Coworkers Create Sisterhood to Journey Together Through Lent

ST. JOHN – Attending an extra Mass during the week, praying intentionally and giving up sweets can help individuals draw closer to God during the Lenten season. Several female staff members at St. John the Evangelist in St. John are doing those things and more to prepare for the Lord’s resurrection at Easter. 

The coworkers created a group called the Sisterhood of the Fiat 40 in order to provide support and direction throughout a Lenten journey that they hope will have long-term positive impacts on their faith lives.

Fiat is a Latin word that means “let it be done.” The Virgin Mary’s fiat was her “yes” to God at the Annunciation when Angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she was chosen to be the mother of God.

Kris Ziegelhofer, human resources coordinator for St. John the Evangelist, said she and Hilary DiTola, parish bookkeeper, “stumbled across” Fiat 40 while looking for ways to conform to God’s will and say “yes” to him as Mary did.

It will be challenging, according to Ziegelhofer, but doable. “We will have a group text chat to help hold us accountable along the way as well as a weekly group meeting, which will be optional, to discuss our struggles and successes,” she said.

Amy Goggin, director of religious education, is excited to form the group and looks forward to the meetings. “Lent is a time to draw closer to our Almighty God. To recognize that we are His creatures and the great gift of salvation that he bought for us with his life,” she explained. “It’s a time to focus on his passion and death so that we can fully celebrate Easter.”

Ziegelhofer detailed that there are three main elements of the Fiat 40: drawing closer to Christ through prayer, self-discipline, and companionship. 

“This challenge would be almost impossible without the support of friends,” she added.
Goggin really appreciates the group’s mentality, as she attempted the same thing once before with minimal success. “Last time I remember being so excited to start this, but the group I was in just fizzled out. Without the support and accountability, I found myself relaxing on some of the rules. I found the program fruitful, but I know it can be amazing.”

DiTola had a similar experience last year. She began with friends but ended up being the only one following it. She recalled that the number of actions and changes can be overwhelming, but stressed that she has faith in this group seeing things to fruition.

In the category of prayer, Fiat 40 requires: prayerfully reading the Gospel of the day, praying for 20 to 60 minutes daily, reviewing your day each evening, attending an additional Mass per week, as well as receiving the sacrament of reconciliation during the first week of Lent and once more before Easter.

The self-discipline element includes a commitment to deny oneself the pleasure of desserts and sweets, sodas or any sweetened beverages, and alcohol.

Goggin said she loves this time of “starting over” her year to put God first by setting aside things that distract. “I like to give up things that I know that I’m too attached to,” she explained. “I also like to add some type of devotion or spiritual discipline so that I hope it will continue after Lent.”

Mary Ann Yerga, bulletin editor and CSA coordinator, is excited to begin. “I’m looking forward to focusing more on what Lenten discipline can truly mean for me,” she said. “Lent has always been a time of prayer and thanksgiving for all I’ve been given…I try to be more intentional in my prayers and actually turning off the TV and just focusing on the Word of God. It will be wonderful participating with my coworkers and friends as we go on this Lenten journey together.”

Jackie Duff, worship assistant, said her friends talked her into participating. “It’s going to be a challenge, more than I’ve tried to undertake before. But I am looking forward to growing closer to God with their help and support.”

Other acts of self-denial, or asceticism, include: not watching television or movies alone, eliminating social media, limiting computer use to work or school, not listening to negative or vulgar music, making no major purchases, not eating meat on Fridays, getting at least seven hours of sleep a night and doing some kind of regular exercise.

“These things could be really overwhelming,” Ziegelhofer noted, “but because many of us already do some forms of these disciplines, we should be able to keep true to this program and have a deep and prayerful Lent.”  

Goggin said she hopes the 40 days will be the foundation for regular routines that will continue even after Lent. “Without giving God this focus during Lent, Easter loses its due greatness. I’m hoping to gain extra discipline in my prayer life that I can continue after we complete the 40 days.”