For today's Becoming Myself series, I asked Corynne Staresinic about her journey to herself. She started the beautiful ministry, The Catholic Woman, and is constantly sharing the stories, lives and insights of all types of Catholic women. I love the way that she embraces and promotes the diversity in our Church and the many paths we take. I couldn't wait to hear more about her own personal journey that got her to where she is now.
At what point in your life did you begin the journey to really know yourself, step into who you are, and embrace the call that God uniquely gave you? What was the impetus?
Though I think I’ll spend my life trying to figure out who I am and what God’s unique call for my life is, some of the defining moments along the way happened in the years following my conversion to the Church.
When I first starting learning about Catholicism as a young, Jesus-loving Evangelical, I found that I had been so wrong about the Church and her teachings. Before I converted, my understanding of the Catholic Church was that it was a legalistic, oppressive, sexist institution that didn’t care whether or not you actually had a relationship with God. That, and they worshipped Mary!
All that said, through things like my conversations with a Dominican priest, studying the writings of St. John Paul, reading a Catholic Bible, and binge-watching the Journey Home Show, I realized that my understanding of the Church’s teachings had been mostly incorrect.
And as a result, I lost a lot of self-confidence - a self-confidence that was largely rooted in pride and needed to go, anyway. I experienced a conversion of humility alongside my conversion to Catholicism, and in this newfound humility, I felt compelled to step back. I started to try to be better at not making quick judgments about things I didn’t quite understand. Though I’m still very imperfect at it, my conversion to Catholicism has helped me become a better listener.
This change of heart has been foundational in my specific calling to The Catholic Woman. TCW is a nonprofit I founded on International Women’s Day in 2017; its mission is to illustrate the many faces and vocations of women in the Church to inspire millennial Catholic women to live out their faith. I’m the executive director of TCW, which, for me, includes working as an editor and video director. That said, listening to another woman’s story is at the heart of my work (and it’s seriously the best). I get to come into contact with so many different Catholic women from across America (and sometimes the globe!) who are living out their faith in such inspiring, unique ways. I’m constantly blown away by what God is doing in and through the women in the Church.
All that said, if I hadn’t had that initial conversion of humility, I’m not sure I’d be able to see the significance of another woman’s story, in celebrating the diversity of women in the Church. And I think life would be a lot less vibrant if things hadn’t gone as they did.
What led you to begin The Catholic Woman, which highlights the stories, strength, and hope of all types of Catholic women?
As I alluded to earlier, my conversion to Catholicism was what first planted the seed to start The Catholic Woman. In addition to binge-watching conversion stories online during my conversion, I would also spend time online, trying to find stories from women who were passionate devout Catholics who loved Jesus and who were also leaders, artists, activists, college students, working moms, etc. I wanted to understand what it looked like to live out the Catholic faith, so I could do it, too.
I entered the Church in 2014, and in the years following my conversion, I felt a strong desire to create a space that illustrated the many different faces and vocations of women in the Church, to inspire millennial Catholic women (like myself) to live out their faith in each of their own unique vocations. And that, in a nutshell, is how The Catholic Woman came to be!
What do you think the story is that God wants to tell with your life? What does the Holy Spirit want to reveal of Christ’s nature with your own personal mission?
During this chapter of my life, God is teaching me that His grace can be found in all sorts of odd places if I only just take the time to look around.
This started a few years ago, after I lost our first child, Alex, in a miscarriage. We found out in January of 2017 (about one trimester in), and the whole process was long, physically grueling, unexpectedly gory, and did not finish until late February, after having to have surgery.
Around that same time, I started watching X-Files. And just in case you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a 90’s sci-fi drama show about two (very lovable and very different) FBI agents who investigate the “x-files”, which are cases that generally have disturbing, mysterious circumstances (and often involve aliens!). And this is probably going to sound odd, but I guess that’s part of the point: I found great healing in watching this show at that time in my life.
