Near the end of 2020, Karla Amezcua and Mary Smith, two Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi serving in Washington, DC, noticed a dramatic need developing in the women in their area. After months of COVID lockdowns and ever-shifting protocols, and without consistent access to the sacraments or in-person retreats and spiritual events, the women they were serving were struggling to find purpose and meaning in their lives that had been so drastically changed by pandemic restrictions. “We realized that the frustration of not being able to do missions, or even serve in many ways, was creating many existential questions in some of the women,” says Karla. “What is my mission? How can I be who God is asking me to be while I am in this lockdown?”
In response to these questions, Karla and Mary came up with the idea to design an online course that would specifically respond to this thirst for purpose in the hearts of the women they served. In January of this year, they offered a seven-week virtual course called Discover Your Personal Mission that they hoped would provide both spiritual content and the human and psychological tools the participants needed in order to reflect on, discern, and begin living their unique mission in the world.
Hoping to have 100 women register for their online course, Karla and Mary quickly ran into their first obstacle – over 200 participants had immediately registered, and the number of interested women soon exceeded the capacity of their Zoom account. Registrations came in from well beyond the DC area, with women registering from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Germany. In the end, Karla and Mary had to run two sessions per day in order to accommodate the demand.
Each one-hour session began with 40 minutes of content, developed with Karla’s training and experience as a certified life coach and Mary’s current studies in her master’s degree in psychology, as well as the religious formation that they both have received during their life as consecrated women. This was then followed by 20 minutes of small group discussion which, because of the large number of participants, Karla and Mary asked women that they knew to help facilitate. In addition, they trained about 30 participants to be spiritual mentors, matching them with women who had expressed a desire to be mentored. Involving these participants in facilitation and mentoring proved to be an important and edifying part of the program. “This was a beautiful way of including women, and an opportunity for these women to start already living out their mission,” says Karla. “For most of them, it was a life-giving experience that required a lot of humility, openness and receptivity.”
Response to this initial program was overwhelmingly positive – participants shared with Karla and Mary that not only were they inspired by the content, but also their families experienced transformation throughout the seven weeks. “It’s been beautiful to see how it has this ripple effect, because as the women change, their families change, and the dynamic of the family is totally transformed,” says Karla.
However, it was feedback from one particular participant that gave Karla consolation when she needed it most:
“I was having a terrible day – I had a meeting that was very discouraging because all my initiatives were being crushed and it felt like everything was falling apart. Then Mary and I received this beautiful letter from a woman who attended the course. She told us that she never imagined that she could experience so much joy in her life, that she was actually surprised that this joy that she had heard of actually exists! She ended the letter by saying, ‘Just know in your darkest times, you have indeed saved a soul.’ When I read that, I burst into tears, because it was like God’s presence and consolation telling me to keep moving forward for all these women, and that he was with me and sustaining me.”
The participant who wrote the letter has begun the process of spiritual direction and continues to learn more about the Catholic Church and develop a personal relationship with Christ and Our Lady.
Due to the enormous response to the seven-week series, Karla and Mary decided to run a shorter series this spring, called Discover Your Personal Mission 2.0: Unveiling the Transformative Power of the Gaze. This five-week series in part uses content inspired by a book Karla wrote in Spanish called El poder de la mirada al servicio del encuentro (The Power of the Gaze at the Service of the Encounter), and encourages the women to receive the gaze of God while sharpening their own capacity to dive into and transform the hearts of others through eye contact and personal encounter. Since they were running this shorter series during a busier time of the year and while COVID restrictions were being lifted in many areas, Karla and Mary expected registrations to be relatively low, but over 140 women signed up for the second course, which began on April 22nd.
Besides the positive response from the participants, and the development of a second virtual course, Karla and Mary have witnessed an abundance of fruits that have already come from the initial series. Many of the local women who attended the first Discover Your Personal Mission series have become involved with the monthly missions hosted by Mission Youth in the DC area and are putting their gifts and the tools they gained during the seven-week course to good use in service of the Church. And for Karla, one of the greatest blessings that has come from the initiative is the opportunity to collaborate in mission with her consecrated sisters. “I cannot do this by myself, so it just makes me happy to be a consecrated woman and to be a part of this community,” says Karla. “The way Mary and I complement each other so much, because of our different personalities and backgrounds, because of what she is studying and what I am studying, because of her experiences and mine, we have been able to put all those talents together at the service of the mission and the women. It’s just been a very beautiful consolation to my heart to see all these beautiful fruits.”
Another opportunity that has come out of this initiative is a personal one for Karla: one of the participants of the course has offered to help her translate her book into English!
But for Karla, the most important fruits to come from the Discover Your Personal Mission series are the ones that will come from the women themselves. “The main essence of this content that we are offering is to help women realize that they don’t have a mission – they are a mission. And it’s a unique message that only they can transmit – they have to discover that beautiful light and let it shine forth, because the world needs it.”
While Karla and Mary continue the Discover Your Personal Mission 2.0 series, which runs until May 20th, they are already planning a Discover Your Personal Mission series for men.
Karla is currently serving in Washington, DC, in women’s and young adult ministry. She is also a spiritual coach for Lumen Institute, a program for Catholic business leaders, and is particularly passionate about her work with Mission Youth in DC. She is also helping Mary to set up a chapter of The Lydia Institute (a ministry for professional women designed by Mary Maher, another Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi) in the DC area with many of the women who have attended the Discover Your Personal Mission series. You can find a copy of Karla’s book in Spanish, El poder de la mirada al servicio del encuentro on Amazon, or watch for the English version coming soon.