Celebrating the gift of femininity

Mary O’Donnell meets American evangelist, Johnette Benkovic

Pope John Paul II’s Clonmacnois prophecy, that the light would come from Ireland for the evangelisation of Europe, was recalled by EWTN presenter and founder of the global movement, ‘Women of Grace’, Johnnette Benkovic during her latest visit to Ireland for a series of eight talks.

The producer and host of EWTN’s television and radio programmes, Woman of Grace, spoke on the theme, ‘Signs of the times and the promised triumph’ at conferences in Knock, Dublin and Co. Derry, hosted by Human Life International (Ireland), and her talks covered radical Catholic femininity, Roman Catholicism, marriage, the family versus liberalism, and New Age religion.

Born into a Catholic family in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Johnnette spent her early school days in parochial education before attending Penn State University, where she remembers losing her faith “in the university of culture and social revolution” that was taking place at the time.

She recalled: “I lived according to the spirit of the age for about 10 years, before coming back to Holy Mother Church through charismatic renewal in August 1981.”


Intrigued by the testimony of a friend who showed a strong faith in God during a difficult moment in her life, Johnnette accepted an invitation to go with her to a charismatic prayer meeting, which led to her having a deep conversion experience.

She quipped: “During my time in university through to marriage, I went from being a hippy to a yuppie to falling in love with Jesus.”

Johnnette then became involved in charismatic renewal at diocesan level and, in 1987, was asked to host a programme for her local Catholic radio station. The following year, she was invited by EWTN to produce a 13-week series and she has been doing programmes for the network ever since.

Her five-day television programme, Woman of Grace, highlights contemporary issues from a Catholic perspective and looks at authentic femininity in the world today. She also hosts Woman of Grace Live, a call-in radio talk show which airs five times a week throughout America and is available to the world community too.

In addition, Johnnette is a popular conference speaker, retreat director, seminar presenter and author of several books, covering prayer and spirituality, authentic femininity, conversion, and the dangers of the New Age movement.

She is also founder and president of ‘Women of Grace’, a Catholic apostolate for women which seeks “to affirm women in their dignity as daughters of God and in their gift of authentic femininity”.

Johnnette remarked that this apostolate was founded “by the promptings of the Holy Spirit” in 2003, adding that nine years previous “God had placed a burden in my heart for his daughters to come to see who they are in his eyes.”


Noting that politicians in America are often heard talking about the ‘war on women’, Johnnette commented: “When they use this phrase, it is always within the context of resolving women’s issues through making contraception and abortion available.

“The sad reality, however, is that their solution for the challenges women face is the real war on women. It is an affront to the dignity of the female person.”

Stating that women’s fertility is not a disease, the mother of three and grandmother of five added: “It is not something that needs to be fixed through carcinogenic drugs and the annihilation of human life within her body.  Women’s fertility is a masterpiece of God’s creation, which works in harmony to bring about the gift of another human person created in the image and likeness of God.”

She pointed out that ‘Women of Grace’ seeks “to help women discern the dignity and power that is hers by virtue of her feminine genius expressed in the way God created her”.

Reflecting on her mission, Johnnette said that the central message she feels entrusted to proclaim is summed up in Ephesians 1:3-4, which she noted tells us that God “chose each one of us to have life in this moment in the history of man, to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love and to transform the world by his grace and life acted within us.”

She added: “For this mission, he has given us every spiritual blessing in Heaven. We only have to receive these blessings and act upon them. We are called to be the saints of this, our day and time.”

Reflecting on the moment she fully came to understand this Scripture passage, Johnnette recalled the 5am knock on the door of her family home 10 years ago by two policemen, who had come to tell her and her husband that their only son, who had just returned from war duty a few months before, had been killed in a vehicular accident a short distance from home.


She said: “In that first horrific moment, I was laying on my bedroom floor crying out to God, proclaiming Ephesians 1:3-4, a message I had often proclaimed on radio and television. I knew that God was in the midst of this suffering with me and I beseeched him to help me to see past the pain and find the blessing in this cross. But, in that moment, there was no consolation.

“I then discovered that it is only in the midst of moments that faith needs to be acted upon, does its power become evident. The blessing that I needed was there. It was in me by the Sacrament of Baptism, and strengthened in Confirmation, but I had to do something about it.”

Saying that faith cannot move us forward if we do not, in some way, move in it, Johnnette added: “It takes an act of the will. I had a choice. I could lie in a heap on my bedroom floor mourning, or I could stand up in an act of faith, as Our Lady had stood beneath her son’s cross. So, I stood up and walked out of the bedroom to join my husband and talked to the police officers.

“God’s power is tremendous. The loss of my son, Simon, has become, for me, the greatest portal of grace I have ever experienced. That does not mean that I don’t grieve him any more, but I have seen what God has done in my life through the gift of the cross.

“When my son was killed, a priest told me that when God calls us to a great mission, he often gives us a great cross.”

Saying that we should never wonder why we suffer or are persecuted, she added: “This is going to happen. Embrace it. When God entrusts an apostolic work to you, as a baptised person this puts you in the middle of warfare. But, you can’t let that make you fearful.

“God tells us that fear is useless. Anytime that you feel your life is in peril, make the sign of the cross and know that the full power of the Lord will be yours. We all have a mission. We need to be like the great saints; we need to say our prayers and get up and go!”