“Feminine Genius Part 2” brings women together to reflect on gifts

Women gathered for a breakfast talk about Feminine Genius presented May 15 by Sr. Marlou TIbayan of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity -- a follow-up to the first diocesan women's breakfast event in 2023. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A second annual diocesan Women’s Breakfast was held May 15 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, with Verbum Dei Missionary Sr. Malou Tibayan deepening her reflection on “Feminine Genius ” introduced at last year’s inaugural event.

“We decided it was a great idea to host this annually as an opportunity to gather women to celebrate Mother’s Day and to honour and celebrate the gift of who we for the Church and for the world,” said Tibayan, a member of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity for 36 years, who has served in the diocese of Saskatoon since 2020.

“The reason I am passionate about offering this topic of Feminine Genius is because I believe strongly in what women can be and do in the Church and for the Church,” she said.

“It is important to note that in talking about the qualities of feminine genius, we do not mean that men do not have these qualities but we are looking at the same qualities, virtues or characteristics which are uniquely experienced and expressed by women. It is not about the battle of sexes rather it is a matter of reflecting and understanding our feminine genius so we can better understand how we can work in complementarity with men in order to make our church and our world a better place.”

Sr. Malou Tibayan brought new insights and examples into her second annual talk about the gifts of women. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Tibayan hearkened back to her first presentation on Feminine Genius, based mainly on two documents written by Pope Saint John Paul II namely: Mulieris Dignitatem an Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year, 1988, and a Letter to Women written for the occasion of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995.

“Saint John Paul II said:  ‘God willed that there should be a relationship of profound communion between men and women, in a perfect reciprocity of knowledge and the giving of self,'” she stressed.

Women’s Breakfast program

With the cathedral hall decorated with succulents and the artwork of women saints created by artist Tianna Williams (shared by the Arise Catholic Movement team for the occasion), MC Raissa Bugyi of the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation welcomed some 80 women to the breakfast.

Anne Williams, a member of the diocesan Called & Gifted leadership team, offered the opening prayer.

During the breakfast program, a number of women who work at the Catholic Pastoral Centre were introduced, and long-time diocesan Archivist Margaret Sanche was recognized and honoured for her contributions.

Donna Rogal (left) spoke about the contributions of colleague Margaret Sanche (right), who has served as Archivist for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon for 30 years. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Catholic Pastoral Centre colleague Donna Rogal spoke about Margaret Sanche’s role as archivist and historian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon for the past 30 years, as well as her work with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (St. Mary’s Province) and St. Thomas More College. Sanche is the author of Heartwood, a book about the history of St. Thomas More College, and of Building the Church, Living the Gospel about parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

“Margaret is a great historian, and contributed materials for the Saskatchewan Encyclopedia on several subjects related to religion and Catholicism in the province,” noted Rogal. Sanche’s long-time commitment and assistance to the diocesan Brazil Mission as an active member of the Brazil Mission Awareness Committee was also highlighted. Margaret and her husband Robert have also been extremely active in Saskatoon’s L’Arche Community.

“When I look at your yearning to continue learning, your ability to work in such a specialized area, your ability to adapt to change, and how you care for others, especially the more vulnerable — and your many gifts — one cannot but feel gratitude,” said Rogal. “Your faith has been a real inspiration to myself and many others. You truly are a woman of wisdom, strength, and faith.”

MC Raissa Bugyi reflected on moving beyond a “dualistic mindset” to bridge differences and foster acceptance. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)


A number of women who work at the diocesan Catholic Pastoral Centre were introduced during the breakfast program. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Exploring the gifts of “Feminine Genius”

Recognizing the gifts of women was a key theme in the keynote presentation, with Tibayan exploring three traits of “Feminine Genius” — inner strength, tenacity and courage — and providing examples of women who demonstrate those qualities.

The three new qualities explored this year provided additional insights to her presentation in 2023 on how women are gifted with practical knowledge, intuition, wisdom, sensitivity, resilience, hospitality and generosity, and motherhood, both physical and spiritual.

“Tenacity, courage and interior strength all work together. We all need them. And the great news is that, we all have them. They were given to us by God to strengthen and empower us,” said Tibayan.

Tenacity or “being determined and persistent, not to easily quit or give up on our goals when it gets tough or because things are not happening quickly…is the capacity to do whatever it takes or required to achieve our goals. It means taking a stand for what we believe in,” said Tibayan, pointing to NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, an African-American woman whose work was critical to the success of American astronauts.

