your life and let them help you. You really don’t have to do it all alone.
  14. Look for God in the moment, not just in the rear-view mirror.
  15. If something needs attention as a team, get together and correct it. Don’t sit back and let things go undone.

Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.


Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”


Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”


Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Abortion clinic worker’s unplanned wakeup led to conversion

I started volunteering at Planned Parenthood because I believed the lie that they wanted to reduce the number of abortions and help women. It wasn’t until I had spent eight years at Planned Parenthood that the scales dropped from my eyes. Abortion was profitable and I was right in the middle of raking in that money for Planned Parenthood.

At my clinic in Bryan, Texas, surgical abortions cost $450 up to over $800 and RU-486 abortions were $450. We did surgical abortions once a week and dispensed the abortion pill on certain days. But by the time I left, we were selling RU-486 daily to increase profits.

Unfortunately, my clinic also participated in the sale of fetal tissue. We were paid about $200 per specimen by Amphioxus Cell Technologies, a company no longer in business. At the time, the Houston facility had an abortion quota of 75 abortions per day and, while not all women consented to having the remains of their baby used for research, and while not all fetal tissue was sellable, this practice brought in millions of dollars for Planned Parenthood. 

When then-Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards testified in front of Congress in 2015 about their illegal selling of fetal tissue, one of her statements went largely unnoticed. She revealed that 86 percent of her nonprofit’s revenue came from abortion. 

Among other things, Planned Parenthood’s annual reports detail how many abortions they do every year and their revenue. The year after Cecile Richards testified in front of Congress, Planned Parenthood reported a revenue of $1.296 billion, which included over $500 million in taxpayer dollars. That year, Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortions.

 In 2017-2018, abortions increased to 332,757 and revenue jumped to $1.665 billion, including nearly $564 million from taxpayers. Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry makes millions of dollars every year from tearing apart babies in the womb and taxpayers subsidize the largest abortion provider in the country.

How did I not understand the abortion business model throughout my years at Planned Parenthood? Maybe I didn’t want to see it. Maybe I didn’t want to face the fact that my salary, vacation days, 401K, and health insurance were being paid for by abortion.

My conscience was pricked throughout my time at Planned Parenthood but I quieted that voice until one day, as I watched a baby fight for its life against the abortion instruments on an ultrasound screen, my heart was immediately changed and I saw the truth of abortion. What I saw on that screen, while my own hand held the probe so the abortionist could see what he was doing inside the womb of that woman, changed everything.

I woke up. I could no longer be a part of abortion and selling the dismemberment of children to women as a solution to all their problems. My story is being told in the new film, Unplanned, in theaters now. I urge you to see it. No one will be able to walk away and say they didn’t know. 

Abortion is immensely profitable and preys upon women who are being told they need it in order to live their best life. We need to come to these women from a place of love and join together to make abortion unthinkable, to relegate the business of abortion to history books where future generations will learn about the atrocities in the womb and how it was us who stood in the gap between good and evil and put an end to the business of abortion.

ABBY JOHNSON is founder and director of And Then There Were None, which helps abortion workers leave the industry. She is the author of Unplanned and The Walls are Talking. Unplanned, a movie about her conversion, was released in theaters March 29, 2019.

Women at work – making the conversation current

I would be the first to acknowledge the huge strides that have been made in terms of women’s emancipation. I enjoy many rights denied to women in the not-so-distant past, often without considering the sacrifices previous generations made to win them in the first place.

Women still face struggles, however, and it is a matter of justice to acknowledge where they exist. The complaint, ‘Women want to have it all’ is as outdated as it is inaccurate, yet it remains a persistent myth, particularly regarding women in the workplace. The reality is that women do not so much demand to ‘have it all’ as they are expected to ‘give it all.’

It is very easy for working mothers to be overwhelmed by the sense of being pulled in all directions, expected to be all things to everybody: shuttling children to playdates or swimming lessons; organizing perfect birthday parties, while appearing impeccably dressed, notes in order, ready to address an office meeting or seminar. It can feel like leading a double life, attempting to accommodate two separate identities, whilst never feeling completely true to either.

What is harder to appreciate is that the exhausted working mother is not a modern phenomenon. The expectations, the parenting perfectionism, the long hours and prevailing workplace stress may be trials of contemporary living, but mothers have always undertaken paid work. Staying home to raise a family (without doing paid work at home) is a luxury we view as the natural state of things, but often only among the white middle classes has opting out of the job market been a serious possibility.

