When an event sells out five weeks in advance with 300 people on a waiting list, it’s safe to conclude a few things. First, the event matters. Second, it’s meeting a serious need. Third, the topic greatly interests its intended audience.
This is exactly what happened with last year’s Archdiocesan Catholic Women’s Conference at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa. I was pleased to celebrate the opening Mass with more than 1,200 women from around the Archdiocese in three different languages – English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. The Liturgy was standing room only.
At a time when some claim that the only way to be pro-woman is to advocate for contraceptive and abortion “rights,” Catholic women came together for a different kind of movement – a movement that seeks to promote women not by stealing from them what makes them women, but by honoring precisely those things that make women who they are.
The reason why so many Catholic women travelled early in the morning to gather at a Shrine hidden in rural Pennsylvania was to hear the affirming message of the feminine genius; that is, the particular gifts that God gives to women for outreach to the world. Contrary to secular assumptions, these women wanted to hear what the Church teaches about women. And they spent the day enjoying the strong bonds of Catholic sisterhood that inevitably flow from being rooted in the truth.
Fast forward to now. This year, on October 21, Philadelphia will be the host diocese for the first-ever National Catholic Women’s Conference, inspired by the new Catholic women’s ministry WINE: Women In the New Evangelization. WINE is an effort that recognizes women’s central role in the mission of the Church to proclaim Jesus Christ to every part of the world. WINE understands that women are uniquely positioned to play a leading role in this work of evangelization. Woman has a particular “aptness” for the new evangelization because of her unique capacity for relationship, a gift that many men would do well to learn more deeply.
In Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), he speaks about the Church’s need to cultivate the “art of accompaniment” in all our efforts (EG 169-173). He reminds us that a person’s encounter with the saving words of Jesus Christ doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Rather, conversion comes about through a person-to-person relationship between the hearer and a loving Christian who walks with him or her and gradually shares God’s truth over time and as the hearer is ready to hear it. This fundamentally relational dimension of evangelization is what makes women so especially apt for the task.
I hope that this year, like last year, women across the region will pack the Shrine to standing room only for the WINE National Catholic Women’s Conference. While the event is for all Catholic women, it’s designed especially for those who might not yet have experienced the great love of Jesus Christ and the beauty of the Catholic faith. So I ask women of the Archdiocese to be courageous: Invite at least one friend or family member who’s been away from her faith to come to the conference with you.
The conference will take place on Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You’ll hear from nationally renowned and compelling Catholic speakers. You’ll pray. You’ll share wonderful friendship and support. Most of all, you’ll come into closer and richer contact with the personal love of Jesus Christ. I look forward to seeing you there.
Learn more and register for the WINE National Catholic Women’s Conference at wineconference.org.