December 16, 2015
Canyon—Our story begins with one single lady in the spring of 2012.
This young lady had gone through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program at St. Ann’s Church and was wondering what was next for her, now that RCIA classes were over and she had been received into the Church.
What she was really asking for was a group that would support her—a group of young ladies that would support her in her new life, in her new journey as a Catholic.
Enter Cindy Lewis into our story.
Lewis, a kindergarten teacher at Wolflin Elementary School in Amarillo, whose husband Brian is a Deacon Candidate for the Diocese of Amarillo, met with the young lady and both realized there was not a single ladies’ group at St. Ann’s or in the diocese.
“So when I approached Father (Phu T.) Phan (then-pastor at St. Ann’s), wanting to know the name of someone who could lead such a group, I realized that when he tapped his temple and looked at me with that twinkle in his eye it meant that I was going to be in charge of something,” she said.
After much time in prayer, Lewis agreed to take charge and thus began the Blessed Kateri Single Ladies Group, which became the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group upon the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha on Oct. 21, 2012.
“Rather than meeting at church, Father Phan encouraged us to meet in a home environment,” Lewis said. “So the group began in our home and has continued there.”
The St. Kateri Single Ladies Group is fashioned after the TOOLs (Teams of Our Lady) group.
“Our meetings begin Monday nights at 6:00 with a meal,” Lewis said. “While we are eating, we go around the table and each person has the opportunity to talk about their highs and lows, the challenges, blessings and opportunities God has given them during the previous week. As each person is sharing, no one else can ask questions or comment. That is a very difficult thing to learn to do, but it has helped us to be attentive listeners and to really learn sometimes beyond the words, sometimes in the spaces between the words, where the emotions and feelings are showing. And so, we listen to each person sharing their highs and lows.
“About halfway around the table, we pause and go back for seconds and finish going around the table, sharing our highs and lows and how God is blessing us, even in times of difficulty. Then we break to get dessert, and as we are around the table eating dessert, that’s when we share with others those comments or questions. You hear comments like ‘That’s happened to me one time,’ or ‘I need more information,’ or ‘I’d like to pray with you about this, can you give me more information?’ After we’ve had dessert and shared some time around the table then we adjourn to the living room for a book study.”
The list of books the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group has studied and discussed in its three-and-a-year existence has varied, according to Lewis.
“We started out the first year with a book by Emily Stimpson called
The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right,” she said. “We have gone from a book like that to
The Year of Faith: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics by Father Mitch Pacwa. In the summertime, instead of doing a book, we do a study of some kind that’s a little bit looser because of the attendance being flexible. One summer we did questions—
Apologetics: How to Answer Questions about our Faith. Another summer we talked about
Porte Fidei, Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter. This past summer, we talked about the Mass, its meaning and how to go deeper.
“We’re currently studying a book that may sound a little bit more whimsical, but it’s actually quite deep in its theological reflection. It’s called
The Princess Guide: Faith Lessons from Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty by J
ennessa Terraccino. We’ll go from that book to a deeper topic, just even by the title of it: The Crucified Rabbi by Taylor Marshall and that will take us into Lent and beyond.”
The growth of the St. Kateri Single Ladies group has seen the group grow from a one-crockpot group to a two-crockpot group and from one table to two tables.
“We started out with just two young ladies; the young lady from RCIA who actually wanted the group to start ended up moving, and so she never became a member of the group,” Lewis said. “This is a legacy that she has left for our parish and for this diocese. The group started with two young ladies and then it doubled the next week, doubled the next week, and it continued to grow. We average about 15 ladies a week and we have as many as 23 on our rolls at this time. We have had more than 40 come through this group in the three-and-a-half years that the group has been meeting.
“We’ve had cradle Catholics who have been part of this group and recent Catholics; we’ve had several young ladies who have been going through RCIA and that’s been such a joy to be on that journey with them and celebrate with them at Easter Vigil. We’ve had revert Catholics, and we’ve had non-Catholics. Interestingly enough, we’ve even had some young ladies who were friends with some of the ladies in the group and they themselves were not Catholic but were intrigued to come to the group.”
