The Whelan family
Her choice to keep her heart focused on the “good portion” – Christ and the kingdom of God – has brought her peace, love, and strength, all of which she pours into her family and career.
Charleston’s Aisling Whelan chooses to keep faith first.
Just as Bishop Mark Brennan calls upon the faithful in the diocese to evangelize by sharing and celebrating Christ and our faith, Whelan intentionally has developed her career as owner of The Good Portion Co. as her voice.
“I think evangelization begins and ends with communion, with relationship,” she said. “I experience over and over again, in my own life, how fruitful it is, the growth and grace that follows, when we lean into the simple gift of presence, to ourselves, to the others in our lives, and of course to God. This passion for presence drives my work, organically nourishes my own life with the Lord, and continues to birth new and creative ideas for bringing the gift of God’s presence into our human lives.”
Her Catholic based company that specializes in stationary, Catholic cards, and wall art reflects her love of Christ, art, and learning. It is her home-grown career that not only lets her reflect on holy days and saints with evangelizing vision, but also encourages her to be more of a lifelong spiritual learner. Because of her quest for inspiration, her list of favorite saints continues to grow.
“Some of my favorite saints are St. Maximilian Kolbe (after reading a deeply-moving book about his life, called A Man for Others – highly recommended); St. John Bosco, because of his gentle, respectful, and deeply personal methods of educating and guiding children/young people; and Blesseds Luigi Beltrame and Maria Corsini Quattrocchi – I discovered them a few years ago,” she said and noted, that during the homily at the beatification of the Blesseds, who are the first married couple to be beatified together, Pope Saint John Paul II said, “This couple lived married love and service to life in light of the Gospel and with great human intensity.’ I think if this is what JPII has to say about your life, you nailed it! I could not better articulate my life goal.”
She didn’t plan to turn her faith into her career, it happened when her and her husband Sean were expecting their daughter in 2017. The couple now has two daughters, Brigid, who is five, and Mariel, who is two; and a baby in Heaven. They are parishioners at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
“I was transitioning out of the workforce into being a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “I knew it was going to be important for me to have meaningful, fulfilling work to do that would engage my mind and creativity, and could also help support our family as we grow. It was my mom, beautifully, who reminded me how I used to make greeting cards for our family’s needs when I was in high school, and that I have a gift for heartfelt words.”
Aisling with her mom.
It was in that moment when Whelan’s mother Cheryl Maloney encouraged her to open the online shop, that she realized how obviously natural it would be for her to let her Catholic faith guide her. She cherishes the faith that was handed down to her – the same faith she and Sean lovingly share with their daughters.
“I so love that it was my mom who kind of planted the seed and got this endeavor started, because looking back on that, it has seemed to me like such a beautiful example of who a mother is, and what she does: she knows us, and she speaks to us the truth of who we are, and the gifts we have to bring to the world,” Whelan said. That image of motherhood and maintaining that joy to share her faith with all through her creativity is her goal.
Knowing that her work is shared to celebrate and acknowledge life’s blessings – a birth, ordination, sacrament, etc. – is a “moment of joy for me.”
“In the busy, isolated, technology-heavy times in which we live, I want to be a part of real human connections, of celebrating moments that matter, and of being truly present to one another, especially in our raw places of need,” she said. “The response to my work has been overwhelmingly positive, which is such a powerful motivator, and also a testament to just how hungry people are for communion, and for things that matter.”
Maintaining a faith focused mindset is what keeps Whelan grounded and hopeful. Prayer throughout all of life’s joys, setbacks, and challenges embraces your spirit with the love of God. As a wife, mother, daughter, and Catholic business owner prayer is her strength.
“One of my favorite prayers is this one to St. Raphael that my husband shared with me when we started dating (on the feast of the archangels), and which we’ve prayed together often ever since,” she said.
St. Raphael, arrow of God’s love, wound our hearts, we beseech you, with burning love, and do not let the wound heal, so that we may stay on the path of love every day, and so that we may overcome everything with it. Amen.
“There is so much to overcome, on the journey of married life; this prayer has been like a bedrock for us, grounding us in a love that is bigger than the struggle and can overcome everything that our human weakness, our fallen world, or our eternal enemy, throws in the way of our communion,” she said.
Her prayer life has gracefully conditioned her heart to be more empathetic and compassionate.
“I know so many people who have lost their love of or belief in the Faith; it has been a really difficult few years, coping with a pandemic, we are already living in a deeply secular age, and the recurring scandals and abuses within the Church’s hierarchy have had such a devastating effect on the health of the lay faithful,” she said. “I have so much compassion for people who are struggling to stay, or who have fallen out of connection with their faith. I am often reminded of the iconic words, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ I am deeply aware of and endlessly grateful for the rich spiritual and liturgical roots of my childhood, for formative relationships with beautifully holy and human seminarians and young priests, for books like Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God which repeatedly rededicate me to communion with Christ, and for my encounter with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as a college student and later as a teacher in a Catholic Montessori school.
“There are a thousand things that have shaped my journey and brought me to this day, many or most of them people, relationships, or encounters,” she said. “This is what matters, and what continues to lend strength to my living the faith: the lived experience of the truth, in all its beauty and goodness, in the context of relationship and communion.”
In a quiet moment, when she gets to sit at her desk to create a card or image to frame, she brings to mind the motivation behind her focus, she said.
“I do this work for the world, for the people who are struggling to stay Catholic, for the children – my children, and others – who are growing up in a world uniquely desperate for true, good, and beautiful things, for everyone who is hungry for love, communion, for something that matters.”