Girls Get Real With God

Fiat Girls’ Club of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, Va., shows how a parish-based group can help young people grow into New Evangelizers. By Joseph Pronechen.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Va., has an active and dynamic girls group. Not a singing group. A saving and sanctifying group.

Named Fiat, the group was mentioned in the Register, ever so briefly, last year. Soon after, Father James Searby — Fiat’s founder — began receiving inquiries from around the country.

“A lot of the girls in our parish are thrilled,” says Julie Piché, whose two daughters are Fiat members. She’s pleased to see them growing in special and surprising ways, like the day 12-year-old Nicole said she was going to one of the Eucharistic adoration times scheduled for Fiat members by rotation on Fridays.

“I told her I didn’t think she had adoration that day,” says Piché. “But she answered, ‘One of the other girls had a test and I volunteered to do it for her.’ It was huge for Nicole to do it,” adds the beaming mother.

Specifically for girls in grades 5 to 12, Fiat is a natural extension of the new evangelization, says Father Searby.

“The goals of Fiat are to help the girls grow as women of natural and supernatural virtue and grow in love with Jesus Christ and the Gospel in the midst of the world,” he explains. They do this through prayer, friendships and engaging the created beauty of God through Fiat’s four areas of formation — charitable, spiritual, cultural and vocational.

What’s in the name? The Blessed Mother’s Yes to God at the Annunciation — and everything that first fiat brought about.

“It is the most beautiful phrase ever spoken,” says Father Searby. “We want to help these girls to be able to do what Our Lady did: give themselves completely and totally in their own fiat to God in the particular way he calls them.”

That could eventually be as wives and mothers, spiritual mothers in the religious life or single women sanctifying the world as consecrated persons. Father Searby points out that Fiat, around 50 members strong, is set up to help young girls grow in what John Paul II always referred to as the “feminine genius.”

At Holy Spirit, Fiat’s first goal is for members to spend regular time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. They have a chance to do this during the parish’s weekly adoration, which begins on Friday and runs till Mass the next morning.

At their adoration times, girls pray for people who have no one to pray for them, those in nearby Washington, D.C., many parish members serving in the military, the sick and dying, the marginalized, the lonely — and each other, says Father Searby. And they pray for an increase in vocations.

He teaches the girls different ways of praying, from the Rosary to vocal and mental prayer. The women who help run Fiat reinforce the teachings.

“We see girls progress from walking into the church and not knowing what to do, to being confident in prayer,” observes Piché. “Now that two older girls and one brand-new member are adoring at the same time, we’re seeing these little girls looking up to the older girls [for their example].”

When Father Searby teaches the Fiat girls in religion classes at the parish school, he also notices that “they have this indescribable attentiveness and joyfulness. The spiritual life is real to them. It’s a lived experience, not a concept. By spending time with Jesus Christ, they find that he becomes a person they love.”

Nicole Piché puts this in her own words.

“I really like doing adoration because it’s really cool to be able to go there once a month, and every Friday,” says the pre-teen. “We can talk to Jesus right in front of you and not worry about if he’s listening.”

For Fiat’s service projects, Nicole likes making knotted rosaries out of cord.

“Father Searby was going to bring the pink ones to cancer patients in the hospital,” she says happily. Fiat girls also make decade-bracelet versions for smaller children who clamor for these “cool-looking” ones. Notes Father Searby: “You’d be surprised how many pray it.”

Fiat girls combine charity and service in many ways, like praying at a local cemetery during All Souls week, apple-picking in September and donating the literal fruits of their labor to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

This points to another Fiat priority: maintaining contact with religious orders. Girls can volunteer with them and see how religious women live. The girls have heard a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist speak on spiritual motherhood.

Father Searby says that, when he hears seventh-grade girls asking how they can learn to hear God’s voice more clearly, the fruits of Fiat are clear. “Girls are actively listening,” he says, “for the voice of God.”

Beautiful and True

Fiat members also learn to hear and answer the call to evangelize our culture by seeing what is true and beautiful and bringing it to the world through their feminine genius. Learning in a fun way includes going to art museums, plays and musical productions. On tap right now are a Mozart opera and a classic Broadway musical revival.

And Fiat girls are still discussing a talk they heard from a professional fashion consultant.

 “It showed me appropriate things to wear to Mass or church or anywhere,” adds Catherine Devlin, 13.

She says Fiat has helped her become a better young lady in many ways, from understanding God better to looking at vocation decisions as she grows to making wise decisions now. Catherine has already convinced five of her classmates in Holy Spirit School to join Fiat.

Her mother, Maria Devlin, helps direct Fiat. She considers it a blessing to watch all the girls blossom and grow in their spiritual life among their peers.

“The girls need this experience at this age in our society,” says Devlin. “They need to focus on the Eucharist and what God wants them to do and not what society wants them to do.”

Fiat has become a sisterhood, says Father Searby, who adds that he finds its modest size a plus.

“It’s so beautiful to see young women being young women, and not afraid to be,” says the priest. “They’re not afraid to grow in their relationship with God in every area of their lives, and they’re not afraid to tell people about it. You hear them sharing their faith in school, when they go out, seeing and discussing what’s beautiful and true.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen

writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.


Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.