Originally posted at The Courier
For most people, it was just another Saturday, but for the women attending the Diocese of Winona’s first annual women’s conference on New Feminism, it was a moment. Have you ever had a moment? When something occurs in your life that changes your perspective, that influences your mind and heart in a profound way? A certain talk, a scripture verse, a conversation, a hike in the wilderness, a pilgrimage, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one – it is a moment when it’s as if God touches down and imprints that experience into our hearts and we are forever changed.
I was overwhelmed by God’s work at the conference. I am truly humbled to be a small piece of this proclamation of the great dignity of womanhood. We had our plan for the day and God had His. I had hoped that we could share the truth about womanhood, counteracting the negative attitude towards the feminine in our culture, and that this would be an educational conference. God had other plans.
Truth in Christ is not to be underestimated. Jesus promised, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) To be set free is a powerful moment!
Women are under pressure to redefine themselves in a secular view. They are told they must be more assertive, be successful in their careers, use contraception, control and discipline their bodies, and work against those nurturing, maternal inclinations. It’s a heavy chain to bear when you are trying to change yourself to fit another’s standard.
What freedom came when women heard the truth of their great dignity as women! Affirming the truth that has been crying out from their hearts, they can let go of the chains of society’s view and embrace their womanhood, a great gift from God.
God brought everyone together – all ages, all states in life, all celebrating the privilege of being a woman! What a gift it was to hear Sr. Marie Paul Lockerd, RSM share about how the cycles of fertility in a woman’s body were important even for the consecrated religious woman! She offered the insight that when a consecrated woman offers the gift of her very self to God, the fertility and emotional cycles are not lost on her, but instead become an aid to her spiritual life of prayer, service and living out her spiritual motherhood in the world.
I would like to thank all those who helped to make this such a meaningful day! Thank you – all of you! – who prayed for us throughout the planning process and the day itself! Thank you to all who attended the conference! Thank you to Tisha Frost our M.C, Leah Jacobson and Eileen Love, our speakers, and those who came to share their ministries with women! Thank you to the women from St. Augustine parish who selflessly served the conference attendees all day! Thank you to those from the pastoral center who helped pack bags and folders! Thank you to Sr. Paul Mary, director of the Office of Faith Formation! Thank you to Bishop Quinn, without whose support these events would never take place! And a great thank you to our Almighty God – His Word continues to set us free in truth.
We will definitely have more events in the future, including a Lenten retreat day for women! Indeed, I am in awe of you. You set aside time to seek God in your busy lives. You take time to encourage one another and bring the truth to your friends. You live out your daily lives in hope and knowledge of this truth. This is not easy! We all face struggles every day in the mundane tasks. We could choose to be burdened by the challenges, and find an "easier way.” Yet, we choose Christ! We choose to follow Him and we find hope in the challenges and beauty in our femininity. We have set the course; we are putting our hands to the plow and not looking back. In Christ alone do we find our truth of ourselves, let us never lose sight of His face! Let us always seek to find His will for our lives, as women, as daughters of the King!
So many attendees shared their experiences! Here are just a few of their quotes:
"Everything has changed for me. God has healed my heart in such a deep way. Please keep sharing! Please keep having more events like this!”
"I was bitter and angry coming here, and I just had to tell you, I found my joy of motherhood again! Thank you so much!”
"For decades I’ve been holding onto pain – only realized today how I need to give it to God, to allow Him to make me whole. Thank you for encouraging me to come. I needed to be here.”