Retreat program for teen girls to go diocese-wide
Theresa Ward
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Retreat program for teen girls to go diocese-wide

By Theresa Ward

COLORADO SPRINGS. The words “Talitha Koum” at first appear to be the name of a woman, but these are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, when he goes to see the daughter of Ja’irus. The child is dying. When Jesus arrives, people say that she is already dead, but Jesus says, “The child is not dead, but sleeping.” (Mk 5:39) Jesus takes the young girl’s hand saying, “Talitha Koum; which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’” (Mk 5:41)

A growing ministry in the diocese has adopted the name “Talitha Koum” to share the message that young women can arise in their relationship with God and the world by becoming aware of the gift from God that is their femininity. The ministry offers weekend retreats and is looking to partner with parishes in the Colorado Springs diocese to extend the message to a larger audience of teen girls.

“Our world wants to attack who we are as women, what our gifts are as women and how we are called to be in union with God as women,” said Tonya Sivinski, one of the founding members of Talitha Koum Ministries. “What we try to do with the young girls is point out the lies and the messages that the world is giving us about our womanhood, our feminine gifts, our feminine beauty. We try to show them the truth about those aspects of who we are called to be and who and what our identity is to counterbalance what they’re hearing in the world.”

The Talitha Koum ministry began as a grass-roots effort two years ago at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs as an answer to a prayer. A member prayed for an answer to her question of why womanhood was under attack.

“When you watch the news today, you hear all these stories about how womanhood is under attack. More specifically, how they can’t even define what a woman is,” said Sivinski. “You know God, when you ask hard questions like that, he does provide answers — if you’re open to listen, and maybe do a little digging and a little research. We feel that we can present to young women a good idea of why womanhood is under attack, and then, a Catholic response to that. We use the beauty of the church’s teachings as well as scripture to show young women what they’re truly called to be and how they’re called to be in relationship with others but most importantly — how they’re called to be in relationship with God.”

The ministry’s leaders say they now feel called to work with multiple parishes.

“God put it on our heart to expand this ministry beyond St. Francis so that we can reach more young women,” Sivinski continued, “Which is why this school year we hope to offer retreats at four parishes. Then girls can attend whatever retreat best suits their schedule.”

The group has developed a plan where the parishes that host a retreat don’t have to do much more than provide a place for it to happen.

“Our program is, you could say, neatly packaged and so we essentially can roll into a parish and provide everything. We may require just a few volunteers from the parish,” Sivinski said.  She added that if a parish is struggling to host because they don’t have the location or the facilities, but would like to do the retreat, they would like to work with them.

“If we need to find an alternative location, we can do that, or maybe they can co-host with another church that does have the facilities to provide the retreat.”

A girl who attends the retreat can expect fellowship, according to Sivinski, “and she can expect games and fun, and we do movies. And she can expect to learn more about who she is. And what God is calling her to be. Hopefully she’ll also develop a better relationship with God. And other women just like her, so that when she leaves, she feels like she has a sisterhood that she can fall back on.”

Sivinski reports that the group is hearing from some of the young girls that they feel alone in schools due to some of the things they are experiencing. She said that when they come to the retreat, it’s nice for them to be around people who have the same beliefs that they do and that support them in these beliefs, because that’s not what they necessarily experience in the school setting throughout the day.

The group uses such authors as Pope St. John Paul II, Christopher West, Father Mike Schmitz and Jason and Crystalina Evert as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and scripture for their messages, which are carefully prepared to reflect Church teaching. “We try to be very well rounded in our sources,” said Sivinski. She added that all sources are listed in the retreat journal that the young women receive, so that both they and their parents know where all the material comes from.

One example of a feminine gift from God is receptivity.  “This is one that I think all women need to have,” said Sivinski. “It’s the one we see in our Blessed Mother. She was receptive to God’s words — to saying ‘yes’ so that she could become the mother of God. I think we are all called to be receptive not only to the needs of our family but to the needs of the world. Receptivity is probably one of the most important gifts that we have, because it allows us to respond in a way that God calls us to respond to one another and to our neighbors and to the world.”

Space is still available in the retreat taking place Sept. 22-23 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs. Girls in eighth grade through high school who would like to attend should contact Sivinski at pilotpt10@comcast.net.

(Theresa Ward is a freelance writer for The Colorado Catholic Herald.)

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