Siena gatherings for Catholic young women are unique

By Caroline Gorman

Special to The Message

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a feature on Siena, a new program for Catholic young women in the Diocese of Evansville. The first part appeared in the May 5 issue of The Message. It is available online at

Monthly Siena gatherings follow the same general schedule, but each one is unique. Different girls show up, and the group leaders like to shuffle them around to ensure that the girls mingle and make new friends. Gatherings start with games and snacks, allowing for fellowship as the girls chat, play icebreakers, and meet new people. Laughter and chatter fill the gym; sometimes, a volleyball shows up for a spontaneous game of keep-up. After this, a talk is given by a guest speaker or one of the adult leaders. Examples of past topics include virtuous friendships, the feminine heart and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, the girls spend time in private prayer and reflection, sometimes journaling or listening to music, before everyone reunites for the closing prayer.s

An incentive is provided for the girls to engage with each of the four pillars through a special checklist to earn a lavender t-shirt with the name of the program on the front and a quote from St. Catherine of Siena on the back. 

The checklist is broken into four different parts—one for each pillar of the mission—and each has five relevant activities listed—activities like “Bring a friend to Siena,” “Have a phone-free meal with someone,” and “Complete a chore in your house without telling anyone.” This system helps the girls strive for specific and feasible goals, and it also motivates them to work outside of the two-hour monthly gatherings and establish healthy, holy habits.

The positive fruits of Siena, like those of Savio, are evident. Siena Adult Team member Michaela Kunkler said she has noticed more Siena girls attending Mass and Adoration. The girls are also finding ways to connect their other communities with Siena. When the team leaders asked the girls to bring donations to their December meeting for the Gabriel Project, an outreach network for women experiencing a crisis pregnancy, a few girls who are students at Castle High School collected items at their school and brought them to the Siena gathering.

Siena is still relatively young, and Kunkler said the adult team’s main goal currently is to maintain momentum. “We’re hoping to bring in more people to help, and hoping that more girls can come in,” Kunkler said. A major part of maintaining this momentum would come from the girls themselves. “We want to get the girls who come regularly to become leaders within the group so it can be self-sustaining.” Adult Team member Ellie Kiesel added that they hope to expand beyond the monthly gatherings and organize things like day trips, adding with a smile that “a trip with everyone to a holy site is in the works.”

Another future goal is to get the girls’ mothers more involved. Kunkler explained, “With Savio, dads are invited most of the time. We’ve had moms come to one of the Siena events. Seeing moms involved is awesome.” She went on to say that the moms are always eager to provide snacks for the girls or bring donations. Their increased presence would emphasize that the “community” pillar is about not just friends but also family.

Additionally, there is a desire to increase Siena’s involvement with vocations. Diocese of Evansville Director of Vocations Father Tyler Tenbarge explained that Savio has an “unverbalized vocational presence.” The Savio gatherings take place at the Father Deydier House of Discernment, a living space for young adult men to live in community and discern priesthood. “At Savio, the guys are around men in our House of Discernment along with seminarians and me, a priest.” 

Siena, on the other hand, does not have this vocational presence, as its gatherings do not always include a religious sister or a woman in formation. Father Tyler expressed a hope that Siena will find “a natural way, without pressure, to remind girls that God could be calling them to religious life.” Kunkler echoed this, saying that some of the Siena girls have suggested doing a vocations panel where they could hear from adult women who have been called to live in different ways.

Siena is poised to continue to thrive and bring in new girls. Like Savio, it provides a much-needed opportunity for virtuous community to young people in the diocese, which they might not be able to find in their schools or other extracurricular activities. It feeds the girls spiritually, intellectually and physically. In this space, the girls are able to follow the group’s namesake and prayerfully discover who God created them to be.