APPLETON — The fifth annual Feminine Genius Women’s Conference was held March 14 at St. Pius X Church. Following Bishop David Ricken’s invitation to Catholics in the Green Bay Diocese to partake in the new evangelization and deepen their prayer life, the theme for this year’s conference was “Got Prayer!”
“Our goal is to provide Catholic women an opportunity to gather and grow deeper in their relationship with our triune God,” said conference co-founder Jody Lueck. She said the conference is dedicated to St. Pope John Paul II, who wrote “Mulieris Dignitatem” (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).
The conference emcee was Rose Sullivan, executive director of the National Conference for Diocesan Vocation Directors and a USCCB consultant to the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
“My job was to weave all the talks together,” said Sullivan. “The message I wanted the women to bring home was they are a daughter of God who should be a daughter of joy and hope and a witness of Christ’s love and mercy. They do not need to have a national platform or a master’s in theology in order to make a difference for God. They can make a significant difference for God every day by living out the word of God.”
Fr. Mark Toups, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Thibodaux, La., who works with the Institute for Priestly Formation, was the first keynote speaker. As the author of Oremus, a Catholic prayer study program that helps teach the essentials of a fruitful prayer life, he was a great source of knowledge on this topic and relayed his message with a touch of humor.
Following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Toups recommends the ancient tradition of the lectio divina or divine reading of Scripture. The steps involved are reading, meditation, praying and contemplation.
“The catechism says that God calls us first, that God tirelessly takes the initiative to reach out to us and invite us to that mysterious encounter called prayer,” said Fr. Toups.
Teresa Tomeo, an author, syndicated Catholic talk show host and motivational speaker, gave two presentations, “Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag” and “God’s Bucket List.” Both were based on her latest books designed to help Catholics and other Christians do their best at carrying the Lord with them every day, she said.
“The goal is to really encourage that personal encounter with Christ as Pope Benedict spoke of so often,” said Tomeo.
“Many times Catholics put God in a box and limit our connection or prayer time with him to weekly Mass. Of course the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith but once we receive the Lord, he has to remain close to us in our hearts.”
It comes by staying close to Christ, she said, and having a daily conversation with him through Scripture, the rosary, regular reception of the sacraments.
“And most of all (it comes from) talking to God about the good, the bad, the ugly — the big and little things in our lives,” Tomeo added.
On the topic of bucket lists, Tomeo asked: Who designed your bucket list — me, myself and I or the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
“How has the culture, media and personal desires impacted your bucket list?” she asked. “Is your bucket list designed to get you to heaven? Give God the reins. Everything we do is by the grace of God. Consider spiritual direction, silence the noise in your life, follow the church more closely, study God’s word, receive the sacraments more frequently, never stop discerning and live joyfully.”
The third speaker was Sr. Maris Stella of the Sisters of Life, founded in 1991 by New York Cardinal John O’Connor. She works in the Hope and Healing Mission, which offers retreats and accompaniment to women who are suffering after abortion. Her talk was centered on experiencing God’s mercy in prayer.
“Fear is the chief activator of all our faults,” she said. “When we sincerely ask Jesus into our hearts he comes carrying his mercy.” Sr. Maris Stella said every woman should be praying daily, going to Mass weekly and taking part in the sacrament of confession monthly.
The women in the audience, including Therese Borree, a member of St. Pius X Parish, were appreciative of the messages they received during the conference.
“One of the things I gained from listening to the speakers was that we should ask God what he wants of us and not tell him what we want for ourselves,” she said. “Also before prayer you should quiet your mind, look at God and stop thinking about yourself. The more we talk to God, the more he is with us. The speakers also gave me more sources of information to better my faith life.”