In pre-industrial Britain, women would have been almost as common a sight labouring in the fields as men, whilst women made up the majority of those employed in domestic service. Many other women did paid work at home such as sewing or weaving. As Britain underwent the Industrial Revolution, working-class women worked in the mills alongside men. The tendency of English literature to focus on the lives of the middle and upper classes can blind us to the fact that for many women, the opportunity to devote years to raising children and running a household was an impossible dream.

Despite women forming a significant part of the workforce for centuries, we lack the vocabulary to discuss women and work in a way that is not judgemental either about women who undertake paid work outside the home, or about those who choose to stay at home while their children are young. With the current socio-economic situation rendering it virtually impossible for a family to survive on one income, it is more necessary than ever for society to come up with practical strategies to ensure that women are fully supported in the workplace, whilst having the opportunity to take career breaks if desired.

There is a need to take a more flexible approach to child care, with couples deciding between themselves who should shoulder the bulk of it. A truly just society would not regard it as ridiculous for a father to stay home three days a week to care for his pre-school children. A society which truly believes in giving women freedom to make fundamental decisions about their lives would allow a woman the option of substantial maternity leave and the further option of taking a career break without punishing her by permanently locking her out of her former job or docking her pension.

The role church communities play in supporting women in the workplace should not be underestimated and can be a lifeline for many women. The challenges facing women in the workplace will not disappear – any more than working women themselves – if we treat them as an aberration.

FIORELLA NASH is a writer and bioethicist in the United Kingdom with over 10 years’ experience researching life issues from a woman’s perspective. She is author of the recent title, The Abolition of Woman: How Radical Feminism Is Betraying Women (Ignatius). She speaks at international conferences, on radio, and in print on abortion, gendercide, maternal health, and commercial surrogacy. She is also an award-winning novelist and has published numerous books under the nom-de-plume Fiorella De Maria, including Poor Banished Children, Do No Harm, and We’ll Never Tell Them.

The Abolition of Woman: How Radical Feminism Is Betraying Women

Florella Nash
Ignatius Press, 234 pages


“When a movement becomes so ideologically committed to promoting abortion that it bullies and silences any woman who challenges the status quo and ignores or actively colludes in the abuse of women through abortion, it needs to be called to account,” Florella Nash said in a recent interview. Calling mainstream feminists to account is what she does here in arguing that “prolife” and “feminist” are not contradictory terms but rather are perfectly compatible, since as she noted in the same interview – “no movement that truly believes in justice and equality seeks to achieve those goals through the sacrifice of innocent lives.”


Order: Amazon

Symptoms of a woman’s broken heart

Susan Locke writes that women have different symptoms for heart trouble than men . . .


Research from the National Institutes of Health compared the symptoms of heart attack for men and women and reached two important conclusions.

One: Women are more likely than men to have “atypical symptoms” during a heart attack, and two: Women often experience new or different physical symptoms as long as a month or more prior to the heart attack.

Most people are familiar with the “classic symptoms” of a heart attack. These include a crushing, squeezing or burning pain, pressure or fullness in the center of chest. The pain may radiate to the neck, one or both arms, shoulders, or the jaw. The pain usually lasts more than a few minutes, but it may go away and then return later. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or cold and clammy skin.

Atypical symptoms, which were found to be more common in women include: Back or neck pain, vomiting, indigestion, weakness, fatigue, dizziness and lightheadedness

The NIH study found that women often do not experience severe pain during an attack; therefore, they should take milder chest pain seriously. In fact, 43% of the women studied did not experience any chest pain at all, and about one third described chest discomfort but not severe pain. Shortness of breath was more common in women, and sweating was more common in men experiencing heart attacks.

The second significant finding was that 95% of the 515 women studied experienced symptoms for weeks or even months before the attack. The “pre-attack” or early symptoms included unusual fatigue (70%), sleep disturbance (48%), shortness of breath (42%), indigestion (39%), and dizziness (39%).

Life-saving heart attack treatments are time sensitive — the earlier they are initiated, the better the out come. Delay can result in long-lasting heart damage or death. So learning to recognize early symptoms and atypical symptoms can be vital to getting the treatment you need fast. Every second counts.

SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.

HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org

ENDOW embodies the ‘genius of women’

Ministry counters radical secular feminism

For most of the last century, Catholic women of substance found themselves in a box. Betrayed by a secular feminism with a frantic pro-abortion agenda and unsure of their place in a supposedly male-dominated Church, they looked for a way to exercise what Pope John Paul II called “the true genius of women.”

