Author aims to help women ‘tune into God’

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Agnes Kovacs, director of continuing formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, practiced prayer through movement by walking slowly through the cemetery on the grounds of Saint Meinrad Archabbey on Thursday. "One of the aims of the book is to show people that there is no right way to pray. There are so many ways to feel God's presence," Kovacs said.


ST. MEINRAD — Agnes Kovacs of Santa Claus hopes she can help expose women to a wider range of prayer.

“It really is that we have our personal preferences and sometimes we just stick with those,” said Kovacs, the director of continuing formation at the Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. “But if we can just stretch ourselves just a little bit, and try different prayer forms with which we’re not familiar, we can find something else new.”

In “A Prayer Book for Catholic Women,” published by The Word Among Us Press in late July, Kovacs, 54, seeks to do that by encouraging women to try something new. Try more untraditional prayer. Try prayer through mediums like music or art.

“Circumstances change, I change, maybe it’s time to try something different,” she said. “Now there is nothing wrong with sticking to a prayer if it always keeps you praying, but for me personally, once in a while, if I change, my life changes or my circumstances change, my prayer changes as well.”

The Saint Meinrad Archabbey Gift Shop and Scholar Shop will host a book signing for Kovacs on Saturday 10 to 11:30 a.m. CDT at the Scholar Shop, and 1 to 2:30 p.m. CDT at the Gift Shop. The book will be available for purchase at the signing, and is also available to order online from The Word Among Us Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Kovacs recently authored a prayer book for Catholic women.

Part of the book features more traditional, Catholic prayers.

“So if somebody is coming into the church or not very familiar, doesn’t feel comfortable, then they can find the basic prayers and different prayer forms that we have used through the centuries,” Kovacs said. “So that part really is kind of tapping into the treasure trove of the church’s prayers.”

The other part of the book is a selection of scripture and prayers from saints that Kovacs feels close to and that personally have meaning to her. It focuses on the seasons of life that women go through and how prayer can change with those seasons.

For instance, Kovacs said she is a “middle-aged female, a mother and grandmother,” but there are parts of her that are just beginning, such as her new endeavor as an author.

“This is a beginning for me,” she said.

That’s where the inspiration for her book lies.

“The inspiration for the prayers is really life and our life of faith,” she said. “The transitions, the joys and sorrows we experience. These are all opportunities to get in touch with God’s presence in our life. Really, truly the inspiration is life.”

The Catholic faith has always been a part of Kovacs’ life. She grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Hungary, which was then a Socialist-Communist country. As Catholics, her family — she’s one of eight siblings — was always pegged as “different.”

“The inspiration for the prayers is really life and our life of faith,” Kovacs said. “The transitions, the joys and sorrows we experience. These are all opportunities to get in touch with God’s presence in our life. Really, truly the inspiration is life.”

“One of the key things I often mention to people when talking about my experience growing up, is that in the socialist communist system, we lived our faith strictly in the family,” Kovacs said. “We never talked about it outside the family ... you would have gotten in trouble if you did that.”

She remembers attending Mass every Sunday with her family, but “when you went home, you hoped nobody saw you.”

She and her husband, Paul, left Hungary in 1986 and lived in Japan for a year before coming to the U.S. They were surprised to find that the Catholic faith is much different here.

“It was very different than what I experienced when I first came here and saw that, ‘Oh, so people come to church and they hang out and they have coffee and doughnuts and they talk to each other. And during the week, they come for Bible study’,” Agnes said. “It was a very different kind of living faith.”

After arriving in the U.S., the couple settled in Memphis where Paul had secured a job. Because of immigration reasons, Agnes wasn’t able to work for many years, which she called a blessing, as it allowed her to stay home with the couple’s three children — two daughters and a son. They also now have three grandsons.

Agnes eventually became involved in music ministry at the couple’s parish in Memphis, and when she was offered a full-time job in religious education, she accepted, but said she wanted to further her degree. She had a degree in mathematics and chemistry and a minor in education from a university in Hungary.

That’s when she first ended up at the Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology as a graduate student. She worked full time in Memphis through the week and commuted the six hours to St. Meinrad for weekend classes; oftentimes, Paul drove so she could study. She said it took her nearly five years to earn the degree. She graduated in 2007.

While prayer through music and art are among Kovacs' favorite ways to pray, she also finds that slow, steady movement, such as walking, helps her reach a meditative state for prayer. 

She continued to work in Memphis before accepting a job as director of lifelong formation at a Catholic church in Louisville. Her family eventually joined her in Louisville, but then she was offered her current job at St. Meinrad, and the family moved to Santa Claus.

She’s not sure she would have made the move to St. Meinrad if she had still been in Memphis.

“But I was so much closer already,” she said. “I see God’s hand in all of this.”

Agnes credits her family with much of her success, as they have supported her every step of the way. She’s also appreciative of the St. Meinrad school.

“In my own formation, St. Meinrad had a great role as I came to school here and now being here, working here and having a chance to participate in the monks’ prayer,” she said. “That shaped me quite a bit.”

Writing a book was never on her bucket list, but when she was approached by the publisher — whom she had worked with in the past on some parish ministry material — she realized it was a way to “show all the many ways that we can tune into God.”

“If it can help just one person to build and nurture their relationship with God, then it was well worth the effort on my part,” she said.

Agnes is a member of the St. Frances of Assisi Parish in Spencer County, and has been a catechist for the parish for six years.



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