Denver, Colo., Jun 26, 2014 / 03:10 am
In 2003, a trio of laywomen in Denver were inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II to create a Catholic study apostolate for women.
Eleven years later, what began as a grassroots effort has become an international organization, reaching the lives of more than 25,000 women, and working to transform culture by educating women on their authentic dignity and true femininity.
"I think the message that women need to hear the most is the truth about their origin, identity, and destiny," said Terry Polakovic, founder of ENDOW: Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.
"The ENDOW program helps a woman to understand that she is unique, and that God has given her specific gifts, which she is to share with the world," she told CNA.
"There is a certain amount of freedom in knowing that in God's world, you are irreplaceable. It allows a woman to be herself and to express her femininity in ways that are most suited to her personality."
Polakovic, along with Betsy Considine and Marilyn Coors, founded ENDOW to help women see and embrace their God-given dignity and understand a "new feminism" based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II.
The program consists of study groups of 8-12 women who meet regularly to read, discuss and connect, exploring Scripture, Church history and Catholic teaching in order to grow in an understanding of God's vision for women.
From its humble beginnings in Denver, ENDOW is now present in more than 100 dioceses throughout the U.S., and has spread into Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Philippines.
The program has seen significant results, Polakovic said, recalling one ENDOW group in New Mexico that welcomed a member who had been away from the faith for a long time. She had not been to confession in many years, and was urged to receive the sacrament of reconciliation by the other group members. To everyone's surprise, she went to confession on the last day of class, but was later killed in a car accident.
"That story has always moved me," Polakovic said.
Brianna Lawson, an ENDOW small group facilitator at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is confident that the program is both positive and effective for women. She has witnessed firsthand the fruits of this organization, especially on a college campus.
"ENDOW's unique study program not only allows for deep discussion, but can be applied specifically to the issues that women are facing today," she told CNA. "It was beautiful to see how one student began to understand Christ within her dignity as woman, which then boosted her confidence to share her faith around campus."
The organization hopes to increase the number of participants in the program by 100,000 over the next couple of years.
"ENDOW has changed every aspect of my life," Polakovic reflected. "Most specifically, I have fallen madly in love with God and His plan for human flourishing. Every day, I try to give my life completely to Him, because He has done the most amazing things through me and through the ENDOW program."
"When we started ENDOW in 2003, I could never have dreamed that God would give me such a beautiful gift," she said. "I am entirely grateful."