ROCHESTER — More than 100 women listened intently as Monica Pierce described her often difficult, and yet ultimately rewarding, life journey.
Pierce, a Catholic woman from Buffalo, told of her husband’s longtime battle with depression and alcoholism that culminated in his suicide in 2008 after they had been married 34 years. More recently Pierce has endured breast cancer, a broken wrist, blood clots and a gall-bladder removal. Through her many dark days, she said, she continued to hold onto her faith and pray for healing — and ultimately received blessings from God.
"The joy came back into my life," said Pierce, keynote speaker for the most recent Magnificat Rochester breakfast, held May 30 at the Holiday Inn Airport.
Inspirational talks are a staple of these morning gatherings for Magnificat — A Ministry to Catholic Women, which have taken place in the Rochester Diocese since the late 1990s. The next breakfast is set for Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Holiday Inn with Patty Schneier, a national Catholic speaker from St. Louis, serving as the keynoter. And on Dec. 12, Rochester Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will be the presenter at the Radisson Inn in Henrietta. Men, as well, are invited to the Bishop Matano event.
Magnificat originated in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in the early 1980s as an outgrowth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The local chapter has continued holding breakfasts a handful of times per year, with participants coming from as far away as Ithaca and Elmira.
Louise Carson, current coordinator of Magnificat Rochester, expressed appreciation to "all the women who went to so much trouble to establish a Magnificat chapter in our area. I’m just reaping the benefits of all that hard work; it’s a two- to three-year process to become a chapter."
Each Magnificat breakfast is preceded by confession beginning at 8 a.m. The formal program starts at 9:30 and features music, prayer and fellowship as well as the keynote address. A consistent theme in the presentations, according to Carson, is to encourage faith and hope in God in order to work through life’s trials. Indeed, Pierce emphasized at the end of her May 30 talk, "Never stop praying. Always pray through the good times, through the bad times."
"The idea is, a (Magnificat) speaker is a witness of God’s action in her life," Carson explained, adding that by sharing one’s story publicly, "the hope is that other people will have been helped and grow in their faith because of what I’ve gone through."
Carson herself has served as a Magnificat speaker, sharing how she has endured a divorce and annulment; one of her three children becoming pregnant at an early age; and the grandson who resulted from that pregnancy being killed in a construction accident 10 years ago at the age of 21. However, she said, in her talks she has not belabored those events but instead stressed that "with all the difficulties I’ve been through, God’s always been there — always been there. And I have the assurance that he’ll always be there."
She added that the Holy Spirit can be felt not only from such testimonies, but also through shared prayer and conversation among Magnificat participants throughout the morning.
"The hope is that at the tables, women will share their own story with each other. It’s kind of like a peer-to-peer ministry — you get to know other people, get to meet other Catholic women," said Carson, a parishioner of St. Columba/St. Patrick in Caledonia, who has been on the Magnificat Rochester service team since 2009.
Carson said that breakfast attendees don’t pass judgment, but simply meet each other where they’re at in their personal and spiritual lives — much in the same way as when the Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. In fact, that biblical encounter serves as Magnificat Rochester’s logo.
Carson also feels a closer kinship to the Blessed Mother via her Magnificat participation — "the idea of being able to reverence Mary as a woman, and recognize that she’s our mother and has gone through all the same stuff that all women do."
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about Magnificat Rochester and its future events, visit magnificatrochester.org,