Called & Gifted program helps people discover their God-given gifts

Every person is created with a unique set of gifts, talents and charisms — or spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

Yet, many people may not realize they have these special abilities within themselves or how God is calling each person to use them.

A program named Called & Gifted is dedicated to doing just that: helping Catholics discover the presence of charisms and God-given gifts in their lives.

Offered through the Catherine of Siena Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the program consists of a series of workshops that help participants discover their charisms and how they apply to each participant’s life through prayer, reflection and discernment.

According to the institute, more than 100,000 Catholics have used Called & Gifted.

Blanca Barragan

Blanca Barragan, administrative assistant and Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Mary Church in Melrose, and Karen Pundsack, a member of the Harvest of Hope Area Catholic Community, are among those who have participated in the program and experienced its impact.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I discovered that I have gifts and talents that I didn’t know I had.”   — Blanca Barragan[/perfectpullquote]

Barragan, a wife and mother of three who is originally from Mexico, enrolled in the Called & Gifted program last July after Barbara Sutton, director of the Thriving Congregations Initiative at St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, introduced it to her.

“As soon as she said there was this program, I just felt something in my heart — like I needed to try this, I needed this,” Barragan said.

She fell in love with the program and completed it in two weeks.

“I feel like it was something I was looking for for a long time without me knowing,” she said.

Called & Gifted helped her discover her gifts, ones she was already using “without knowing that they were gifts.”

These included teaching, writing, “pastoring,” voluntary poverty, wisdom, knowledge and “extraordinary faith.”

Discovering these gifts, particularly the gift of writing, helped Barragan to “make sense of [my] life.”

“I was writing about my faith, I was writing about my life, all of the things that I went through since I left Mexico as a little girl, moving here to the United States,” Barragan said. “I was writing and then suddenly I felt this sensation. There was so much stuff in my head, and I was writing, and my pen was too slow, my hand was too slow to write everything that was coming through my mind. And I couldn’t stop.

“I didn’t even know why I liked writing about myself. After taking this Called & Gifted program, I discovered this was a gift. …  It started to make sense of my life, it started to make sense of my talent,” she said. It helped her to “tie everything together.”

Barragan said she had a similar realization about her gift of teaching. Now, for the first time, she has the confidence to teach first Communion classes.

“I discovered … I have to give this gift and not to be afraid. I knew people invited me to teach first Communion classes, and I was so afraid of teaching because I felt like I can’t do that. But now I can finally say yes,” she said.

Barragan, who hopes to teach the Called & Gifted program in Spanish, offers a word of encouragement to others:

“Even if you know your talents or gifts, this program will help you to really see what your real talents and gifts are, and you’ll discover that maybe you have some gifts or some talents that you don’t even know you have.”

Karen Pundsack
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I have a much deeper prayer life than I ever had.”   — Karen Pundsack[/perfectpullquote]

Called & Gifted also made an impact in the life of Karen Pundsack, a member of the Harvest of Hope Area Catholic Community, which is comprised of the parishes in Albany, Avon, St. Martin and St. Anthony.

Pundsack, executive director of the Great River Regional Library, is involved in music ministry and faith formation at St. Martin Parish in St. Martin. She not only went through the program herself but was also trained to offer it to others. She helped lead the diocese’s first Called & Gifted workshop in August at St. Benedict in Avon, where she was surprised at the 70 people who signed up to attend.

“The demand for this was way more than we ever expected,” Pundsack said.

Even though she helps to bring the program to others, it has had a large influence in her own life as well.

“A year ago when I was just starting, I never would have imagined I would be doing a workshop for 70 people,” Pundsack said. “It just kind of opened my eyes to things I sometimes take for granted that are easy for me. And they are easy for me because of my charism. It’s not just a talent, it’s something God intended me to do more with. … I have a much deeper prayer life than I ever had.”

She said the program is having a broader impact as well, helping her to be “a little more in tune to those opportunities that [I] might have passed up.”

Pundsack explained how, when working at the library, she received a call she at first didn’t return. After she received the call again, she decided she needed to pick up. The call was from a nonprofit organization that asked to distribute food at the library.

“As a result, we ended up with food distribution sites across our entire library system,” Pundsack said. “[Called & Gifted] just gives you a different lens when opportunities come.”

The program has helped her view others in a different light; she learned to recognize that each person has their own unique gifts.

“I went through a difficult time with my health earlier this summer, and I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen,” Pundsack said. “But it helped me ask for prayer from others, and it helped me to realize that this might be their gift that they’re sharing; intercessory prayer is a charism and some people have a supernatural calling to pray. Realizing that asking someone to pray might be asking them to share their gifts … allowed me to take a step and trust in a plan that I might not see.”

Pundsack hopes to offer more Called & Gifted workshops.

“If you’re looking for an opportunity to be closer to God, this is a really great option to explore,” she said.


  • Learn more about Called & Gifted at
  • If you are interested in participating locally, email Karen Pundsack at

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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