“I don’t know what I would do without my SOUL sisters,” said Newport Beach resident Diane Teitscheid.
Diane is one of the founding members of SOUL, which stands for ‘Sharing Our Unconditional Love.”
Diane explained that a group of women from Our Lady Mount Carmel Catholic Church began meeting 12 years ago to learn, share, grow, relax and connect. They experienced the power of God’s love through their times together, and were eager for that to continue. They invited others to join them, and the response shows that SOUL is meeting an important need for connection and community.
“We started meeting on Thursday mornings, and have met every Thursday since, other than summers,” Diane said. “We always have breakfast and coffee. Then, besides the friendship and sharing, we alternate times of outreach projects, small group faith discussions, occasional field trips, and Biblical studies. We do a lot of planning, but God really puts it all together and leads us in the right direction. It always works out perfectly, even when it goes differently than we’d thought.
“For guest speakers, we’ve had marriage and family counselors, authors, representatives from charities, priests, nuns, and once a Rabbi took us through a Seder dinner so we could experience that tradition,” Diane continued. “Another time we had a priest from the African Child Foundation who was absolutely amazing. I was so inspired by what he shared, that my daughter and I actually went to Africa for two weeks to help! I never would have known about the charity otherwise, and it changed our lives. Now we sponsor several children there.”
Diane said that SOUL is starting up again on Sept. 13, and they’ve planned an assortment of interesting speakers and field trips.
“Something very unique about our group is that we have women of all faiths and all ages,” Diane continued. “We have ladies from their early 20s to late 80s! It’s all about learning about others beliefs as well as sharing your own. It’s especially helpful for women who may move to the area and not know anybody.”
Leslie Brennan was one who appreciated the SOUL community when she moved to Newport three years ago.
“I moved to the area and felt the emptiness of not knowing anyone,” Leslie said. “Every week the church bulletin invited women to come to SOUL. One day I went and enjoyed how welcoming everyone is there! I became involved by serving as the speaker coordinator and have met some amazing people who have spoken for us. Also, I love the email prayer request line. It is so nice to be able to request prayer from all of your friends and know they are there for you.”
Peggy McKennon loves the variety of experiences she’s enjoyed during her five years at SOUL.
“I’d gone to Bible studies before, but SOUL also has great outreaches and activities, and I liked the idea of mixing it up.” Peggy said. “I love that we try to utilize each person’s gifts and talents and have a wide variety of discussion topics. It’s a wonderful way to meet great women and learn more about my faith. God has also worked through it to help me get out of my comfort zone; last year I ended up leading a study on the 23rd Psalm, which is something I’d never done before.”
“We’ve raised money to help build water wells in Africa, and sent care package to soldiers,” Peggy added. “We also make and send blankets to an orphanage in Africa, pray over prayer quilts made by SOUL members to share with those needing prayer, take needed items to mothers and babies at Casa Teresa, and make care packages to keep in the car for the homeless people we may encounter during the day around town.”
All three enjoy being with women of all ages, and agree that SOUL is helpful in the many different stages of life.
“It’s been a stable part of my life for eleven years,” Diane said. “Six years ago my mom passed away and my SOUL sisters came out of the woodwork supporting me. Others in the group have been encouraged and helped as they’ve gone through other losses, divorce or cancer. It’s really a support group; we’ve helped a lot of women through the good and the bad in life.”
“We’d love others to get to come and experience how God works through SOUL in so many ways,” she added. “They don’t have to commit or dress up, they can just show up, grab a cup of coffee, some breakfast, and enjoy”