.- Terry Polakovic is serious about helping young women discover their dignity. Last week, she and other representatives of the Denver-based ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) program, traveled to Cologne to share their message at their largest venue ever--at the 20th World Youth Day. In her talk, presented to almost 1,000 people in Bonn, Germany, 15 minutes from Cologne, Polakovic said that, “The mission of ENDOW is “to educate women towards a deeper, more profound understanding of their God-given dignity and vocation as women.” We do this by offering study materials that reflect the beautiful teachings on women which is found in the Catholic faith.”
Speaking to CNA in their Denver office just before the group left for Germany, Polakovic said that she was nervous to share the ENDOW vision before a world audience. “I’m really just praying that we reach the heart of just one girl,” She said.
“One girl”, she pointed out, “can have such an impact on her family, friends and whole community.”
Polakovic, who has likely reached many more than that, told her audience in Germany that, “John Paul II called all of us to change the current ‘culture of death’ to a ‘culture of life.’ When we started ENDOW just over two years ago, we desired to actively participate in the great call to help change the culture.”
“Our goal”, she pointed out, “is to educate women (and also men) and to help them start looking at things through the eyes of the Church, the expert in humanity, particularly in the area regarding the dignity and vocation of women.”
Polakovic told CNA that they were dedicating the entire project to the late Pope John Paul, whose Theology of the Body and catechesis on human sexuality have largely inspired ENDOW’s work.
Noting the vast societal confusion over the nature and place of women, Polakovic cited Pope Paul VI, who in 1965, “offered these words in his closing speech to the Second Vatican Council: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved.”
“That is why,” he said, “at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
Polakovic pointed out that while in the 40 years since the second Vatican Council, the “rights” of women have expanded by leaps and bounds, their “dignity” is misunderstood and often ignored.
Citing so-called “reproductive rights” like abortion, and the scourge of pornography, magazines and media which portray women as mere objects, Polakovic says that women can only find their true dignity in the heart of God, who created them as “unrepeatable mysteries.”
Kristin Shearer, a former executive assistant with ENDOW recalled a recent talk that she had with a group of high school students. She told CNA that “after the girls had silently walked around and looked at the "Wall of Lies" (a compilation of magazine cut outs showing how women tend to be objectified in the media today) - I asked them what they thought. One girl said, “those women don't truly know who they are, and those
pictures do not show who they really are either.”
The response, she said, was a perfect lead-in for sharing the message about who the girls “really are as daughters of God. Before I even said a thing it seemed that she already knew that your dignity does not come from the world, it comes from God.”
It is that message, say the ENDOW leaders, that they want to bring out of the hearts of the young people they work with.