A magazine to ‘lift women up’

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Love them or loathe them, many women have at some point flipped through the fashion and celebrity magazines that accost grocery shoppers at checkout lines. The glossy covers show scantily clad women with airbrushed bodies and promises to provide readers with "Ten tips to get your guy back" and "The skinny on why you're fat."

While they may contain a few tasty recipes or fun fashion trends, most women do not find much substance within their pages.

"There are a lot of women's magazines out there, but none really that speaks to us as women," said Mary Rose Somarriba, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Washington and culture editor of the new magazine Verily.

"They are not speaking to readers in helpful ways - and sometimes even in a hurtful way," she said. "Often women's magazines turn into a guilty pleasure. We read them, but we don't feel uplifted by them."

According to a survey by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, 75 percent of teenage girls felt "depressed, guilty and shameful after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine."

Two years ago, five young Catholic women living in New York City looked at this survey, their own experiences, and other studies showing women's overall declining happiness, and decided to create a magazine that would offer something different.

With its new website unveiled April 17 and its first bimonthly issue out next month, Verily articles hope to "lift women up," said Somarriba. "The mentality we have for Verily is to have it be like a friend, a real friend, a friend you can trust."

Somarriba - who moved to Washington so her husband could complete a degree at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, a Catholic graduate school of psychology in Arlington - was managing editor of First Things prior to her work on Verily.

The new magazine is not religious but is informed by the editors' faith and "desire to be better women," said Somarriba.

"We want to meet women where they are, wherever they are, and with whatever background they came from."

Yet she hopes the magazine will play a small role in the new evangelization.

"There are layers of evangelization," she said. "Some evangelize directly through catechesis, others through charitable work. Another way, a more indirect way, is through initiatives like this one."

With a feminine, elegant, modern aesthetic, the magazine and website feature articles and blogs on culture, lifestyle, relationships and style.

Kate Gallagher, a 2004 graduate of Oakcrest School in McLean and a parishioner of St. Peter Church in Washington, is a contributing lifestyle blogger.

She said Verily offers a distinct contrast to most women's magazines, which do not see beyond the physical.

As a personal trainer, Gallagher knows firsthand that women "can be beautiful outside - great hair, great nails, great body - but inside they are suffering."

"I think women suffer so much from all the pressure society puts on them. We've lost the sense of dignity of who we are as a child of God," she said. "Women try to find their worth in sex, in what they wear, in unhealthy relationships; they search for their self-worth in something else, anything that eases the insecurities within them."

The goal of Verily is to inform every story with the belief that women have inherent dignity and worth.

"We want this to be something women pick up to build themselves up, to be the best versions of themselves, to empower them to be their best self," said Somarriba.

The magazine will not merely criticize culture, however, but engage with it.

"Some people feel called to criticize the culture and that definitely has its place," Somarriba said. "But in this venture I feel called to see both the good and the bad."

For example, Somarriba wrote a piece on Beyoncé after her performance at the Super Bowl. She is critical of the singer's hypersexualized dance but finds qualities in the star to commend. "She's the rare celebrity that actually looks - oh, how do I put it - happy," writes Somarriba.

We can't write off all of pop culture, she said. "There are always good things in our culture and I try to point them out."

The first issue, for June/July, will include a photo shoot of tasteful swim suits; an article that asks, "Can girls and guys be friends?"; a profile of a mother who balances career with home life; wine tours on different budgets; and an article on sex-trafficking survivors.

Monica Mastracco, a parishioner of St. Rita Church in Alexandria, ordered a copy of Verily as soon as it was available.

"Verily is refreshing," she said. "It's fun but with an intelligent point of view. There's so much out there of the same - gossip that breaks people down or builds them up to inhuman proportions, stories of women who are overly sexualized. This magazine is different. It's is truly a gift."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013