'BRAVE' is theme for virtual Idaho Catholic Women's Conference

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 'BRAVE' is theme for virtual Idaho Catholic Women's Conference


by Emily Woodham
Staff Writer

People from all walks of life feel depleted from the stress of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic. As families try to adjust and cope with safety protocols and school closings, women, often the caregivers in society, have especially felt the tensions from these changes.

The Idaho Catholic Women's Conference, a source of respite for women across the state, is rising to the challenges of the pandemic by going virtual. 

“We had to make decisions months ago about the location and anticipate the women’s comfort levels,” said Carol Brown, director of Marketing and Community Relations for Salt & Light Radio. “We thought it prudent to go virtual because now more than ever we need to gather, pray and be brave.”

“Brave” is the theme of this year’s Sept. 19 conference, which is presented by Salt & Light Radio and sponsored by the Idaho Council of Catholic Women and St. Alphonsus Health System. The conference will start with an 8:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Father Caleb Vogel of St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa and conclude at 3:45 p.m. The general sessions will include two speakers from the Abiding Together Podcast and Father Justin Brady, pastor at Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Sun Valley. 

Sister Miriam James Heidland partnered with Heather Khym and Michelle Betzinger in 2017 to create the Abiding Together Podcast. Sister Heidland will be speaking during the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. sessions and Heather Khym at the 10 a.m. session.

Sister Heidland joined the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity 22 years ago. She is a frequent speaker on EWTN and at numerous conferences, sharing her profound conversion and other faith topics. She has a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute and is the author of Loved As I Am.  

Khym has been in ministry for more than 20 years. She lives in Canada, with her husband Jake and their three children. She and her husband founded, “Life Restoration,” a spiritual renewal ministry, in 2005. Three years ago, she started the Abiding Together Podcast to help women in their faith journey. 
Father Justin Brady, Khym’s spiritual director, will speak during the 1 p.m. session. A native of Boise, he serves the Diocese in various ministries for evangelization and healing. He also assists the Office of Vocations. He spoke for the Abiding Together Podcast in December of 2019 on the topic of spiritual warfare.

Women who may need help with the technology to access the conference are encouraged to call 208-484-0898 to be placed in smaller groups of women who will be led by a person with the necessary technology and know-how to get each women connected.

In addition to accommodating those women who may be technology challenged, organizers are also concerned about other women who may have “screen fatigue” after participating in so many virtual meetings and events. “To accommodate those with screen fatigue we are offering shorter talks and longer breaks,” Brown said. “For those registered, they have the ability to view the talks later at their own pace.”

In planning for the conference, Salt & Light re-searched available platforms to discern which would best suit its needs. Organizers want to create opportunities for socializing during the event, which was a major priority of those who responded to a survey, Brown said. Salt & Light chose, “Crowdcast,” as the platform. It is best accessed from a laptop or desktop computer to experience the full benefits of the virtual conference.

To help women adjust to Crowdcast, Salt & Light created the Serenity Lounge, which launched on Sept. 10. Participants gather at 7 p.m. MDT for a session led by Hope Ryan, co-host of Salt & Light Radio’s “Morning Light Show.” Each evening of the Serenity Lounge, there will be a short talk, and then a rosary led by a religious Idahoan, Brown said. Participants can also type in their intentions live in the comments, allowing women to pray together and for each other. (See sidebar for a schedule of Serenity Lounge speakers.)

A virtual version of the "goodie bag," a staple of the women's conference, will be given, and an online Exhibitor's Hall will be available for women to peruse. 

Whitni Willmore, who hosted last year’s conference, is back this year to welcome women and keep the event on track. She began her faith Heather Khym journey in 2015 through the Returning Catholics program at Holy Apostles in Meridian. She is currently serving as a parish ambassador for Holy Apostles through FirePit, a young adult ministry in the Diocese.

Verbum Spei, a men’s religious congregation in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise, is praying for every woman by name who is registered. There will also be full-day online adoration at the Nazareth Retreat Center to pray for the conference.

Brown encouraged women who are hesitant or unsure about taking time away for the virtual conference to pray about it. “Ultimately, taking personal time for the conference can help us rejuvenate our faith life and the lives of those around us for the better,” she said.

All those registered will have access to the talks after the conference until the end of the year. This allows women to spread out their time online or to revisit sessions. 

Cost for registration is $30. For more information and to register, go to idahocatholicwomen.com. 



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