What inspired the greenhouse for women?
A story of discovery from the founder, Lisa:
My first real contact with the writings of John Paul II was in 2005. I was reading his Theology of the Body and Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). I remember trying to wrap my mind around some of his amazing insights, two of which I will mention.
The first was the idea that the mystical, ethereal concept of the Trinity could be brought down to a concrete, earthly level in the relationships between men and women. The Trinity is about relationships — the Father loves the Son, the Son returns that love and this love is so powerful and palpable that it is itself a Person, the Holy Spirit. We men and women mirror, or image, the Trinity in our own relationships, especially in the marital one.
I loved the idea because it was simple and made so much sense — just as children resemble their parents in the way they look or behave, we too resemble Father, Son and Spirit through our own loving relationships with other people — siblings, parents, spouses, friends, etc.
Women: A catalyst for cultural renewal
The second concept that struck me was what he had to say about women and their motherhood. He said that, “The man — even with all his sharing in parenthood — always remains ‘outside’ the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own ‘fatherhood’ from the mother.”
Men learn their fatherhood from the mother?! Wow. So women have a lot more influence and power in our world than I could have imagined. There is lots more to say about his marvelous concepts, but I will leave it for now.
I became enchanted with his writings, especially with everything he had to say about women and femininity. I began reading and studying in earnest, and eventually earned an MA at the Maryvale Institute in England, where I was living at the time. My masters dissertation was on John Paul II and his writings on “woman.”
I found it to be so personally empowering in helping me to see my femininity in a clearer, more defined way; to see women’s stupendous role in God’s divine plan. I titled the dissertation, “Authentic Womanhood: Source of Cultural Renewal.” I became convinced, as John Paul was, that women are the primary catalyst for a cultural renewal.
How the greenhouse for women was born
Around this time, I was involved with an amazing group of women in my English town who were all mothers. We met weekly to study John Paul’s writings and I was so taken by their thirst for knowledge and their striving for holiness, as well as seeing the struggles of motherhood up close.
One type of struggle is that society sees motherhood as humdrum and common. But in fact, it is mothers who are doing the most important job of all — raising eternal beings to love God with their whole heart, soul and strength — who can make the world a better place because of their presence.
So I felt compelled to find a way to help women help the world through their families and relationships with friends and coworkers. Looking back now I can see that our little group of moms was a prototype of the greenhouse. So the idea for the greenhouse certainly began during that time in England and John Paul was the inspiration and guiding force.
The maternal love of women is powerful because it images God’s love. Like God, the love that women ideally impart is total, tenacious, and tender. Unleashing women’s awareness of this power would be a game-changer and I am on a mission now to do so! Not only to share it, but to provide a place where women can learn it and live it, a training ground of sorts, in our on-going battle at renewing the culture for Christ.
Carried by St. John Paul II
There is a lovely story about John Paul II as a young man in Poland during the time of the Nazi occupation. A young girl had emerged from a Nazi labor camp who could scarcely walk, had traveled a bit via wagon, but was eventually left to die. John Paul came upon her, picked her up and carried her a long way, to a safe place where she would be cared for.
I love this story because it speaks of his character, his love, his selflessness. John Paul has taught me what a woman is for, what I am for – that I am made to influence and encourage and love, all those who are in my life. That as a woman, I play an indispensable role in God’s plan to save the world! So in a very real way, John Paul has also carried me to a safe place, and for that I love him and am forever grateful.