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March 30, 2014

‘Praying with our entire being’

SoulCore: strengthening body and soul through exercise and the rosary

SoulCore participants during a recent class (Photo provided)

SoulCore participants during a recent class (Photo provided)

By Caroline B. Mooney

CARMEL — Devastating loss led Colleen Scariano to a deeper devotion to the Blessed Mother, and eventually to the conception of SoulCore, exercise that connects the body, mind and soul.

Participants hold various poses while praying the rosary. Development of the class was a long journey.

Scariano, a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, grew up in a Catholic home, the fifth of six children. A horrible blow came when her oldest brother died at age 15 after being struck by lightning.

The death, Scariano said, led her father to become an alcoholic, and her second-oldest brother to drug addiction.

“Even in the trials we had, there was always love in our house, and my mom was the center,” she said. “She was a very holy woman, a beautiful witness of love who emulated a lot of the Blessed Mother’s qualities. She was the spiritual glue that held our family together.”

In 2012, Scariano’s parents, Vincent and Marian Druding, had been living with her family for three years in an apartment built above her garage. Tragedy struck when her mother died unexpectedly.

At the time of Marian’s death, her husband and son were both in recovery from their addictions. The son, Michael, moved in with his father to help in the transition after his mother died.

Just two months later, Scariano went out the garage apartment one day to find her father and brother dead from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It was such a devastating time — it was almost surreal,” she said. “It was really a time to put in motion all that my mother had taught us. This was the heaviest cross.”

The garage had become a place of terrible pain and sadness for Scariano.

“Every day when I looked out there, it was like it happened all over again,” she said. “It was so painful I wanted to move.”

Along with her husband and several friends, Scariano prayed a 30-day novena to St. Therese. On the last day, a priest friend called to tell her about a dream in which he saw a great Easter light and three angels above her property. He thought it meant she should stay, and it gave her hope.

Another sign came from a reading in a book of daily meditations that Marian Druding had given each of her family members. It said, “Such light and love flows out of this home and you are to shower it on all who come here. I may send a despairing soul here and you are to love him. I will use this house.”

Scariano found yet more hope when her younger brother, Father Vincent Druding, was visiting a woman in a nursing home. When he opened a book she gave him, there was a picture of a triangle-shaped house with three little angels above. Scariano lives in an A-frame home. The text spoke of light and love.

“That day was such a turning point in the journey of healing; such hope came from it,” she said. “Not that days following weren’t sad and difficult. It was different facing it with hope and knowing that staying here is God’s will for me.”

“The journey of my faith continued during that time,” she said. “After my mom died, my devotion to the Blessed Mother became palpable.

“I had been running and saying the rosary,” Scariano said. “I found it to be a beautiful time of prayer, but a friend said that, because I am over 40, I should be adding some core strengthening. I looked around for something that combined core work and the rosary but couldn’t find anything like that. That’s when the inspiration came.”

Ideas came to her in a flood – a logo, apparel, and renovation of her garage into a studio for a class incorporating the rosary and exercise. Soul Core was born.

A longtime friend, Deanne Miller, who has a background in fitness, immediately came to mind. When Scariano sent her a text asking for help with an idea, the women were both at their parish, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and they immediately met in the parking lot.

“Exercise has always been my time of prayer,” Miller said. “I think if people start an exercise program to lose five pounds, they may lose the five pounds and be done exercising for the rest of their lives. But if they are doing it for something bigger than themselves, and it’s really not about you, it’s about being who God created you to be — there is long-term motivation.”

“The benefits of Soul Core are that you are absolutely nourishing your soul through the process of the prayers,” she said. “Our focus is on the fruits of the mysteries which takes you into a deeper place spiritually and certainly physically because you are moving your body with the prayers.”

News of Soul Core classes spread via word of mouth, and a Web site and DVD were produced. Scariano and Miller hope to train more instructors so the classes can be held throughout the diocese and across the country. In February, a class started on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette.

“Soul Core is ultimately an engraved invitation to the world to practice praying the rosary regularly with your sacred body and share the message with your neighbor,” said Karen Buntin, a member of St. Louis de Montfort who goes to the class weekly. “I love how the many postures of sitting, standing and kneeling parallel with the liturgy. Praying with our entire being helps us to pray with greater attention. Through the intercession of Mary, we come in full communion with our Lord, Jesus Christ with something new. Soul Core is for everyone, regardless of age, demographic or sex. The invitation is a compass reaching into the streets far beyond Catholics alone.”

“I like the idea of anything to connect our faith with being healthier,” said Father Joshua Janko, director for Catholic mission at St. Theodore Guerin High School. “Soul Core is a beautiful way to spend genuine exercise, making the connection of body and soul. I hope and pray it does really well and a lot of people can enjoy it.”

“I thought it was challenging to focus on both my physical body as well as on the meditative prayer,” said Karli Smith, a member of St. Louis de Montfort and a freshman at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. “I am discerning about whether to bring it to Franciscan University. I know a lot of the girls on campus want physical fitness and body image is a prevalent issue. I think to give them this outline of prayer and physical fitness would really be embraced on campus.

“Pope John Paul II reawakened the eyes of Catholic faith to the beauty of the body as it is created and this class really sinks into that. It gives you awareness for the rest of the day that every action you do with your body is an extension of your spiritual life.”

Mollie Smith, Karli’s mother, said she came to the class because she is “trying to develop a new closeness and devotion to Christ and Mary. As a mother of eight, I realized how much I need her to help protect my children. I need to exercise – I don’t do anything for myself. It was certainly a much deeper mediation than I do on my own.”

A $10 donation is suggested for each class. More information on Soul Core, including class times, can be found on the Web site:

Related story: Guerin Catholic grads bring classes to Purdue campus

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