Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

This week’s column is a simple, frank and wholehearted commercial for one of the best gatherings on our archdiocesan calendar this year.

The Philadelphia Catholic Women’s Conference is the brainchild of 30 local Catholic women. They approached me a few years ago with a request to start an annual event that would address those feminine gifts most threatened today in an increasingly fractured and hypersexualized American culture.

As a response, the Archdiocese now offers this wonderful gathering to provide women with mutual support in living their Catholic faith, an immersion in the truth of the Church’s teachings on women and, above all, an encounter with Jesus Christ.

The need for an event like this is great, as evidenced by the more than 900 women who attended the inaugural conference in 2013. After a hiatus preparing for and then hosting the World Meeting of Families, planners for the 2016 conference, scheduled in late October, expect the event to sell out at 1,200 women in the coming few weeks.

The Church and the world need women who are animated by a zeal for Jesus Christ. In that spirit, the conference aims to draw women into a deeper understanding of their feminine genius for service and leadership, both at home and in public life. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, October 29, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa. I’ll celebrate the opening Mass at 8:30 a.m. that day, and the conference will close with a Divine Mercy Prayer Service, ending at 4:15 p.m.

Between these two moments of prayer, excellent presentations from some of the finest American Catholic speakers on women’s and family issues will be offered in English, Spanish and American Sign Language. I especially urge young women in high school and college to attend to the track specifically designed for them called “True Beauty Revealed,” based on the outstanding high school study program by Endow (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women).

Speakers for the conference will cover a wide range of topics, all of them valuable and engaging for women in every state of life, married, single or consecrated. The opening keynote address in English will be given by Mary Rice Hasson who recently edited a ground-breaking book on the mission of women in the Church, Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church. We’ll also welcome Father Jordan Kelly of the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, a nationally recognized retreat master, spiritual director and pastor.

Our keynote speaker in Spanish will be Lucía Luzondo of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and co-founder of Renovación Familiar Ministries. We were pleased to welcome Lucía and her husband Ricardo last year as presenters at the World Meeting of Families.

The American Sign Language track features Jeannine Adkins, a deaf Catholic mother of seven who also ministers to the Deaf  Catholic Community at her local parish in Kansas and online through the TheDeafCatholicMom Vlog (video blog).

The conference is located at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa for good reason. The Shrine has one of our six Archdiocesan Holy Doors of Mercy and the women who attend will have an opportunity to pass through the Holy Door to obtain the Jubilee Plenary Indulgence under the usual conditions. For this reason, a trip to the women’s conference can also be considered a pilgrimage for the Holy Year of Mercy.

This is one conference that really shouldn’t be missed by women committed to their faith. So I look forward to seeing many of you on October 29, and be assured of my prayers for each of you and for this moment of grace in the life of our local Church.

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For more information and to register for the 2016 Catholic Women’s Conference, visit the website: catholicwomensconference.org.