On a Wednesday afternoon, about a dozen women spread out among several tables, embellished with purple tablecloths, bottles of wine and chocolate. The atmosphere was relaxed, almost retreat-like, as they discussed the lives of the saints and how to pray with them.
For these women, every Wednesday afternoon at Pauline Books and Media in Crestwood is their chance to back away from the busyness of life and connect with one another through what they describe as a spiritual sisterhood. The Gateway WINE Book Club is one of three in the archdiocese helping women to nourish a spiritual hunger that these women say is most certainly present in the world.
Created by Catholic author and speaker Kelly Wahlquist and several friends, Women in the New Evangelization (WINE) empowers women with tools to nurture them in the faith and equip them to become intentional disciples of Christ.
The centerpiece of the ministry is the Read Between the WINEs Book Club, which helps women develop relationships with Christ and each other in a small-group setting. The ministry also hosts conferences, retreats and speaking events across the country and a yearly pilgrimage to Italy.
Wahlquist said that the ministry has grown “extraordinarily quickly” since its founding three years ago. “There is such a thirst out there for this, and the reason being is that WINE truly answered the call to the new evangelization … it has hit a niche that is truly new in method and really new in expression.”
WINE invites women into relationship with other women, so they can grow together go deeper into a relationship with the Lord. The name of the program certainly piques people’s interest, she said, but beyond the catchy title, it goes deeper in answering God’s call through fellowship, Scripture and prayer.
Wahlquist reflected on Mary’s last words in the Bible, which were “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5) “WINE is about doing the will of God. It’s always easier when you can do it with your sisters in Christ, supporting and encouraging you.”
She will be in St. Louis in April and May for two speaking engagements. She serves as assistant director for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Gateway to WINE
Mary Ann Hutcherson was introduced to WINE through her experience in Catholic marketing. She previously ran a bookstore in California, where she connected with Wahlquist. When Hutcherson met with the Daughters of St. Paul upon moving to St. Louis, they started the Gateway WINE Book Club in the summer of 2016. The group meets on Wednesday afternoons and draws women from roughly a dozen parishes in the archdiocese.
“Everybody brings something to the table that is unique,” she said. “They have definitely formed a sisterhood.”
The Pauline Sisters promote the club through the bookstore and have seen positive results, Hutcherson noted. “One time, we had someone come into the store and she was real down, and they invited them to come downstairs and join the group.”
Another person joined and said, “I’ll never talk.” Hutcherson posed a question to the group, and the woman immediately opened up. “A book club is much less intimidating for people,” she said.
WINE promotes the book club on a spring, summer and fall schedule, and there are roughly 5-6 weeks in between each session. Hutcherson wanted to keep the group committed to meeting every week, so they fill the gaps with other Catholic books. In May, the club will begin discussing “Gifts of the Visitation: Nine Spiritual Encounters with Mary and Elizabeth,” by St. Louis Catholic author Denise Bossert.
Hutcherson said the group focuses on the four gifts of womanhood that WINE highlights: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity. “It’s amazing how those gifts run through all the books in some way,” she said. “And it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown in those as a result.”
A book club format can be more palatable for people who might feel intimidated by a Bible study group. But Hutcherson noted that Scripture is highlighted in all of their discussions.
“For some reason when you’re doing the books and you’re understanding these gifts, it comes out much clearer — or else the Holy Spirit is just all over us every single week,” she said. “The women fly with it and the Holy Spirit comes to me and says here’s how to pull it all together.”
>> WINE speaking events
Kelly Wahlquist, creator
of WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) will be coming to the
Archdiocese of St. Louis for two speaking engagements.
• “How to
Become America’s Next Top Model … Disciple” will take place 6:30-8:30
p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at Pauline Books and Media, 9804 Watson Road
in Crestwood. Wahlquist will discuss the unique role of women in
becoming disciples of Jesus. Cost is $20 per person. For more
information, call (314) 965-3512 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register online at gatewaywine.eventbrite.com.
“Why the Church Needs WINE: Women in the New Evangelization” will take
place 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Immaculate Conception Church,
7701 Highway N in Dardenne Prairie. Wahlquist will discuss why women are
pivotal to the new evangelization. Cost is $20 per person. For more
information or to register, call (636) 561-6611, ext. 509, or email
WINE in the Archdiocese of St. Louis
are three Read Between the WINEs Book Clubs in the Archdiocese of St.
Louis. Each club meets weekly and provides materials to help women
develop relationships with Christ and each other in a small-group
• The Gateway WINE Book Club meets on Wednesdays from 1-2
p.m. at Pauline Books and Media, 9804 Watson Road in Crestwood. Call
(314) 965-3512 for more information or email Mary Ann Hutcherson at
• Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne
Prairie hosts a group on Thursday evenings. For more information,
contact Bonnie Schmitt at email@example.com.
Parish in south St. Louis County hosts a group on Tuesday evenings. For
more information, contact the parish at (314) 487-7970.
Books featured include:
“Created to Relate: God’s Design for Peace and Joy,” which explains the
natural gift women have for maintaining life-giving relationships and
the key to living the Gospel fully and joyfully
• “Walk in Her
Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion Through the Eyes of Women,” a
collaborative of writings from Catholic women writers on experiencing
• “When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the
Power of Prayer,” which includes personal stories of living as
contemplatives in action
• “Who Does He Say You Are? Women
Transformed by Christ in the Gospels,” a collection of stories from
women in the Gospels and how they answer a crucial question of identity.
To learn more about WINE and starting a book club, visit www.catholicvineyard.com.