‘Beloved’ is theme for annual Catholic women’s conference
The following story appeared in the August 13 Idaho Catholic Register.
by Emily Woodham
Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast advises women and families about a variety of issues on her EWTN radio program, “Mast Appeal.” Her advice to Idaho women who might be feeling guilty about take an entire day to attend a women’s conference: don’t.
“For much of history, women have gathered at the well, the stream, the village market, or the quilting circle,” Dr. Mast said. “Today’s woman is isolated in the house or office with adult companionship that is merely electronic or printed. We cannot ‘catch the spirit’ of other women in love with Christ unless we are present. We receive grace – God’s life – at Catholic gatherings such as this, and we go home refreshed to see our family in a new light, and carry our crosses with a new perspective,” she said.
Be like Jesus, she counsels women, who although was fully God, still needed to step away and be refreshed.
“This conference will be refreshment for your soul. We will laugh, sing, cry, and think deeply about how we pray, work, suffer, and love,” she continued. “We will also examine our consciences together as I sing, ‘These Are A Few of My Favorite Sins!’”
“Beloved” is the theme for this year’s Idaho Catholic Women’s Conference on Sept. 11 in downtown Boise at the Boise Centre.
Bishop Peter Christensen, Sister Mary Eucharista, SMMC, Leah Darrow, and Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast
Presented by Salt & Light Radio, conference speakers will focus on what it means to be a beloved daughter of God.
In addition to Dr. Mast, other keynote speakers include Sister Mary Eucharista, SMMC; and Leah Darrow, a former professional model. Bishop Peter Christensen will celebrate Mass to begin the day at 8 a.m.
Responding to feedback on the virtual conference last year, coordinators chose to make this year’s conference completely in-person.
“This year we are asking women to be present, in-person, to set aside the distractions, to relax, to connect with old friends, and to make new friends,” said Carol Brown, director of marketing and community relations for Salt & Light Radio. “After much prayer and thought about how to convey the beauty and love God has for his precious daughters, the conference theme became apparent.”
Dr. Mast hosts “Mast Appeal,” which provides practical, faith-based advice on a variety of family and personal issues. She assisted the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to develop teachings on the family and human sexuality. The topic of her address will be “The Four Healthy Habits of Holiness.”
Dr. Mast received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Quincy University, a master’s degree in health education, and teaching certificates in theology, health, physical education and science. She has taught at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, as well as in religious education and adult education programs.
Dr. Mast said her hope is that women will know “God’s intense love for them and experience how His great love can change perceptions on all aspects of life.”
“The Holy Spirit of God is our ever-present Love, our constant companion, and our encourager,” she said. “When we are full of God’s love, we can more easily pass it on to others, even to difficult people.”
Dr. Mast is also speaking the night before the conference at Holy Apostles Catholic Community in Meridian on “Helping Our Kids Navigate This Strange New World.”
Sister Mary Eucharista was raised in southern California, but later moved with her family to north Idaho. She entered the Marian Sisters in 1981. In 2007, she joined several members of her community in starting a new foundation, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church, under Bishop William Skylstad of the Diocese of Spokane. She has been program manager at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center since 2008, while also giving retreats, Days of Prayer and talks at the center and around the United States.
“I love the title of this conference and realize that not many people in the world perceive themselves as ‘Beloved,’” Sister Eucharista said. “Christianity and true love keep this word alive. Because the Father has called us to Himself through His Son, we are caught up in being loved in this intimate, profound, cherished and personal manner.”
Sister Eucharista hopes that women will attend the conference and re-connect with others. “In-person connections are much more meaningful and inspiring. Catholic conferences typically bring people together not only with their faith, but also with starting up and or deepening friendships,” she said.
Women need to know they are beloved to grow in their confidence in God, she said. “Children who feel beloved will be confident wherever they go and whatever they do in life. This carries right into adult life.”
The world’s definition of confidence might be more about ego than about trust and more about trusting in self rather than trusting in God, she said. “This is where the spiritual life presents a more massive challenge: How can we trust that we are actually called to be a personal member of God’s fam-ily? How can we trust that with God all things are possible? How can we trust that if we ask, we will receive … Confidence in God is the whole foundation of the spiritual life.”
“Our Catholic faith is so deep, and the mystery of who woman is, is unfathomable, which is probably why, as Pope Francis has noted, it has taken the Church so long to unpack the theology of women,” she said. “I pray that at the end of this conference we may all, on some level, find ourselves engaged with Christ more transcendently, more deeply and more profoundly than we ever imagined possible.”
International Catholic speaker Leah Darrow emphasizes embracing Christ’s mercy and reclaiming the true meaning of beauty.
The former model was a contestant on the reality TV program, “America’s Next Top Model,” before experiencing a conversion back to her Catholic faith. Darrow’s book, “The Other Side of Beauty” helps women discover their true worth through God.
She also provides content to help women in their Catholic faith on her app, “Lux Catholic,” and on her website, leahdarrow.com.
“For a long time I was searching for beauty because I believed beauty in and of itself would save me,” she said on a Facebook post to fans. “I believed beauty just might give me everything I ever wanted. I wasn’t wrong, but I was after the wrong kind of beauty. If we define beauty just by the physical, we are limiting beauty to merely the temporary. We are neglecting the beauty that truly matters – the beauty that God values. Kindness, gratitude and forgiveness are the attributes of a beautiful heart, and these are attributes that better define who we are. That’s the kind of beauty the world needs.”
Confession and Adoration will be available throughout the day. Vendors will provide a “Catholic marketplace” on site for those who would like to browse during breaks. Breakfast after Mass and lunch are also included.
For mothers who wish to have more privacy while nursing their babies, a special room is being made available for them.
Because of the adult content covered in this conference, it is recommended that only those 16 and older attend.
To help with fees for those traveling, there will be shuttles from St. Paul’s in Nampa and Immaculate Conception in Buhl, and a conference parking shuttle from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise to alleviate parking downtown. Host homes are also available for those traveling from out of town.
Registration is $60 through Friday, Aug. 27, after which the cost is $75. Registration for high school and college students is $50. There is still room avail-able for exhibitors for the marketplace. Registration for exhibitors is through Friday, Aug. 20. The conference venue opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. To learn more about the conference, buy commemorative t-shirts or to register go to idahocatholicwomen.com or call 208-484-0898.
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