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Women at the Well discover Christ

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In the face of life's challenges, the Women at the Well Club at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores leads young women as companions and friends through Bible and spirituality studies to discover themselves in Christ.

New pandemic procedures and tense media news can seem oppressive. Add the everyday shuffle of tests, projects, activities, and friendships, and any high school girl's heart, at some point, can relate to the exhaustion and sting of loneliness the outcast woman felt as she climbed to Jacob's Well (Jn 4:4-30). As a student navigates the growth and trials of both high school and a pandemic, she is thirsty for the love of Christian friendship to keep her going. This thirst quenches as girls meet weekly after school.

Several female teachers at John Paul the Great lead the group, including Dominican Sister Malia Grace Reed and Sarah De Silva. The girls pray, reflect and share everyday life. They share their struggles and successes in schoolwork and personal prayer.

Even before the arrival of COVID-19, Sister Malia Grace offered spirituality studies to the young women. She studied at the Augustine Institute, a Catholic graduate school in Colorado, and found that many of the institute's resources were available through Formed.org. Having experienced the resources' value, she set out to make these and other sources accessible to John Paul students.

"High school girls are hungry for Truth and need the support of one another on the journey of faith," she said. Soon, girls from all grades formed small groups with their friends and peers to select a meeting time and a topic of study. The well was flowing, and the women of John Paul the Great were approaching.

From "Genesis and John Paul II's Theology of the Body" to "Advent: Preparing the Way," all of the material the students study centers on the dignity of women. Sister Malia Grace has found the study "True Beauty: Womanhood and Spirituality" to be very helpful in relating to the girls.

From Eve and Ruth to Mary, women in the Bible are unique to history, yet with common female aspects, such as nurturing and being faithful friends. De Silva especially enjoys her ability to "draw from the wonderful resources God and the church have given me ... from FOCUS (Ministries), Formed.org, (to) Ascension Press videos, to name a few." From sharing highs and lows — moments of triumph and challenge from the week, to the takeaway — short points captured from the study to reflect on in the coming week — by the end, the girls have nourishment in every aspect of their lives.

Scripture is a prominent aspect of the group, whether it is the introductory prayer or the study's focus. "Studying some of the connections and context behind Scripture is fascinating," one freshman noted. From Ignatian Contemplation, which consists of praying through imagined sensory details such as touch and taste, to Lectio Divina, which invites reflection on a specific phrase, Bible reflections are essential to allowing God to become a part of each girl's life. They are encouraged to be vulnerable, trust, have peace through grace, and discuss ways to share this with their classmates and friends.

Teachers and students alike have encountered the strength that comes from spending time embracing the love of God, especially with a small group of their peers, and often, friends.

"It's especially encouraging to find other girls with similar ideals and goals and being able to walk ... alongside them," said Claire Vivian, a junior. "I'm excited to see how we'll help each other grow over this next year." Just as Christ was the source of everlasting life for the woman at the well, so he is now. As Sister Malia Grace put it, "We are all sinful women seeking the heart of the Messiah ... in him, we are seen, known and loved."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021