At a few different points in my life, I have been tempted to call myself “friendless.” In reality, owing to the fact that I have two wonderful sisters and a mom I speak with daily, I am never at a loss for female companionship. But since each of these three “besties” lives far away, they are not available for those immediate “Can you have coffee? NOW?!” moments that seem to arise in a woman’s life. Within the past eighteen months, my husband and I have moved twice and I’m still diligently at work on cultivating new friends. Fifty-four years of living has taught me that finding trusted female companionship doesn’t just happen.
So let me fill you in on a little secret (since we’re all friends, right?). I have known about our newest CatholicMom.com Book Club selection, The Friendship Project by Michele and Emily, for many months. The project was approved by our wonderful publisher, Ave Maria Press, around the time of my family’s move to Los Angeles. I’ve watched my sisters in Christ work diligently on this, their gift to us, as I’ve settled into a new community and a new spiritual “home.” So many times, I’ve thought about the teachings in this book, anticipated its arrival, and daydreamed about discussing it with all of you (and maybe–if I’m brave enough–with a group of women in my new parish).
If you’re gifted enough to already have a circle of friends surrounding you, this book will help you to celebrate one another as your break it open together. If, like me, you’ve struggled with feelings of loneliness or isolation, let this book be a pathway to knowing that you are uniquely gifted as a daughter of our Creator and that God longs for you to know the grace of true friendship. I love that we will be breaking open the book together, as a CatholicMom.com community. At the heart of our friendship here, in this virtual little corner of the world, is a common desire to seek out virtue, to live it well in our homes, and to share it with the world around us.
I hope that you enjoy my interview here with Emily and Michele and that you’ll set aside some time in the coming weeks to enjoy the gifts of The Friendship Project with us!
Q: First and foremost, congratulations on the success of your first book Divine Mercy for Moms and thank you for your beautiful ministry to so many around the world! Please begin with a brief introduction of yourself and your families for readers who may not already know you.
Michele: I am a wife and mother of four, ages thirteen to three. I work full time as a school nurse, but my greatest passion is evangelization. I am the co-director of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference, an author and speaker.
Emily: I am a wife and mother of seven, ages 18 years to 18 months. I’ve been involved with women’s ministry for over 10 years with my radio apostolate, A Mother’s Moment, and I am also part of the leadership team for the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference. I enjoy sharing the message of the Gospel as an author and speaker.
Q: How did the work you began in Divine Mercy for Moms organically lead to this beautiful new project? How does this book extend your audience from moms to any woman at any stage in life? Why was this extension important to you?
Michele: As we travel around the country speaking about our first book, Divine Mercy for Moms, women often approach us and share that their favorite part of the book is when we talk about our friendship. Emily and I have been blessed to know each other for over 20 years, since college. I met my husband at Emily’s wedding and we have worked in women’s ministry together over the past 15 years. Many women shared with us that they too desired to have a close friendship in faith, so we knew that this was a topic women wanted to read more about.
We wrote this book for women of all ages because friendship is essential to life and happiness for everyone. We hope The Friendship Project sparks both new relationships and deepening of women’s existing friendships. With both of us working in women’s ministry for over 10 years, we knew it was important to broaden our ministry and writing to include all women.
Q: This book is more than simply a “feel good” tome on the timely topic of friendship. You’ve managed to take a timeless look at this age-old conflict in women’s lives by framing your thoughts around the virtues. Why this approach? What does this framework end up looking like in the book and why are you convinced that the cardinal and theological virtues can help?
Emily: In The Friendship Project, we explore the cardinal and theological virtues with an eye toward friendship. Focusing on faith, hope, love, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness, we share how each of these virtues is related to authentic Christian friendship. We also include touching stories of real friendships we have encountered in our lives that illustrate the virtue and how God can use friendships to deepen our Catholic faith. Each chapter features a “saint pair”: two saints who were friends while they were here on earth such as St. Felicity and Perpetua, St. Therese of Lisieux and her sister Servant of God Leonie Martin and the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth. At the end of each chapter we provide some practical advice and strategies on how to grow in these virtues and implement them in your relationships.
Q: Say a few words to the woman out there who feels desperately lonely right now … can a book be a part of her path to healing? How?
Michele: God created us to be with others. We hope that The Friendship Project can help you connect with other women and develop new relationships. We offer very practical suggestions for deepening and developing friendships in each chapter to help you move forward in this area. We also hope you can join a group and do the read book together with other women as part of our book study. There are even online groups, like here at Catholicmom.com and St. Teresa’s Online Book Group on Facebook, that you can join and meet other women virtually.