The film Hidden Figures chronicles the tenacity of Johnson and her companions Mary Jackson, the first African-American woman to work as an engineer at NASA , and Dorothy Vaughan, mathematician and computer expert.  “One of the lessons I learned from reading Katherine Johnson’s story is that if we are determined and patient in cultivating the gifts and talents God has given us, no matter how small or insignificant they may be, they can take us far more than what we could ever think or imagine,” said Tibayan.

“Like Katherine Johnson, we need to be tenacious so that our God given gifts and charisms do not remain buried or hidden within us but put on the lampstand to give light to an ever darkening world.”

Courage is a virtue that enables us to confront fear, pain or danger, said Tibayan, pointing to St. Frances Cabrini as a woman who modelled the quality of courage. The Italian Catholic nun was sent to America to help Italian immigrants, establishing hospitals, orphanages and schools.

“While serving the poor and the sick Italian immigrants in the U.S., she encountered many challenges and difficulties, discrimination, rejection, poverty, language barriers, lack of resources, hostility from clergy and even bishops. But she did not give up. She trusted in God’s providence and relied on prayer. I believe that her courage is fruit of the gift of extraordinary faith,” said Tibayan.

She quoted Pope John Paul II, in his homily at the beatification of St. Frances Cabrini in 1988: “Mother Cabrini, is an outstanding example of a woman who was able to respond to the needs of her time with courage and creativity. She lived the Gospel with generosity and devoted herself completely to the service of God’s people, especially the poor and those who were far from their native land.”

She also quoted Pope Francis, in his homily at the canonization of St. Frances Cabrini in 2013: “Mother Cabrini was a woman of great spirit, a woman of great faith, a woman of great love. She was a woman who knew how to embrace the world and all its problems, and she did so with the strength that comes from the love of God. She was a woman who was able to go beyond herself, to go beyond her own limitations, and to embrace the world with all its problems and all its needs.”

Interior strength is a quality that enables women to care for people in our broken world, said Tibayan. “When faced with seemingly un-defeatable challenges, women find strength rather than being overwhelmed with their task of caring for others,” she said.

In the book Reveal the Gift, Living the Feminine Genius, author Lisa Cotter said that interior strength means “interiorly holding on in times when it’s easy to run away or give up.  It is about finding the strength to remain resilient for the sake of others,” quoted TIbayan

“In times of crisis or in difficult times of death or loss of our loved ones – either a family member or a friend, it is often us women who have our eyes on everything. We often look around to make sure everyone has what they need and are okay. Even when we are struggling ourselves and are on the brink of falling apart, we often find a way to stay strong for others. Oftentimes, knowing that people are counting on us to be strong, makes us strong,” described Tibayan, pointing to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a woman who demonstrated interior strength.

“Reflecting on Mary and the other women standing at the foot of the Cross, St JP II wrote: ‘we see in this most arduous test of faith and fidelity the women proved stronger than the apostles. In this moment of danger those who love much succeed on overcoming their fear.’ (John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem #15).”

Tibayan invited those present to reflect on when and where in their lives they have experienced tenacity, courage, and interior strength. “The amazing truth is that these gifts were not only given by God to extraordinary women like the women I have mentioned, they are also God’s gift to each one of us ordinary women.”

She cited examples such as accompanying sick or dying parents while continuing to attend to the needs of one’s family, caring for a child with a physical disability that requires 24-hour vigilance, caring for those struggling with mental illness or addictions, single mothers raising and educating children, mothers who continue to love and care for children who reject them or rebel, and women who leave homes, families, countries and cultures to live in a foreign land and improve life for their families.

“For most women today, it takes courage, tenacity and interior strength to keep believing in ourselves even when it seems that no one supports or believes in us or see the goodness in us,” she acknowledged. “The luminous and holy figure of the Lord’s mother shows how only by self-giving and self-forgetfulness towards others is it possible to attain authentic fulfillment of the divine plan for one’s own life.”

Tibayan ended her presentation by quoting a letter to bishops written by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI: “It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life.” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.)

Those present were invited to share responses to the talk at their tables.

Maricorn Mangampo of Holy Spirit Parish, Verbum Dei Missionary and guest speaker Sr. Malou Tibayan, and diocesan Adult Faith Corordinator Astrid Alas (left to right) take a turn in a photo booth with props that was available at the breakfast event. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Related: The Feminine Genius celebrated at women’s breakfast (2023) – Article


(Kiply Lukan Yaworski is Communications Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon: rcdos.ca)