By Ginger Leigh (Geramanis) Arnold
Called and Gifted was a major steppingstone in my journey to the Catholic Church. I attended my first session in 2013 when I wasn’t yet Catholic. I had previously taken spiritual gifts classes but never before received such wonderful direction and encouragement in a process of discerning my gifts, or charisms. It was the first time I really sought to explore whether I was seeing my spiritual gifts clearly. Learning about our gifts prepares us to hit it out of the park when God pitches us an opportunity to serve.
My first discernment test was intercessory prayer. The choice would have brought belly laughs from my childhood classmates who dragged me to church in an effort to save the soul of this unchurched “heathen.” Since becoming a Christ follower, I discovered that prayer flowed naturally from my lips. I am able to articulate clearly and precisely the needs of the individuals with whom and for whom I pray.
True to form, God teed up the perfect opportunity to test my gift of prayer when he put a woman in my path who was lost and badly in need of directions to the airport. I got her to her destination and before parting, I asked if she had any needs that I might take to prayer. She became emotional and told me about family challenges that were a source of great pain and worry. We prayed right there. Shortly afterward, I received a beautiful card. She called me her “angel” and said she was especially grateful for our prayer. She shared that she had been raised Catholic but had fallen away when she married a man who was not. He had died recently. Our encounter inspired her to return to Mass. The joy I feel recounting that story is indescribable. Although baptized by then, I was not Catholic at the time. Who could have dreamed I would evangelize for the Church even before I joined it?
I will be attending my third Called and Gifted program in September. In my second session in 2021, I was discerning leadership. I was among the students from that class inspired and empowered to begin new ministries. I have spent the past eight months laying the groundwork for CONNECT: Support for Single Moms, a local support group aimed at creating community and connection in a population that needs it. I’m navigating some hurdles, but Called and Gifted has taught me to appreciate and seek out the gifts of others. I’ve been blessed that a handful of my Called and Gifted classmates wanted to join me in making CONNECT happen.
I’m still not sure whether leadership is my charism. Time will tell. Even if I’m not a gifted leader, it’s valuable to know what you don’t know. When we struggle, it’s OK to ask others for help and it can be a blessing to those whose gifts address a need. I can think of no greater joy than using our gifts in ways that others might not be equipped to do. When we do it for God, it is all the more joyful.
We all have gifts. Knowing our gifts gives us confidence to use and develop them and to step through the door when God opens it. Knowing our charisms frees us to grow into the thoughtful individuals God created us to be, unique conduits to carry his love into the world.
(Ginger Leigh (Geramanis) Arnold is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Rapids City, Illinois.)