By GRETCHEN KEISER, Special to the Bulletin | Published December 1, 2020
ATLANTA—The Magnificat ministry in the archdiocese, which has not been able to hold the Magnificat meal for women since March, has stepped out in faith, creating virtual events with speakers Bishop Bernard Shlesinger and Father Tim Hepburn.
Both of the videos can be seen on the YouTube channel of the Magnificat Joyful Visitation chapter.
Bishop Shlesinger, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, and Father Hepburn, pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Gainesville, would have spoken in person at Magnificat meals in November and August, respectively.
The link to the video with Bishop Shlesinger is https://youtu.be/dow9F0NnVtg.
The link to the video with Father Hepburn is https://youtu.be/78MnalXEI-s.
A shared meal is traditionally at the heart of the Magnificat ministry.
While that cannot be recreated, both the videos also include praise and worship music sung by Geneva Tigue, music minister for Magnificat in Atlanta, the “Magnificat” song composed and sung by archdiocesan musician Elyse O’Kane, a decade of the rosary, and a reflection by Pat Forest, chapter coordinator.
Bishop Shlesinger, seated in his office at the Chancery, speaks of his own life and vocation, his early introduction to prayer, growing awareness of God’s presence, and the importance of the Holy Spirit in surrendering to God’s will. He also reflects on what people of faith can learn from Mary’s response when told she was chosen to bear the Son of God.
In the other video, Father Hepburn, speaking from his parish, tells how as a college student he returned to his Catholic faith through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and was led to the priesthood. He gives a vibrant teaching about the reasons the faithful need to give praise to God, what the spiritual dynamics of praise are, and how this form of prayer is powerful, freeing and essential.
Father Joseph Mullakkara, MSFS, spiritual advisor to the Magnificat chapter, celebrated a Mass the day each video was released for the intentions sent in by those on the ministry’s contact list.
Pat Forest and her husband Jonathan, who belong to Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, have been active in the Magnificat ministry for seven years, including in the music ministry and in technical work behind the scenes.
After both retired from careers in the U.S. Army, Jonathan had pursued his personal interest in communications, getting a master of arts degree in film and video production.
When in-person events, including Magnificat meals, had to be canceled for the foreseeable future, his skills were providentially ready to create the online videos. The speakers, musician and team members recorded their segments in separate locations, due to social distancing requirements. Jonathan Forest merged the segments into the final video, also adding visual, recorded and text elements.
The links to the videos were initially sent to everyone on the chapter contact list. Because of the needs of this present time and the graces available through shared prayer, praise and teachings, the ministry would like to extend access to them as widely as possible.
About the ministry
Magnificat is an international ministry to Catholic women with chapters formed with approval from the local bishop. A central service team provides guidance to the chapters and has affirmed the Atlanta videos.
Pat Forest said the Atlanta service team went outside their comfort zones, but as the uncertainty over pandemic restrictions loomed, they definitely sensed they were to find new ways to sustain the essence of the ministry, which has been active in the archdiocese since 1992.
“For almost three decades the women of the Joyful Visitation chapter of Atlanta have met for a quarterly Magnificat meal to praise the Lord in fellowship with one another,” she said. “We had no idea how long the restrictions during the pandemic would last, but we sensed the Lord urging us to continue our gatherings even if they didn’t look or feel the same. We desired to keep the connection with the women we serve, using whatever methods were still safe and available to us.”
“In the online visitation, we are committed to keeping to the forefront the purposes of Magnificat, which are to evangelize and to encourage Catholic women to grow in holiness through opening more fully to the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Pat Forest said.
“We took the key segments of our regular Magnificat meal that most closely support this mission and transferred them to a virtual setting in a shortened form. The end result was an online event that we hoped would be both familiar and welcoming to our membership and guests.”
Everyone looks with hope to the future time when gatherings will be joyfully held in person again. Until then the ministry invites everyone to view the videos and to share them with others.
Asked if she could see good coming from this unexpected challenge, Pat Forest said it has created deeper bonds among team members going outside their comfort zones. Also, unexpectedly, through people forwarding the video links, many more women have been reached than can usually attend a Magnificat meal.
“I can honestly say we have seen God’s goodness through this whole process,” she said.
To be added to the Magnificat Joyful Visitation chapter contact list, please send a request with contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.