More than 600 women attended the Women of the Word event in Toronto earlier this year. Photo courtesy Mary Filangi

Women’s ministry spreads words of hope

  • September 12, 2017

Mary Filangi was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. It was a time of great fear and sorrow and helplessness, but even in the darkest moments, she never felt lost.

Filangi was always strong in her faith. The power of prayer helped her endure all the ups and downs that she faced.

So when she began to volunteer with her parish to bring Communion to the sick in 2002, she felt she could use her experience to be a friend to others who were suffering.

Even after she was declared cancer-free in 2003, she continued to visit the sick with her parish. She met many young women battling breast cancer and other diseases. But in 2007, one young woman stayed in her heart.

“When she died, she felt hopeless. She felt resentment, anger, disappointment, that there was no healing for her before she died,” said Filangi. “I don’t know what God, of course, in His mercy, has done in her death…. I took it to prayer and I said to the Lord, ‘What can I do to say to women that there’s hope and there’s healing in this lifetime?’”

And with the prayer, Filangi was inspired in 2009 to start a new ministry with her friends called the Women of the Word Toronto.

Eight years later, the mission remains the same — to bring healing and hope to women who are experiencing physical, mental or spiritual brokenness in their lives.

Women of the Word, which is a recognized lay movement under the Archdiocese of Toronto, has a core committee of seven women who organize events. Some of the group’s previous events tackled issues like depression, abortion, sexual abuse and resentment towards a neighbour.

The group’s eighth conference on Sept. 17 is based on the theme “Loving God, loving neighbour and loving thyself.” Keynote speakers include theologian Josephine Lombardi and Celeste Giraldo Estrada. Cardinal Thomas Collins will also be present to celebrate Mass.

“In (the young woman) I saw my own brokenness and that of others, and I was so sad at the thought of anyone else holding on to hurts of disappointment, anger and forgiveness,” said Filangi. “I just couldn’t bear to see another person die trapped in those wounds.”

Women of the Word’s success is in its name. The ministry is mainly spread through word of mouth. In April this year, the ministry welcomed more than 600 women at its annual Women of the Word forum.

Filangi said the Sept. 17 conference will be limited to 300 attendees. On Aug. 31, she announced a new workshop on “Anxiety and Depression with Faith” planned for November. Information about Women of the Word Toronto can be found at

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