Following the example of Mary and Elizabeth, we visit and share the sacredness of life while offering practical support.
Mary was afraid during the Annunciation because in her culture an unwed pregnant woman would be stoned to death. She was also confused on how she could be pregnant. Angel Gabriel told her Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age, because nothing is impossible with God. She knew Elizabeth was barren and according to cultural practices should have been killed, but Zechariah had safeguarded her life. This witness gave Mary hope that her life would also be spared. Elizabeth being pregnant in advanced age gave Mary the help she needed to believe in the special situation of her own pregnancy. This gift of another person who would understand, provided healing of her fears as she agreed to God’s plan. Just as Mary needed assurance that she wasn’t alone, so do all of us. Elizabeth Ministry offers companionship on the faith journey to do God’s will. This provides hope, help, and healing during the tender times of life, loss, and love.
The story of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel is the inspiration for Elizabeth Ministry. (Luke 1:39-56) It is one of the most profound examples of faith-sharing in all of Scripture. The sanctity of life and the power of the Spirit is revealed in the common sharing of these two women. Throughout the
generations, women have repeated this story as they support one another in bringing new life into the world. Elizabeth Ministry carries on this tradition of maternal mystery mentoring. Following the example of Mary and Elizabeth, we visit, and share the sacredness of life while offering practical support.The Biblical account also offers insight on the righteousness of Joseph and Zechariah as they went counter-cultural to protect their spouses, follow God’s design for their marriages, and honor their roles as fathers.
Elizabeth Ministry carries on their witness to the importance of paternal perspectives. Following the example of Joseph and Zechariah, we go counter-cultural to reclaim God’s plan for sexuality, childbearing, and relationships.
The Catholic Church’s morning prayer, Canticle of Zechariah (Benedictus), and the evening prayer, Canticle of Mary (Magnificat), come out of the lived experiences of these four people. Elizabeth Ministry offers opportunities to convert these prayers into action in the home, the church, and the world.
Why Is Elizabeth Ministry Needed?
In the past, the presence and support families needed was found in the structures of extended family, church, neighborhood, and community. Today, these structures are undergoing rapid change. Our neighborhoods are fragmented, leaving people isolated. Churches have members from an extended geographic area, often making it
very difficult to create a hospitable, loving environment. Our mobile society causes extended families to be separated by many miles, making frequent visits impossible. And the recent pandemic only made this more difficult. Yet, the wisdom drawn from sharing stories of the many joys, challenges, and sorrows of lived experiences is still needed. The support, reassurance, and guidance usually given by the extended family is not always available. Elizabeth Ministry is one way to respond to this need.
We live in a confused cultural time. Scientific discoveries have transformed the experiences of fertility concerns, family planning, and pregnancy. Assisted reproductive technologies have a moral, ethical, and social impact that did not exist in previous generations. Elizabeth Ministry provides information and insight to evaluate the many options in the light of faith. The profound effects of a sexually promiscuous society, social acceptance of all varieties of non-marital sexual activity, contraception, sterilization, legalized abortion, increase of divorce, easy access of online pornography, gender identity or orientation confusion, and cultural redefining of marriage and family, have caused a crisis for families, social decay, and a culture of death. The medical, social, and spiritual consequences of these situations need to be addressed. Elizabeth Ministry offers recognition of the problems, insights on healing wounds, and suggestions for resisting cultural influence that attack God's plan for relationships, sexuality, and childbearing.
Elizabeth Ministry promotes life-giving opportunities to defend dignity, protect purity, heal hurts, mend minds, and save souls from disordered cultural conditioning. We stress mercy and compassion without contradicting the teachings of Jesus Christ, while proclaiming the power of grace to change lives. We are each called to transform our society by leading lives of deeper connection and meaning. Elizabeth Ministry International encourages ways to live a vocation of love in the day-to-day realities of our lives. We seek to bring Catholic clarity to a confused culture. All our efforts are designed to honor life, cherish children, encourage families, uplift the sanctity of marriages, and build community.
Elizabeth Ministry efforts are faithful to the tenants and traditions of Roman Catholic teachings. While serving all people in need, everything is done according to our Roman Catholic origin and outlook. Elizabeth Ministry International seeks to provide support through sharing lived experiences, mentoring, prayer, blessings, scripture, church
teachings, scientific research, consultations, referrals, trainings, retreats, programs, along with educational and inspirational resources. This is offered through direct support from our central office associates, from our affiliates, or by members of Elizabeth Ministry Chapters throughout the world.
