NORWALK, Conn. (CNS) — In an effort to rebuild and heal the Catholic Church in the wake of the sex abuse crisis, women and lay leaders have taken a more central role in the process of bringing families back to Mass.

For a group of women at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk in the Diocese of Bridgeport, this renewal effort led them to apply to be an official Walking With Purpose Parish.

Walking With Purpose, based in Greenwich, is a women’s Bible study founded in 2008 for women to deepen their relationships with Jesus Christ, and becoming an official parish with that designation comes with training and support to run parish-based ongoing studies.

“Walking with Purpose has strengthened my connection to both my home parish and the Catholic Church,” said participant Mallory Moyer, a mother of three. “I helped run the program at my parish and it got me energized to be a bigger part of the Catholic Church.”

Prior to applying for the designation, a small group of women at St. Matthew gathered in early 2018 for a short six-week study called “Living in the Father’s Love” to see if it would resonate with the group.

Soon after completing it, the church applied to be an official Walking With Purpose Parish. By the fall of 2018, the church had nearly 70 participants.

Moyer said the program has brought her family closer to others within the parish.

“I was pregnant during the 20-week Bible study and the women in my group were always supporting me and praying for me,” she explained. “My family was fed for weeks after the baby was born — this fellowship makes me feel at home at St. Matthew, like the parish is my family.”

Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has seen the impact of the program on the faithful of the diocese firsthand.

Since its arrival, the program “has deepened the faith of thousands of women who have attended its courses,” he said. “Through its authentic catechesis and by its commitment to accompany women in their daily lives, the study has helped its participants to deepen their personal relationships with the Lord and their commitment to the church and has also brought new energy and hope throughout the diocese.”

According to Walking With Purpose, the program has helped more than 42,000 women deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ in the last year alone.

“Most of us walk around believing the lie we are all alone,” said Lisa Brenninkmeyer, founder of Walking With Purpose. “This is accompanied by believing, ‘This is all up to me.’ As women get to know each other in small groups, they support and pray for each other as they walk through trials and joys. These faith-based friendships are life-changing.”