Catholic Speakers Month: Johnette Benkovic — a Woman of Grace
Johnette Benkovic is the founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly International, Inc., a Catholic evangelization apostolate with outreach ministries in television, radio, print, and the Internet. She is the founder of Women of Grace, a Catholic apostolate for Christian women that features a number of programs including conferences, curricula, study groups, and more.
After years of being a non-practicing Catholic, Johnette experienced a deep conversion back to her Catholic faith in 1981 and discerned a call to share the gospel message through the media. She has been a consistent presence in Catholic radio since 1987 and in Catholic television since 1988.
Johnette is executive producer for The Abundant Life on EWTN, a television program that discusses contemporary issues from a Catholic perspective. She is also the host of Women of Grace, a one hour talk show on AM/FM stations and short wave and satellite radios.
My Personal Reflections on Johnette
Johnette Benkovic is someone I deeply admire and who has fascinated me not only with her informative and engaging shows on TV and the radio, but also by the way she lives her life. I can’t recall when I first started watching Johnette’s The Abundant Life on EWTN, but it was when the show first came on the air. The topics were so interesting I felt compelled to come back for more. Johnette was someone I could relate to – a revert to the faith, close to my own age, a professional woman, someone who had grown up during the ’60’s and had survived the sexual revolution as well as the changes in the Catholic Church following Vatican II. These were challenging times when women were deceived by the culture regarding their femininity. Johnette’s approach to these issues was fresh and challenging. She was a woman who was seeking spiritual growth not only for herself, but for other women, who shared a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I have met Johnette in person twice during my life. The first time was in 2003 at a conference sponsored by Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry in Vandalia, Illinois. Johnette was scheduled to speak on Saturday, but had arrived on Friday night, so I was happy to have the opportunity to have a brief private meeting with her. She signed my copy of “Full of Grace” and we spoke about her ministry, as well as the Community of St. John — I was surprised that she not only knew about the Community, but had met our founder, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, and had heard him speak at the home of an Oblate in Texas. Johnette was personable, very friendly, and quite knowledgable.
When I heard her speak the following day — I was mesmerized by her witness — not only by her dramatic presentation — but also by the story itself, and her deep spiritual insights, her inner strength, and her wisdom. When she spoke about authentic femininity, my spirit was on fire with the truth and I was deeply touched. When I turned to see what my husband’s reaction was to her powerful words, I noticed the tears in his eyes, and knew that he. too, had been deeply moved. Afterward, he shared that he never realized this unique type of spirituality that women possessed and wish he had known about this earlier in his life. It was a spiritual awakening for both of us.The truth we learned through her talk that day was that God has entrusted every woman — single or married, with or without children — with an important task: to bring spiritual life to the world around her, following the example of the Blessed Mother.
The second time I was blessed to see Johnette was this past August in Wichita, Kansas at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference. I was thrilled to see her again — it had been six years since our last meeting — and I knew a lot had happened in her life since the first time we met.
This time her presentation was even more dramatic and her witness even more powerful. She came across as a strong evangelist — testifying to the graces that she received through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to deal with the crises that had occurred within her life over the past few years: first the death of her 25-year-old son in March, 2004, to a vehicular accident, shortly after his return from Iraq, where he served in the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army and, second, the loss of her husband, Anthony, to an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer in April, 2007. She shared some of the details of her trials, the way in which she handled them as a woman of God, a woman consecrated to Jesus through Mary. Her witness this time was even more inspiring than the first. She not only spoke about her suffering, but manifested the depth of her suffering through her words, actions, and emotions, which were tempered by her strong faith and intellect. She shared the secret to dealing with suffering and the unique graces we are given in our trials. Her witness was uplifting, encouraging, wise, and prophetic.
We spoke briefly after her talk and she was so gracious to have her photo taken with me. In the photo above, I have deleted my image from the picture and kept hers. Isn’t she a beautiful woman interiorly as well as exteriorly?
~ © Jean M. Heimann, October 31, 2009
This story was written as part of Support a Catholic Speaker Month, sponsored by Fallible Blogma.