Enter ENDOW.

Feminine genius

ENDOW — Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women — is a ministry dedicated to educating women in order to transform and humanize society. It has blossomed among women in all walks of life because of its low-key approach and its promotion of “the feminine genius.”

“It’s refreshing,” said Joanie Todd, a member of both Legatus’ Denver Chapter and the ENDOW board of directors. “I fell in love with what it meant to be a Catholic woman. ENDOW has really become a passion of mine and has changed my life.”

One of those changes was to take the two Todd children out of public schools and send them to Catholic schools; another was Todd’s transformation into an advocate for authentic feminism.

Terry Polakovic, ENDOW’s executive director, was also changed by the ministry. She said her participation helped bring order to her life and gave her a clear sense of her vocation.

ENDOW provides weekly small group studies with a trained facilitator. Groups study papal encyclicals and other source documents that educate them on fundamental Catholic Church teachings and highlight women’s roles in the Church and in society. Each study guide is made up of eight sessions, each with the imprimatur of Archbishop Charles Chaput. ENDOW is active in 54 dioceses across the country.

The new feminism

John Paul II wrote extensively about motherhood and women’s unique dignity and vocation. “The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different,” he wrote in his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem. “Full respect for women and their identity,” he wrote in his 1995 Letter to Women, “must first and foremost be won … beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women.” (Emphasis his.)

ENDOW began five years ago with a pilot program based on John Paul’s writings. It has grown to include 3,800 participants.

“ENDOW’s mission is to change the culture, from a culture of death to a culture of life,” Todd said. “It emphasizes the complementarity of men and women.”

Polakovic said ENDOW fills a void.

“Women are hungry for an alternative to what our culture is offering as far as feminism goes,” she explained. “I think they know in their hearts that it’s false, and they want to have the truth articulated by people like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict and backed up with Scripture and scholarship. It opens a brand new world to them.”

Women in the Church

Archbishop Chaput, who vetted the initial ENDOW program, said that women need a “Catholic brand of feminism … one that is faithful to the Gospel in every way.”

ENDOW helps refute the misconception that leadership in the Catholic Church is only for men. Archbishop Chaput said the Church will be stronger with more women leaders.

“We have to overcome the feeling that so many Catholic women today have that the Church isn’t interested in them or in their leadership,” he said. “ENDOW will provide the resources to make them aware that they are loved and welcomed – and at the heart of the Church.”

Teresa Tomeo, a member of the Detroit NE Chapter of Legatus, is a writer and nationally syndicated talk show host. She was a delegate to the Vatican’s international congress for women last February and the keynote speaker at ENDOW’s 2007 annual conference. She thinks the perception of inequality in the Church persists because women don’t know the truth.

“Women are poorly catechized and unaware of all the opportunities in the Church,” Tomeo said.

Women’s perspective would change, she contends, if they knew what the Church actually teaches, instead of getting their information from the biased secular media.

“Whether they realize it or not, the secular media is indoctrinating them into an anti-Catholic approach to life,” she said.

“Radical feminism takes the position that the priesthood is no more than a career, rather than a calling, and so it represents the last glass ceiling that women can break through,” Tomeo explained. “Education is the key to correcting this misperception, and ENDOW can make a huge difference in the lives of women.”

Youth focus

Although the study guides are at the heart of ENDOW’s ministry, the organization also holds an annual conference and luncheons with speakers who address topics of interest to Catholic women.

The ministry has also developed an outreach to young women and girls, according to Brigid Sweeney, who heads up ENDOW’s youth development. Classes for middle and high school girls are in the early stages, and the programs are expanding quickly.

“Kids are bombarded by the media, the music, the shows they watch, the books they read,” she said. “Everything is telling them: ‘Your value is in your physical appearance and what you can do.’ But we know their value comes from their dignity, in being created in the image and likeness of God. Our goal is to deconstruct the lies and to help them see the truth.”

Paul A. Barra is a freelance journalist based in Reidville, South Carolina.


Learn more

Joanie Todd, a member of the Denver Chapter of Legatus, speaks about “the feminine genius” at Legatus chapter events nationwide. Learn more about authentic feminism and the work ENDOW is doing. For more information, visit endowonline.com or write Todd at: toddswim@comcast.net.