Elizabeth Ministry Chapters are parish-based efforts to support women and their families during the joys, challenges, and sorrows of the childbearing years. Volunteers offer maternal mentoring in the areas they have experienced. For example, an older woman, who has given birth and raised a family would visit a woman who is pregnant for the first time. She shares prayer, practical help, her lived experiences, and resources in the name of the parish community. Worldwide, over 700 parishes have registered as an Elizabeth Ministry Chapter.
Direct Support through phone calls, emails, consults, retreats and programs. Volunteer Ambassadors help parishes inform their members of these needed resources.
Affiliates of Elizabeth Ministry International are organizations, such as Pregnancy Support Centers, Hospitals, and Counseling Centers, that work in collaboration to support those in need.
The Elizabeth Ministry International Leadership Team coordinates expansion of the apostolate by enabling association of individual members, parish chapters, and affiliate organizations. It establishes policies and procedures while providing direction and leadership to the entire membership association. To preserve the integrity of Elizabeth Ministry, each individual, local parish chapter, and affiliate organization serves under the authority of their pastor and Bishop.
International Chapter Headquarters
Located in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, the Elizabeth Ministry International Chapter Headquarters is the training and support facility for this growing apostolate that began in 1991. It serves as the main office for all Elizabeth Ministry programs and initiatives.
Chapters are designed to offer mentoring, family support, and prayer at a parish or organization level.
Over 700 parishes and organizations have registered as an Elizabeth Ministry Chapter throughout the world.
Gifts and resource items are available for individuals, couples, siblings, grandparents, other family members, churches, hospitals, funeral homes, and other organizations. Items are available in the Gift Shop or Online Store.
Individuals, parishes, or organizations can become a “Participating Partner” if they offer or participate in any of Elizabeth Ministry International programs, services, or resources.
Please visit our retreat center located in Kaukauna Wisconsin. https://www.zechariahhouseofhealing.org/
Programs, Consultations, & Events
Elizabeth Ministry International offers a variety of services. Enrichment opportunities are available online and in person through mentoring, consults, programs, conferences, retreats, and other activities. These offerings focus on issues related to relationships, sexuality, and childbearing. Our speakers offer keynotes, workshops, and trainings. Events can be scheduled at the Elizabeth Ministry Retreat & Resource Center or at your location.
A Message From Our Founders
We began this ministry in 1991 to address the needs of families facing the joys, challenges, and sorrows of the childbearing years. Since then we have offered direct service to individuals, couples, and families, as well as registering over 700 Elizabeth Ministry Chapters in churches and organizations on six continents! If you are visiting this website to learn about Elizabeth Ministry, we hope you will discover ways to enrich your spirit, reach out to others, and build community.
Over the years, under the direction of Bishop David Ricken, we expanded our mission to include the areas of sexuality and relationships that are so closely connected to childbearing. Some parish chapters have chosen to include these unique services, programs, and opportunities. Others choose to refer people to Elizabeth Ministry International Headquarters for assistance in these areas. We invite you to explore all that is available, as we seek to encourage, educate, and equip individuals, families, and faith communities with the tools needed to address the tender times in life.
As you explore our website, you will find that we have something to offer everyone, as all our lives are touched by these aspects of life. Elizabeth Ministry is Roman Catholic in origin and outlook, and ecumenical in outreach, so we welcome people of all faith traditions.
If you are already an active member of Elizabeth Ministry, thank you for all that you do to affirm, support, encourage, and assist women, men and their families. If you came to us for help, know that we will do everything possible to assist you.
As we journey together, Elizabeth Ministry offers friendship, mentoring, books, gifts, tools, educational and inspirational resources to remind us of our deep inner connections and true reverence for life. Whether you are seeking a quiet place to pray, a special gift, someone to visit with or want to engage in one or our programs, Elizabeth Ministry International and its staff can help you. We look forward to connecting more with you soon!
Jeannie and Bruce
Jeannie Hannemann, M.A. and Bruce Hannemann, M.A.
Founders of Elizabeth Ministry International
Thank you for visiting the Elizabeth Ministry International website! Know that we welcome you into the ever-widening circle of people committed to offering hope, help, and healing on the intimate issues of life, loss, and love.
Rev. Kurt Gessner, OFM Cap, was a Co-Founder of Elizabeth Ministry. He was a gifted preacher, passionate educator, and faithful servant of God. He passed away in 2000, but his wisdom and spirituality live on as Elizabeth Ministry carries on his favorite quote: