Ready, set…Rome!

We now have only eleven more sleeps until our adventure begins! And there’s still so much to do before we leave! Leanna and I are putting the finishing touches on our presentation. A lot of prayer, love, and laughter have been poured into every word and we cannot wait to share our experiences in forming our own Magdala conciliary with the women and men gathered at the international seminar beginning on April 28.

As I type this, Leanna is helping me pare down my overflowing suitcase and offering words of encouragement for the almost nine-hour flight- since she knows that I easily grow restless and that without food and plenty of sleep I get fussy. What are friends for? And, as per our classic Mary and Martha ways, I just know that Leanna will start packing with only two sleeps to go. If something is forgotten, I am convinced that my over-packing will come in handy.

Toiletries? Check. Seven perfectly combinable outfits? Almost check. Laptop and scratchpad so that I can take copious amounts of detailed notes? Check. Euros? Check, check. Travel book? Check. Complete, unbridled enthusiasm for the seminar and for touring a historic, culturally and religiously rich city like Rome? CHECK.

You should all know that for the past week I’ve been practicing some Italian. I have all the basics down, but I can say “cosa mi consiglia” and “era squisito” with plenty of gusto! Luckily for Leanna, this travel companion is organized and loves to eat, so something tells me we’ll never, ever…ever go hungry.

After some research and daydreaming since my youth, I have determined that there are seven places along our travels that I must see: St. Peter’s Bascilica (Vatican Museums yes please!), Bascilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (the first Christian basilica to be built in Rome, consecrated in 324AD!), Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Gothic church built on pagan temples), Chiesa del Gesu (beautiful Jesuit church with plenty of stunning baroque art), of course the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (because it’s just so romantic), and last but certainly not least, Chiesa di San Damiano (to bask in the frescos of St. Clare, my personal patron saint).

But asides from checking these sites off my bucket list, I’m getting very excited for the seminar itself. I’m looking forward to Lucetta Scaraffia’s presentation “Links with the Heart in the History of Feminine Holiness” and Catherine Aubin’s presentation “The Listening Heart: Receptivity, Silence, Solitude, and the Call of God” since I imagine there being many connections to the findings of our Magdala conciliary. However, I also eagerly await vespers and a visit to St. Catherine of Siena’s tomb as a prayerful conclusion to the second day of the conference (and in celebration of St. Catherine’s feast day which was no coincidence!).

Can’t wait to update you all again once we arrive and the great adventure really begins.

Rimanete sintonizzati!




In Search of the Feminine Genius

Well, hello world!

This is Leanna Cappiello and Emily VanBerkum, writing to you from Toronto, Ontario.

We are both employed full time as lay ministers at St Basil’s Catholic Parish at the University of St Michael’s College: me as the Social & Community Coordinator, and my colleague, Emily, as the Sacramental & Liturgical Coordinator. Your proverbial Mary and Martha of the modern day.

For all you readers out there who are hearing about Magdala for the first time, let us explain what it is and how it all came about – the short version.

It all began with prayer.

Lucinda Mary Vardey, in her daily meditations, felt a longing to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to develop “a profound theology of women, to interpret and understand the feminine dimension of the Church, and to advance participation of women in all levels of Church and society.” This invitation planted a seed in her heart. The image of her patron, St. Anne, appeared to her in thought, and she was energized in forming a group that would discuss this three-fold invitation at a grassroots, parish level.

And so, such a group was made a reality.

The vision of Magdala was a conciliary model: a place to gather and listen to God’s word from the lips of God’s people. Since October 1st, 2015, (the Feast of our beloved St. Therese of Lisieux) we gathered monthly with men and women of diverse personal and professional backgrounds in linguistics, business, ethics, science, arts and theology, each invited by personal invitation.

Magdala’s mission is to foster, promote, and share feminine sanctity and wisdom through the love of Jesus Christ. Magdala includes a place for discussion, education, relationship and community. Meeting once a month, subjects and themes we discussed included awareness and knowledge of feminine principles, influences from scripture and culture, and the process of defining ‘feminine genius.’ An exploration of feminine virtues and the wisdom and work of female saints along with participant’s individual life and faith experiences undergirded every gathering. Ultimately, Magdala strives to offer a place for women in the Church to recognize and embrace who they are in relationship to God and others.

As co-facilitators, along with the support of our Pastor, Emily and I aimed at guiding our conciliary in finding shared vocabulary about God and Church, about feminine exemplars, and seeking expression for narrative theology of the heart. If Magdala was to truly be about relationship and the discussion of the feminine genius at work in our parish, then our purpose was not to be derived from what we produced, but rather how we make the Gospel message known to our community through a renewed understanding of the feminine narrative: that God is not a problem to be solved, but a relationship to be experienced.

Now, on April 29th, 2016 (the Feast of our inspiration, St. Catherine of Siena), Emily and I will co-present our exploration and findings from Magdala to lay and religious women during an international seminar hosted at the Pontifical University of Urbaniana in Rome. We are proud to attend a gathering that has come to fruition in the form of the theme Heart, “Cuore” and hear other women share their research, findings, experience, and reflections.

We couldn’t be more excited! As Emily would say, “15 more sleeps until our flight!”

Soon we will be reporting live from Rome, and later in our travels, Assisi and Siena. For us, this trip will be one-third seminar, one-third pilgrimage, and one-third travel adventure. We plan on recording most of it for you all to see and journey with us.

We hope you’ll join us!