Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

At the Diocese of Superior’s 2024 Women’s Retreat, the presenter was Angela Schnieders, a former FOCUS missionary of 15 years and who serves a board chairman of FIERCE Athlete and also works with The Woman School founded by January Donovan. A college athlete herself, Schnieders has also studied with the Augustine Institute.

For the second year, two weekends were provided to accommodate the number of women registering for retreat. In addition to three talks and one question-and-answer session with the speaker, women retreatants heard multiple personal testimonies from other women on the themes of relationship, identity and mission.

While the women’s content was similarly themed as the men’s, Loree Nauertz, associate director for the Diocese of Superior’s Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, said each retreat is planned with men’s and women’s specific needs in mind.

Schnieders’ first talk was about relationship. Relying heavily on Scripture, she presented with Jesus as the central figure of her reflections. Jesus’s passion is the model for what the word means, to suffer for what one loves, she explained. “The crucifixion is the greatest tragedy of humanity, but also its greatest grace.”

She spoke at length about the need for experiencing oneself as a beloved daughter of God, aware that the enemy of our souls sows doubt, deceit and distortion to keep us from realizing the dreams God has for each of us. Offering questions for reflection, women were given time for silent prayer and small-group discussion.

The second presentation focused on women’s identity and again iterated how essential it is to be grounded in one’s identity in God first and foremost, especially in a culture and society where women have repeatedly been told their value is in what they can produce.
Of the numerous babies present with their mothers, Schnieders singled out the youngest – only four weeks old – pointing out that she is unconditionally loved and cared for by her mother “just for being her child.”

“We’re made for infinite love,” she said and then talked about the role that wounds can play. She gave the example of trying to use your hand with a broken bone. “We operate around the wounds,” and need to be aware of how we compensate as well as understanding how deeply God wants to heal us, to set us free.

“Get curious about your stories, ladies,” Schnieders encouraged. “Our greatest trauma can be our greatest glory and triumph.” She often referred to generational wounds and the need for seeking wholeness through the sacraments, deliverance prayer and mental health resources with each aspect playing important roles.

Schnieders highlighted how the dramatic shift in society with its “layers of breakdown,” women need to strengthen themselves with hopeful expectation and to train their wills to see God’s provision in each moment.

Moving to mission for the final talk, the speaker tied it to the Lenten season and God luring us to the desert to speak to our hearts as an invitation. Schnieders’ three points were that we are all called to be saints and fruitful spiritual mothers, but that the “how” is a particular call and will look different for each person. She said how women should give out of a reservoir built up internally through prayer and the sacraments, not as a channel who holds onto nothing for herself.

“Jesus’ heart is actually Mary’s heart,” she stated. “Through the Eucharist, her blood runs through our veins,” she said as an example of how we need to first fill ourselves, specifying that besides Mass, women need to pray the rosary, spend time meditating on Scripture, fast and go to confession.

Explaining that Satan’s tactic is to make us doubt God and feel the need to be self-reliant, Schnieders highlighted, “Mary crushes Satan. It’s time for new women to rise up in the image of Mary.” She described how the Hail Mary prayer asks for the Blessed Mother’s help, “now and at the hour of death,” and to stay focused on the now.

Let God and Mother Mary “show you their vision for your future,” but live right now, she advocated. “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire, and remember that God doesn’t use us,” as a slave or servant is used like a tool. “He pours into us as a reservoir to overflow into others. We have to be rooted in intimacy,” Schnieders affirmed.

For Nauertz, the retreat organizer, one of the highlights was to see the work of the Holy Spirit in the women on retreat. As individuals, their participation in the sacraments at Mass, adoration and in confession; and forming “beautiful communities of sisters in Christ,” in the lounge areas conversing and during the scheduled free time.

It was “pretty darn cool to witness the pure joy on these women’s faces,” Nauertz said.

She complimented Schnieders as an “incredible speaker who went to the depths of our souls and made us really look at God’s fatherly love, our identity and need to be on mission.”

She concluded with a word of gratitude for the presence of Bishop James P. Powers. “It says a lot about who he is as a shepherd and his desire to be with his people.”

Angela Schnieders, mother of two young daughters and international speaker, addresses women during the second of two weekends offered at the former Heartwood resort in Trego. (Submitted photo)