X-Files has this weird, wonderful way of portraying the inaccessibility of mystery, the desperation for truth, and the disturbing and violent dimensions of life. When I went through my miscarriage, I felt completely isolated from everyone around me – no one understood what it felt like to have your child die inside of you. What it was like to be the tomb of your kid. And to deal with the physical ramifications that followed. Miscarriage was shockingly bloody and gory, and the cause for the miscarriage has remained a mystery to us. The whole thing, really, still remains a mystery to me.
So X-Files was an unexpected grace. In that strange, isolating time in my life, it made me feel known. I found the grace of God in that show.
When you look around today, especially on social media, there can be a temptation to believe that God created life to be pretty and happy and fun all of the time, to the point that when it’s not, you might feel like you’re outside of His grace, like you must have done something wrong and now you’re being punished for it. A temptation to believe in the Prosperity Gospel, basically.
But you know what? Life can be creepy, terrible, and gross. And God is present within that. He’s not just present in the moments where we feel #blessed, but in the most horrifying moments, too, in the ones where you feel like you’re being nailed to a cross.
For me, it was in the moments when my body was bleeding out the remains of someone I loved dearly who I never got to meet. It was in a TV show about aliens, faith, and doubt. It was in the gravestone of Alex – it was in all of these odd, strange places that I found God’s grace.
Which Saint has been your closest ally lately? What do you learn from them?
Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) has become a good friend of mine this year.
She was a Jewish woman, a student of philosophy and a teacher. Later in her life, after years of not believing in God, she converted to Catholicism and eventually became a Carmelite nun, just around the time the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the world. Being a Jewish woman herself, she felt a strong desire to protect and pray for her people - to give her life up for them. Eventually, she was taken by the Gestapo and brought to the camp where she would be murdered in a gas chamber. From survivor testimonies, it was said that she was completely calm and at peace there, taking care of terrified children and mothers, up to the moment of her death.
On a practical level, St. Teresa Benedicta has helped me understand womanhood in a greater way through her philosophical writings. On a more general level, her testimony is incredible. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) She truly lives this out in her love for her Jewish brothers and sisters. I can only hope to live every moment of my life with as great a love for others as she did.
What does your daily prayer routine look like?
Every day, I aspire to wake up by 6:30, but I usually end up getting out of bed by 7:15. I change and get ready, and scramble to make coffee and breakfast (before the baby awakes). Then, I sit and pray on our couch! Since this summer, I’ve been using the Hallow app, which has helped me to explore different types of Christian prayer, like the examen, Christian meditation, and Lectio Divina.
What books or resources would you recommend to others who want to enter the journey of discovering who God has made them to be?
I have two book recommendations and a resource recommendation! Interior Freedom by Fr Jacque Philippe, The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart, and The Given Institute. A brief note about each:
Interior Freedom will help you refocus and reprioritize your spiritual life. If you struggle with hope (as I so often do), I can’t recommend this enough! It will remind you of what Christianity is all about.
The Grace of Enough helped me to remember that everything I’ve been given ought to be used to love God and to love others. Especially as Americans, it can be quite easy for individualism and materialism to become a part of who we are – in the subtlest of ways – as this book as helped me discover in my own life. This book has helped me to see life beyond my urges to spend all of my money on clothes and decorations at Target, or spend all of my time on my laptop working. It’s helped me to be present to the people who are right in front of me.
I read it at the start of 2019 and I’ve haven’t stopped thinking about it (and implementing it into my life) since! Also, by the way, if you feel like you’re in an in-between place with discerning a career and/or a vocational path, I highly recommend this. It’ll empower you to love others right where you are.
Finally, for my resource recommendation, you must check out the Given Institute! They are dedicated to helping women with this question - their mission is to activate the gifts of young adult women for the Church and for the world. Fun fact: The Catholic Woman actually came out as a result of the 2016 Given Forum. I’m deeply grateful for the work that they are doing.