Magnificat Pittsburgh offers Spirit-filled meals to women

Monday, May 06, 2019 - Updated: 4:24 pm

By William Cone Editor

Special things have been known to happen at Magnificat Prayer Breakfasts.

A few years ago, a mother and daughter who had been estranged from each other met by surprise at one of the breakfasts. They said a brief hello, then returned to their seats at opposite ends of the room.

“It just so happened that day that our speaker spoke on forgiveness,” said assistant coordinator Kay Burkot, “and after the breakfast the daughter and mother came together and reconciled. The mother came to us at the head table and said, with tears in her eyes, ‘We’re mother and daughter again.’”

“We say that God’s in our seating arrangements, God chooses our speakers,” said Mary Samsa, coordinator and co-founder, with Burkot, of Magnificat Pittsburgh.

The ministry’s Saturday, May 18, breakfast in Green Tree will mark 15 years of those special meals. Four breakfasts are held annually, with three in the north part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and one in the south.

Popular past speakers include Bishop David Zubik, EWTN personalities Johnnette Benkovic and Susan Conroy, Father Ken Oldenski, Sister Ann Shields and former local TV news anchor Jennifer Antkowiak. Most speakers are women because the goal is to have women ministering to women, Burkot said.

Samsa, who serves as master of ceremonies, said that “at every breakfast we boil it down that we’re here to help women grow in holiness, and help them be touched by the Holy Spirit,” harkening back to the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat, spoken to her cousin, Elizabeth.

The speaker this month will be Ann Vucic, who was born near Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Marian apparitions are reported to have taken place since 1981.

Vucic moved to the United States at age 2, but returned to the former Yugoslavia many times to visit family members. At 15, she claims to have been healed in Medjugorje, and today she is a pilgrimage guide and English-Croatian translator.

“Her message, as she told me, is to help people trust in God and show that you are no longer limited by your humanity,” Samsa said. “You think you can’t do it. God can do it. You just yield to him and he’ll show you the way, and give you the gifts and the talents that you need to do it.”

Burkot said the breakfast speakers are encouraged to give a personal testimony about what God has done in their life.

“If you think of the words of Mary’s Magnificat in (the Gospel of) Luke, you see that she’s telling her story, and every speaker is giving her magnificat, her story with God and what God wants for them,” Samsa said.

The visitation of Mary with Elizabeth played a key role in the Pittsburgh Magnificat chapter’s formation.

About 18 years ago, Samsa and Burkot were attending a 7 p.m. Mass at their parish, St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township. They recognized a fellow worshipper: national speaker Patti Gallagher Mansfield, who was at the Duquesne Weekend in 1967 that began the Catholic charismatic movement.

Mansfield was traveling with a group of people heading to Franciscan University of Steubenville. They stopped at St. Ferdinand for confession and Mass.

One of the people in her group was Marilyn Quirk, who began Magnificat in New Orleans in the 1980s and was coordinator of the ministry’s central service team. She talked with Samsa and Burkot about forming a chapter.

When the two friends met for breakfast a few days later and began looking through the Magnificat material, they learned that the Visitation is the inspiration for the ministry.

Samsa said “we realized that the day of the breakfast when we agreed to pursue this was the feast of the Visitation. So we really think that God called us to this ministry, and Jesus really wanted this ministry, and so many doors have opened for us.”

The Pittsburgh chapter has become one of the largest, in terms of meal attendance, of the more than 100 chapters in the United States and other countries. An average of 300-350 attend each breakfast, Samsa and Burkot said.

Besides the featured speaker, a typical three-hour Magnificat Prayer Breakfast includes prayer and a teaching by Father Tom Sparacino, the ministry’s spiritual adviser; recitation of Mary’s Magnificat; and music by Living Praise, a group from Steubenville.

The heart of the ministry is the large team of volunteers, from the service team leaders to table hostesses and greeters, who make everyone feel welcome at the breakfasts, Samsa said.

“One of the things that’s important to me it that, when women attend our breakfast, joy will come to them when the Holy Spirit shows them,” she said. “… This chapter has had so much prayer, so much seeking of God’s will. We discern, there’s prayer. That’s the basis. God wanted this started and he walks with us every day in this ministry.”

To purchase $23 tickets to the May 18 breakfast, go to the website: www.magnificatpittsburgh.org. You can register and pay online or learn how to mail a check. Registration is required by May 10.

People also can connect to Magnificat Pittsburgh with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through links on the website.

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