Young Women Making a Difference

This week, the National Catholic Reporter recognized 12 young women making a difference in the Church.  I am honored to be counted among this group!  As I watched the news spread via Facebook, I was incredibly grateful for the accolades and curious about some of the criticisms of the article.

I was challenged in a particular way by this comment which was posted on Fr. Jim Martin’s facebook page:

@ Ana Vargas: I would love it if these 12 women could nominate another 12 women who – without the benefit of doctorates and masters degrees – are also models of the faith and are building up the Church. As an intellectual I am always humbled by the sanctity of those uneducated or even illiterate saints.  St. Bernadette, St. Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Ana, you are so right. There are so many women in the world who are making a difference in their communities and advancing the mission of the Gospel without the benefit of formal education.  Education is a gift and a privilege. It does not make any one of us more worthy of recognition.

Each woman on this list is impressive in her accomplishments and deserving of recognition.  Yet there is a definite bias toward privilege.  I imagine this is as much a reflection on the average NCR reader and those who nominated us, as it is a reflection of the nominees themselves.

Also missing from this list of “young women” are those under age 29.  I work with young women between the ages of 18-25 every single day.  While they are not yet fully established in their careers, they never cease to amaze me.  They are truly making a difference in the church, some locally and others on a global scale.

When I was in my early-20s, there were so many women who encouraged me in my faith and supported me in following my dreams.  I would often wonder why they were so generous!  Each of them, without reservation, told me to pay it forward.  When you have the chance 5, 10, 15 years from now – give something back to another young woman.

So, below is my own list of young women who are making a difference – all under the age of 30.  Yes, all of the women on this list are college educated, and some of them even have Master’s degrees.  (It’s my list, and I admit that I am biased!)  However, none of them take this for granted.  They are talented and smart. They are committed to lives of prayer and service. They are making a difference in their communities and in our Church.  (And I am so proud of them!)

Christina Rosales (Loredo, TX) – Christina is a reporter for the Dallas Morning News with a passion for human interest stories.  She is an excellent journalist!  She speaks with authority because she speaks from a heart filled with compassion and justice.

Kim Brightmore (Chicago, IL) – Kim teaches third grade at St. Agnes of Bohemia in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.  She is dedicated to Catholic education and brings a smile and sense of humor to her classroom. Her enthusiasm for faith and her desire to see God in all things is contagious.

Katie Kustusch (Chicago, IL) – Katie is a Missionary of Compassion with Hearts Home International currently serving in El Salvador.  She is committed to sharing the joy of Jesus with those on the margins of society.

Lillianna Franco (Chicago, IL) – This former Miss Illinois Teen Latina is committed to making a difference in the Latino/a community. She strives each day to inspire and motivate other young women to succeed.  During her time at Northwestern, she was co-leader of NU Inter Varsity’s “LaFe” chapter and led our annual mission trip to Nicaragua.

Karla Santana (Managua, Nicaragua) – Karla works with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation in Managua, Nicaragua.  She is committed to the children of her country and their future.  She is a beacon of hope in the face of adversity.

Anna Bisaro (Warwick, NY) – Anna is a budding journalist with deep sense of social justice. She has held internships in both Italy and South Africa, and she is an avid tri-athlete. Anna strives to make the world a better place by sharing stories and making a positive change for those in need.

Rachel Grubb (Knoxville, TN) – Rachel was received into the Catholic Church this past year.  She is completely and utterly in love with her newfound faith!  She recently completed her Masters in Orchestral Conducting and plays violin with the Knoxville Symphony.

Christina Landauer (Arlington, VA) – Christi is a beautiful wife, mother, and friend.  She strives to live out the teachings of the Church in her everyday life and pass them on to her children.  And she is incredibly strong-willed just like her daughter!

Christina Paschyn (Parma, OH) – Christina is an experienced international journalist who teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Doha, Qatar.  She is passionate about women’s issues in the church and society at large.

Diana Martinez (Chicago, IL) – Diana is a rising senior at Northwestern, president of her sorority, and former student chair of Northwestern Students for Life.  Last summer, Diana served as an intern at a local adoption agency, and she is an outspoken advocate for the unborn.

It amazes me that God would allow me the privilege to journey with each of these young women and so many others (women and men!) who walk through the doors of the Sheil Catholic Center each week.  As my friend and fellow nominee Christine Riley says, “It doesn’t mean anything if you’re not helping anybody else along.”

I challenge you!  What have you done, what will you do today, to support and encourage young women in their walk with Christ and in their desire to make a difference in the world? 

Many thanks to Sr. Margaret Feldner, Sr. Shirley Finnegan, Sr. Louise Hembrecht, Sr. Janet May, Sr. Barbara Bowe, Sharon Rief, Roxanne Rochester, Peggy Burke, Kathy Lunsky, Elizabeth Dreyer, Lisa Biedenbach, etc. etc. who believed in my gifts and encouraged me to follow that small, still voice of God calling me to service and ministry.  I would not be the woman I am today without you!

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