Lewis said the group has also hosted a number of guest speakers.
“We try to have guest speakers come at least three or four times during the year, and those have included the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ sisters from Prayer Town Emmanuel and the School Sisters of St. Francis from Panhandle,” she said.
“Other guest speakers have included immigrants, mothers, wives, a deacon’s wife and a natural family planning expert. We’ve been very fortunate to have a wide variety of speakers speak to our group.”
Prayer is also a very important component of the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group.
“We pray for you every week,” said Lewis. “In our group, at the end of our time together, we pray. We pray for leaders of government, we pray for Pope Francis, we pray for our diocese, our bishop, our priests. We pray for vocations, we pray for the sanctity of life. We pray for others in our diocese and our community and our world. We end our time together by keeping our minds on what is important. We stand together at the end of our time and we pray Philippians 4:8 as a prayer:
‘Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious—if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’”
As time has gone forward, ladies in the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group have witnessed seven of its members leave the group—albeit, for a good reason: to get married.
“Seven of our young ladies have gotten married,” Lewis said, “and from those seven marriages, we have two babies and a third on the way.
“Something that has also interestingly happened within our group is that we have three single moms. Now the criteria that Father Phan established in the very beginning in that blurb in the bulletin was that it be single ladies never having been married, ages 18-33. So we have been blessed to have the group embrace a single lady who has two children, and we’ve also had two other single ladies join us even through their pregnancies. That has really taken us on a different kind of journey with struggles and joys, and broadened our horizons as a group as far as how we can help others who are on different paths and also be able to do that in a non-judgmental way of recognizing the beauty and the joy of life.”
While the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group meets on Monday nights, the friendships formed in the group have gone beyond those Monday meetings, said Lewis.
“Many of these young ladies meet outside the group,” she said. “I know that they’ve met to take in a movie or sometimes to meet for coffee. I am proud to have watched these young ladies grow in their friendships and that only helps make our group stronger.”
The diversity of the membership has added depth to the discussions around the dinner table and book study on Monday evenings.
“We have four girls who are currently engaged, and we have two who are discerning consecrated life,” said Lewis. “We have 18-year-olds to a 31-year-old, and we are varied, from college students to teachers, to a veterinarian, to a chemist, to musicians, to a hotel general manager, to counselors, to contributors in agriculture field. It’s a variety of different careers and backgrounds.”
Membership in the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group is not restricted to only those who are members of St. Ann’s Church, but open to any single, unmarried woman in the diocese between the ages of 18 and 33, according to Lewis.
“Our group started with one young lady who belongs to St. Ann’s and she invited someone who was from St. Mary’s Church in Umbarger, and the two young ladies who were invited after that were from St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Thomas the Apostle Church, both in Amarillo,” she said. “We’ve had, from our own diocese, seven different parishes represented in this one group. There are several young ladies who are not from our diocese who are students at WT or who have moved here, so there are parishes that are represented beyond St. Ann’s.”
The group has a reunion on July 14, the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, which gives the former group members who have married an opportunity to meet up with the current membership.
“We fondly use a term within our group, called M&M’s, which stands for marrieds and moved-aways,” Lewis said. “We have found that our social media of choice tends to be texting, so I stay in touch with all the young ladies—the ones who have moved away, the ones who are married, and there are even some who are, officially I guess you could call it on our roster, who don’t come on a regular basis but ironically stay in touch through texting. There’s just a connection there; they do still come back. They also have birthday parties and things like that where those married ladies are definitely invited to come back.”
There is one thing Lewis would like to see come about as a result of the success of the St. Kateri Single Ladies Group.
“I’d like to know how we could actually get a thriving Catholic single men’s group,” she said. “I realize that there is a young adults’ group for St. Mary’s and St. Thomas. But we need a single men’s group that would be the flip side of what we’re doing, where it’s very much theologically based and going much deeper in our Faith, and then the social part would be the side benefit. Maybe it’s my own background and I want to play matchmaker here, but I would like to see more single men stepping up and really wanting to explore their Faith.”
For those interested in joining the St. Kateri’s Single Ladies Group, or for those who might be interested in starting a group in their parish, please contact Lewis at 681-1089.