Archbishop calls women to be ‘prophets of hope’
September 16, 2015 | posted by Today's Catholic Newspaper
By Katherine Jass Slone
For Today’s Catholic
“Come to Me” (Matt 11:28) — Close to 2,500 women accepted the invitation to come and experience the beauty and depth of God’s love for them at the annual Catholic Women’s Conference held Aug. 28-29 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The conference is sponsored by the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization apostolate serving the archdiocese and beyond.
Now into its 14th year, the conference originated with an idea to remind women of their God given dignity and to enrich the spiritual lives of all Catholic women.
“This conference offers all women an opportunity to be renewed in their faith; to deepen their belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church; to experience silence in prayer; to worship (in Mass) with other women with that same desire to grow in holiness; to experience reconciliation through the sacrament of confession; to receive teaching on the faith and spiritual direction from various presenters; to sing their hearts out and to receive resources in helping them live and share their faith, and of course to be encouraged to live with dignity as a daughter of God,” explained Mary Jane Fox, co-founder of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, along with her husband Deacon Tom Fox.
It may seem impossible, but all that Fox references and more filled the two day conference. Women from across the archdiocese, around Texas and even outside of Texas arrived early Friday afternoon to get their place in line; some even arriving three to four hours before the doors opened. Two attendees were anxious to take advantage of the early opportunity to go to reconciliation.
“I was raised Catholic but have not been practicing; I kind of slipped away. I’ve had some not so good things happen recently and had been feeling lost. My friend told me about the conference and invited me to come with her. Based on what I read it seemed like it would be a good way to spend the weekend. When we heard confession was going to be offered early, we wanted to be here so we could go to confession; I have a hard time forgiving myself and I really think I have been called to be here this weekend to be cleansed,” shared Isa Otero.
Thirteen priests arrived at 2 p.m. to receive the women already in line for the sacrament of reconciliation. Other priests served throughout the conference as well.
Once the doors opened women flooded in to register, spend time in adoration, take advantage of the various vendors and grab the best seat in the auditorium to prepare for the weekend dedicated to renewing their faith. Many parishes had large groups of women attending together; St. Mark the Evangelist had 50 women and Sacred Heart in Uvalde had seventy women attending.
“It all started with just one member talking about it and encouraging other to attend and here we are. This is just a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community and to feed ourselves so that we can go back and build up our families and church; we want to take what we learn here and show the other women in our church that they have a place and a home in our faith,” commented Claudia Falcon and Cecilia T. Martinez.
Five speakers had the women cheering and crying throughout the conference; Noelle Garcia, musician and blogger. A first at the conference, Garcia brought her three-week old baby Diego with her and reminded the women that they are all fearlessly and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God. Writer and elementary school teacher Sheri Wohlfert gave insight to how to draw closer to God’s heart. Radio host and writer Sally Robb shared how, through Mary, we can begin undoing the knots in our lives.
Certified spiritual director Carol Weiler encouraged the women to embrace the true love that exists in Jesus. One of last year’s most popular speakers, Dr. Margarett Sclientez was back to help the women deal with healing wounds and walking with the Holy Spirit. “All of the speakers were absolutely amazing and just so good. I enjoyed listening to each one of them; it was like they were speaking just to me. And Dr. Margarett is just fabulous; I was happy to see her back this year,” said Bridgete Arredondo from Sacred Heart Parish Del Rio.
However one person really spoke to the heart of the women and had the biggest impact; Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS. His homily during the celebration of Holy Mass had the women captivated. After taking in the sea of almost 2,500 women, Archbishop Gustavo told them to be strengthened in the Lord and he assured them of their mission.
“Blessed are you women who are trying to follow the Lord. Live in the Truth be a witness to Lord in his terms, not your terms. Our dignity comes from God’s given purpose to point others toward the word of God. We need women who will be prophets of hope. Our greatness does not come from ourselves; you have a voice that is louder for the sake of the kingdom of God. You are prophets of today and tomorrow; be prophets of hope.”
Veronica Cabello from St. Joseph in Del Rio was inspired by his message. “Such a beautiful Mass; the Archbishop shines and radiates love. He speaks the truth and his message was heartfelt for all us here. He is just a bright and holy man that exudes peace.”
Throughout the weekend, women were provided with various resources to assist them on their faith journey. One resource was the newly created prayer book that was given to each woman in their conference packet along with other helpful resources.
“The women received the first edition of the new ‘Come to Me’ Spiritual Prayer Companion written specifically for women. This book offers steps to practice the faith daily and guidelines to pray, for adoration and living the Sacramental life,” Fox explained.
Women also had the opportunity to purchase additional prayer companions as well as compact discs of each speaker’s talk. These are also available for purchase by visiting the www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org/conferences/cwc/
Plans are under way for next year’s conference scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center.
“It was an exciting and wonderful weekend. All of the speakers were awesome and I learned so much about myself and my faith and I’m ready to allow the Holy Spirit to work within me. I’ll be back next year,” said Del Gomez from St. Joseph Parish in Dilley.