Q: We’re all so busy these days working, caring for family and trying to pass along the faith to our children. Why is prioritizing holy friendships something that should earn time on our “to do” lists?
Emily: As we researched friendship, we were overjoyed to see the amount of writing that the saints have done on the topic of friendship and its importance. Friendship isn’t optional, but necessary! St. Augustine writes “In this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them. Life and friendship are nature’s gifts.” We also began to read about many saints who had other saint friends while here on earth. It was really eye opening to see that many of the great saints had close friendships on earth, and because of their mutual desire to serve God, they were able to help each other grow in holiness.
Q: You’ve gone above and beyond to make this book one that will help create new holy friendships by creating so many great resources to help groups use this book. What tools are out there, and why is this important?
Michele: We really believe small groups are a wonderful way to build faith-filled friendships. We’ve worked very hard to provide a group based study based on over 10 years of participating in women’s studies together. The study questions are provided in the back of the book for group discussion, designed to help the participant process and implement many of the concepts presented throughout the book. Each session also includes a “Going Deeper Into Scripture” section, which allows you to ponder a scripture verse from each chapter and meditate over God’s word together.
Our website, thefriendshipprojectbook.com, is full of free resources. We created a printable version of the study guide in a journal form with lines to write your answers and reflections down, and it is available absolutely free on our website. Our website also provides a short professionally produced videos for each chapter, available for free. Each video includes all-new, complementary teachings not included in the book, a chance to get to know us, the authors, and meet our friends we’ve written about in the book through unique interviews. At the end of each session, we invite your group to offer their prayer intentions and pray together the original prayers included at the end of each session. These prayers are written to help us grow in each virtue and to see these virtues implemented in our friendships.
We know that these groups are so important that we’re offering an entire packet of “bonus materials” such as ice breaker ideas, a meeting planner, recipes for your small group meeting and even an opportunity for a Skype visit with us. Best yet, our publisher is offering an amazing deal for group orders of 10 or more – 40% off! That means your group can do the study for less than $10.00 per person! We feel so strongly about helping you develop these friendships, we want you to be able to lead a group without an extra financial burden. You’ll find information on bulk discounts at the bottom of the Group Study page on our website.
Q: In an age where “friend” is now a verb on social media, how can technology impact positively and negatively on true friendship? What steps do each of us need to take in this realm to guard and bless our hearts?
Emily: I think Fr. Larry Richards says it best in the foreward to The Friendship Project:
“Though friendship is so important, it has become a rare priority in our world today. Internet and social media give the false promise of intimacy and friendship, but, in fact, only separate us and isolate people all the more. Instead of having real conversations with others, we text them or message them or comment briefly on their pictures on Facebook. Friendship is so much more than “friending” someone on Facebook! Friendship demands time and work, and we need to break through all the artificial stuff and dedicate ourselves to being good friends and having good friends. That is what this book will help you to do.”
Q: How did you select the saintly friendships you profile in the book? How can we readers cultivate our own intercessory friendships with saints to help us draw closer in friendship to Jesus Christ?
Michele: First, we prayed. We asked God to show us which of these beautiful examples of heroic virtue he wanted us to highlight. Next we did a lot research and found saints who had close female friendships with other saints while they were alive on earth. Many of their stories really touched our hearts personally. For me, the story of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity was one that I have been drawn to for years. As we wrote, we also realized we happened to include all four female doctors of the Church: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. Catherine of Siena. We were amazed to see that some of the greatest saints had these beautiful friendships that helped them personally draw closer to God and to become a woman of virtue. By looking to these saints and allowing them to inspire us and intercede before the throne of God on our behalf, we can be drawn closer to Christ.
Q: What are your hopes for our experience of reading The Friendship Project in community here at CatholicMom.com?
Emily: Our favorite part about writing The Friendship Project was we both became more deliberate and intentional about spending time with our friends. We started the simple idea of Friendship Friday, and spend part of that day with one friend we desire to grow our relationship with or with whom we have lost our connection. Over the past year we have developed and deepened so many friendships with beautiful women and its brought such joy to our lives. We hope that by reading The Friendship Project, new friendships will be formed, old friendships will be deepened and all of our friendships will lead us toward Christ.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Please connect with us on our social media platforms and sign up for our email list at www.thefriendshipprojectbook.com. We’d love to connect with you!
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Here’s a video all about the book!
Next week, we’ll cover the Foreword, Introduction and Chapter 1. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit The Friendship Project Book Club page.
Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey