Women of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia entered into a day of prayer on Saturday, March 20. This spiritual encounter of retreat and contemplation, held as a virtual gathering via Zoom, was facilitated by spiritual director Valerie D. Lewis-Mosley.
The women were joined by their sisters from Virginia, St. Louis, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. A total of 60 women registered, with 42 participating.
The three-hour gathering immersed us in prayer, song, Scripture, spiritual dance and storytelling. The moments of Mother Mary’s life were revealed to be so similar to the lives of women today.
There was an opportunity for single pregnant young women (teenagers) to see that Mother Mary can enter into their circumstance and bless them and their pregnancy. Many other women were able to see where Mother Mary meets them at the crossroads of their grief with the loss of their sons and daughters in the streets.
The icon of the Black Madonna-Mother of the Streets was used as a meditation point. Through this representation the women became aware that Mary, Mother of Sorrows knew all about their troubles. Mother Mary meets us at the crossroads of life. It is an encounter of solidarity with the grief and suffering of Black and Brown mothers of today.
Although this retreat was offered by the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics, everyone was welcomed at the retreat table. Women of various backgrounds, color, race and ethnicities were in the circle.
Dr. Lewis-Mosley led us through an examen of the crossroads that have been burdensome in our lives. We were able to surrender ourselves in prayerful anticipation for Mother Mary to enter into the space. Various women revealed how Mother Mary has become real to them in their personal experience reflecting the sacredness of their Black and Brown bodies.
The participants laughed, cried and shouted with joy upon hearing the personal testimonies. It was as if they were Mary and Elizabeth meeting each other at the crossroads of life. The retreat brought to each woman the mystical presence of Mother Mary, God-bearer, and Elizabeth in the proclamation of the Good News. This was the joy of the Gospel for our retreat.
The fruit of the retreat was the spiritual sharing of the women. As a community they prayed over one of the participants who was having a very troubling family matter. The very next morning her brother who had been missing for 10 days was found alive and in good health.
Another woman’s testimony was her experience of Mother Mary meeting her at the crossroads of life. This led to her being delivered from disordered spiritual practices after she was submerged in the waters at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, France.
The following testimony of one of the women, Jo-Ann Savoy, a parishioner of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia, sums up the entire day of the retreat:
“Valerie Mosley came to the women’s day of reflection with the Holy Spirit. I say this without fear of contradiction; the minute she began to speak to us I was drawn in. Her entire disposition was one of tenderness and love. You knew immediately that her intention was focused on sharing; not lecturing, not giving a speech, but testifying. When she stated her topic, ‘the Blessed Mother Mary,’ I was totally in.
“She shared how it is a privileged great that we have received from God to have knowledge of Mary. Dr. Valerie went on to guide us on a tour of icons and testimonies of our Blessed Mother’s intercessions. She shared icons with us that are celebrated all over the world (and) in different parts of the world.
“One of the many things that stood out for me was when she spoke of the Blessed Mother being willing to meet us at our crossroads. She explained that the Blessed Mother was at her crossroad as she watched her son being nailed to the cross. Dr. Valerie went on to say that the Blessed Mother is willing to meet us at our crossroads; all we have to do is call her. Her words made me feel confidence in what she was sharing with us — confident that when I am at the crossroads in my life, God willing I can call on the Blessed Mother for intercession.
“She was clear that our intentions have to be sincere, that if we are to give worthy praise to God, then we must unite with our Immaculate Mother. We can never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his mother.
“Sharing the experience with Dr. Valerie Lewis-Mosley at the women’s retreat was like a sister-friend that you invite for lunch. You enjoy the interaction so much that you invite her to stay for dinner.”
We thank Dr. Lewis-Mosley. She brought us healing, faith seeking understanding, and she empowered us — mind, body, spirit.
The Office for Black Catholics extends heartfelt thanks to Archbishop Nelson Perez for promoting the Women’s Day of Retreat.
Sister Lynn Marie Ralph, S.B.S., is coordinator for the Office for Black Catholics.
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