Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Women’s Conference Tells of ‘Thousand-Fold’ Blessings of Opening Hearts to the Lord

Gathering as one from various ages and states in life, the ladies who attended the Diocese’s annual Women’s Conference October 21 were presented with the same fundamental message: give your heart to God, and he will give blessing you a thousand-fold.

From single, married, widowed and consecrated, to college students, mothers and grandmothers, “when we say yes to the Lord, and when we truly give our hearts and our souls and our entire being to the Lord, God gives back a thousand-fold, an eternity-fold,” said keynote speaker Lindy Wynne.

A podcast host and founder of “Mamas in Spirit Catholic Ministry for Women,” Wynne captivated the crowd of more than 130 women with her personal story of how God transformed her life from a little girl who grew up in a tumultuous home to a college student to a wife and mother on fire for the Lord.

The conference, “Close to His Sacred Heart,” was hosted by the Diocesan Office for Laity and Family Ministries and included Mass celebrated by Bishop Timothy Senior and break-out sessions on compassion, womanhood and motherhood.

I suspect that this time away is in the midst of a lot of busy lives, a lot of nurturing and caring for others in your families, your workplace, your communities and your parishes. This is an opportunity for the Lord, in a very special way, to care for you,” Bishop Senior said in his homily.

“God desires you to know how much He loves us. He wants you to know that, regardless of what’s happening in our lives,” he said. “I think a lot of times when we come into the presence of God, the first thing – and I know I do this a lot – I want to tell God I’m sorry for messing up. I start to think about my weaknesses, but really what the Lord wants to tell us all when we come into His presence is how glad He is to see us.”

“Let the Lord love you today in a very special way,” the bishop told the women. “Call to mind that need that we all have in one way or another, to realize that God’s love is with us, that He embraces us and loves us.”

Abundant Blessings

“There is nothing that touches us more intimately than the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” Wynne said in her keynote address. “The challenge is that our hearts are in so many different places and spaces to realize it. We have all the ‘feels’ and all the things that go on in our lives…. Our hearts are imperfect, but that’s OK because we’re all in this together and we’re in it with the Lord.”

In a story about how God blessed her life with her vocation as a married mother of three adopted children and founder of “Mamas in the Spirit,” Wynne shared the seven blessings she received from Him by having an open heart: being seen, drawn, loved, called, carried, discerning and accompanied.

Wynne said the Lord saw her as a nine-year-old grieving the loss of her beloved grandfather; drew, loved and called her to the Church when her parents were divorcing; carried her when her husband suffered critical illness and when the couple adopted three children after struggling with infertility; and accompanied her in her discernment of her mission to share the Good News with others.

“God wants our hearts, our souls, all of us,” she said. “We can listen to things and hear things about Him, we can read spiritual books, but we need to truly surrender our hearts and souls to God,” she said.

“I pray that today is a day that you re-surrender your whole heart to Him,” Wynne said, underscoring the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Blessed Sacrament as ways to do so.

“Go where you are most drawn to encounter Christ, and He will carry you,” she said. “He will always reveal Himself and His desires for your life.”

Catholic Womanhood

Break-out sessions focused on the vocation of women, particularly their call to be mothers, nurturers and protectors.

In a talk about raising children with multiple mental and physical diagnoses, Wynne encouraged women in similar situations to surround themselves with other mothers who understand their challenges.

“We’re all in different seasons of our lives in regards to parenting – some have children or grandchildren… There is nothing more vulnerable than our ‘mama hearts.’ When you show me your heart for your children, all our masks can be thrown away and we can be transparent with one another.”

“We can think, then, about Mama Mary and the surrender she made of her child out of love. She was so full in her Fiat that she participated in Salvation history and the Divine Plan in giving Her Son for us,” she said.

Wynne shared her experiences of struggling with infertility and then raising three children, two of whom have disabilities. “Our circumstances in life are different, but our hearts are the same, and we’re all tied in that together,” she said, as she encouraged the women to find resources and connect with others to find the support they need.

“Always, always put love and your child first,” she said. “We can’t handle much on our own, but with God, we can.”

Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Wide Area Network Coordinate for the Diocese, Director of Formation for the Wives of the Diaconate Program and columnist for The Witness, offered a presentation on what it means to be a woman of compassion.

“Being a woman of compassion means that we share God’s love with one another,” she said. “Compassion means to ‘suffer with.’ We recognize the suffering of others, and then we take action as an expression of love for those who are suffering.”

Sister Geralyn spoke on ten signs of a woman of compassion who rests in the Sacred Heart of Jesus: empathy, kindness, forgiveness, patience, generosity, humility, gratitude, courage, honesty and respect.

While most women understand the love of God for others, and the love of neighbor, many don’t understand they should also love themselves.

“Own the fact that you are deeply loved by Christ, and that He is in the middle of your journey,” she said. “By doing that, you incarnate the Mystery of Christ in today’s world.”

A third break-out session was offered by Melissa Maleski, Diocesan Director of Laity and Family Ministries. Her presentation examined what it means to be a woman, and on women’s roles as “sentinels of the Invisible,” as stated by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to Lourdes in 2004, not long before his death.

In her presentation, Maleski looked at the lives of Old Testament women such as Esther, Judith and Ruth and their universal qualities of integrity, insight and a relationship with God, as well as at the lives of New Testament women such as Mary Magdalene and the hemorrhaging woman and their examples of protection and relationship with Jesus.

“These women show us that we exist in God, for God and with God. Our value, dignity, work and joy cannot be separated from Him,” she said.

Maleski also zeroed-in on John Paul II’s call for women to be “sentinels of the Invisible” – which means being protectors of God and His likeness in all we encounter.

“We are sentinels of God, and we find His image in us,” she said. “We stand at the point of passage where God meets with His creation, and we protect, proclaim and reveal it. This is your gift, your call and your commission by the fact of your existence.”

The Women’s Conference also offered attendees the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and spend time with the Lord in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Socialization, lunch and shopping at various vendors – from Diocesan ministries and educational resources, to jewelry and accessories – were also part of the day.

Elizabeth Kreckel of St. Leo the Great Parish in Rohrerstown attended the conference with several of her friends and said she always looks forward to the event.

I enjoy being here with different women from throughout the Diocese and being able to network and getting to know other women who have the same beliefs as me,” she told The Witness. “There are always great speakers at the conference, and I always feel that I leave with something new.

Seeing women of so many ages and states in life “shows that no matter our generation, we all have common beliefs. It’s so important to be among women of all ages. It doesn’t matter what place you are in life – single, married, children – we all have our common faith and we can worship together,” she said.

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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