In September of 1993, on the Feast of Our Mother of Sorrows, Maria Reinagel began her life as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, and for the past 30 years, she has served in a variety of roles, including spending 16 years as a faculty member helping to form young consecrated women at Mater Ecclesiae College. Today, she continues to work to support consecrated vocations, serving now as the Director of the Office for Consecrated Life, which seeks to build a culture of vocation and promote the beauty of consecrated life in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The Office for Consecrated Life includes two important dimensions. First, Maria acts as a liaison between the archbishop and religious men and women, providing support to those who have already given their lives to God in consecrated life. This entails fostering an appreciation for consecrated life, like hosting a Mass and bruncheon for jubilarians celebrating a milestone anniversary in religious life. Maria also organizes an annual conference for those who minister to and care for aging religious, and generates a media campaign to drum up support for the annual campaign for the Retirement Fund for Religious. For example, this year Maria invested in having a professional 4 minute video made with an appeal to support the fund using local religious, so that people could see how their donations are put to use and how religious and consecrated people in the archdiocese benefit from their support.
The second dimension of Maria’s role is to promote new vocations to consecrated life. This entails keeping up the archdiocese’s website for the Office of Consecrated Life, and working with vocation ministers to sponsor and promote any vocational events and retreats happening in the diocese. Maria is also the point person for those who have vocational inquiries not specifically related to diocesan priesthood, and in the last three and a half years, she’s spoken to over 40 people seeking guidance on vocational discernment, one of whom will soon likely be joining the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
Through her role in the Office of Consecrated Life, Maria has had the opportunity to get to know the different religious communities in the archdiocese of Cincinnati and, in doing so, has grown in her own understanding of the history of the Church and religious life. And while Maria’s own call to consecrated life and her love for the Church have prepared her for this role of serving and promoting vocations, she believes that it was also her experience of journeying through the renewal process of Regnum Christi that helped to equip her in a vital way. “My own experience of renewal, and being accompanied through that, has favored my desire to walk along others and accompany them,” says Maria. “It opened up for me a clarity of what a gift that accompaniment is, and gives me the desire to help religious in the church to grow healthy and strong vocations.”
Another aspect of her role in supporting and promoting vocations that Maria loves most is the space it has provided for her to use her gifts of innovation and creativity. One of the ways she uses and cultivates her creativity is through poetry; Maria has been writing since she was young and has written over a hundred poems.
But for Maria, writing poetry has not simply been a creative outlet; as a woman who suffered abuse as a child, writing poems, particularly in the beginning, was a way of finding her voice, and learning to speak the things that she had suppressed, or had never expressed. As Maria’s poetry developed, it began to communicate her story of healing and how she has been blessed and healed by Christ’s grace, eventually becoming deepening reflections of prayer and of her experience of Christ and his personal and healing love for her.
Maria’s poetry writing is truly charismatic – a gift that she exercises with little effort, but has had a profound impact on those who read it. “When a poem comes out, it just pours out, and I didn’t put a lot of effort into it,” explains Maria, “but others are very touched by it, and it’s that disproportion that tells me that this is something that God is working through.” Maria has been continually urged to publish her poetry by those with whom she has shared it, but it wasn’t until she came across Journeys Revealed Ministries, a non-profit team of authors, speakers, and spiritual companions based out of Botkins, Ohio, that this idea of publishing a collection of poetry became a real possibility. Journeys Revealed Ministries is inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux and other great saints, and is dedicated to spreading the love of Jesus by sharing their stories through a variety of outlets, including publications, podcasts, and social media platforms. After Maria met with JRM’s founder, Julia Monnin, the group agreed to walk with Maria as she continued her discernment related to publishing a book of her poetry, and, as part of this discernment, she set to work on writing and submitting a manuscript.
However, it soon became apparent that Maria’s story was more than a random collection of poems – they tell of the healing of a soul – and she was encouraged to tie them together with a coherent narrative to help to fulfill the mission of the Journeys Revealed ministry which, through the sharing of personal experiences in real and relatable ways, seeks to shed light on the darkness and leads others to greater intimacy with Christ. Maria has spent the last year pondering each of the poems included in the manuscript, and writing a biographical introduction to each chapter. She is working to complete this second draft of her manuscript soon so that the book can be published within the next year or two (God-willing, of course), and hopes that the finished product will be a gift to all those who read it, particularly those who have experienced abuse or trauma. “I am very moved by the work our Lord is doing,” says Maria. “There are so many women especially who have suffered from abuse, and this has become a beautiful way for me to serve them and to show them Jesus’ healing power.”
Maria joined the consecrated community in Greater Cincinnati in 2015. In addition to her work as the Director of the Office for Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, she is involved in adult ministry and is a spiritual director. You can watch a video of Maria’s mission to build a culture of vocation and promote the beauty of consecrated life as part of The Heart of the Consecrated Woman series on YouTube. You can find more information and resources about the discernment path at catholicaoc.org.
Below is a poem written by Maria to the laity, called to the mission of imaging the Church and transforming culture.