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Parishioners combine exercise with reflecting on the Holy Rosary

 062221SoulCore photos

SoulCore participants relax between the physical exercises as they focus on the spiritual exercises through meditating on one of the mysteries of the rosary. Mary O'Donnell (left) leads a group of Soul Core participants in the Queen of All Saints' gym on May 15. Soul Core helps participants give their bodies and souls a workout by integrating prayers of the rosary with core strengthening, stretching and functional movements. (Bob Wellinski photo)



NWIC correspondent


      Men and women throughout the Diocese of Gary are exercising their bodies and their spirits through SoulCore, a Christian workout program that integrates the prayers of the Rosary with core strengthening, stretching and other movement.

        SoulCore instructor Amy O’Donnell invites participants to nourish body and soul while reflecting on the mysteries and virtues of the Rosary. “It provides faithful Catholics a way to unite their prayer with exercise in a way that is completely rooted in our Catholic faith. It is based on the Rosary, its mysteries, and the virtues that are tied to each mystery,” said the parishioner of St. Mary in Crown Point.

It is also a way for non-Catholics to be introduced to the faith. “It could also provide a means for evangelization for those who aren’t familiar with the Rosary and its treasures, as all are welcome to attend, even those of different faith backgrounds,” O’Donnell said.

        Her next class will be 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 22 in the courtyard at Queen of All Saints in Michigan City. If it rains, the class will be moved into the Legacy Center.

        Typically, 12 to 15 attend each session, which O’Donnell tries to hold monthly. She encourages Catholics to give SoulCore a try because of its many benefits. “SoulCore places the focus of exercise on our desire to care for our bodies in the best way we can because they are a gift from God,” O’Donnell said.

SoulCore can be a “time-saving activity” for those who struggle to find time for prayer and exercise by providing a means to practice both elements simultaneously. “For me, SoulCore offered an opportunity to ‘pray constantly’ as St. Paul invites us in his letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5 vs. 17,” she said.

       O’Donnell stressed that no particular fitness level is required. “The prayer always comes first,” she said. “Each participant adds the exercise (at his or her own pace) keeping their limitations and strengths in mind and modifying so that they can participate safely.”

        Long-time participant and Queen of All Saints parishioner Bruce Garwood, 64, said he appreciates that aspect of the program. “As a big guy, I modify and do what I can,” he said, adding that he and his wife truly appreciate the program that allows them to work out together at their own pace while strengthening mind, body and soul.

        He said several couples at Queen of All Saints exercise together through SoulCore. “It keeps prayer at the center of life,” Garwood said. “There are benefits all the way around.”      

        O’Donnell said the community atmosphere is a key element. “SoulCore provides an opportunity for prayer in community or within a group so that we may strengthen and encourage one another,” she said.

        Garwood said he hopes the program spreads to other parishes within the diocese. “We really, really enjoy it,” he said. “I hope it continues to grow. People have a lot of things going on. This ties it all together.”

        O’Donnell agreed, “I hope that this ministry can grow throughout the Diocese of Gary and help many grow closer to Jesus with the help of Our Blessed Mother. Since I began leading SoulCore in 2017, I have witnessed the positive and joyful effect it has had helping many to grow in their spiritual life and in the virtues shown to us by Jesus and Mary,” she said.

      “I have led SoulCore as a ministry at my home parish (St. Mary) and have travelled to other parishes to offer introductory classes so that others can learn more about it and possibly be inspired to lead a group at their parish.”

      Becoming a certified SoulCore leader may sound intimidating but is actually easy, O’Donnell said, because SoulCore provides all the necessary information, resources and assistance.

      If someone finds themselves called to become a SoulCore leader, there is a retreat in Carmel to assist with the process, in addition to a two-week trial offer to become a leader. A representative could even come to the diocese to train individuals if there is enough interest from people in coming leaders, added O’Donnell.

      “It takes humility to be in front of others and instruct them. It can be a little intimidating, especially at the beginning,” O’Donnell said. “I sometimes struggle…but if it helps one more person get closer to Jesus through Mary, it is completely worth it.

      “I was encouraged by a priest to work on uniting every part of my day with prayer, and SoulCore allows me to pray my daily Rosary and strengthen my body at the same time,” she said.

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