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A Word: Catholic Women’s Conferences; Catholic Men’s Conferences

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We’ve come a long way, baby.

Finally, dioceses/archdioceses across the nation are stepping up and answering the call to evangelize by putting money and effort into establishing conferences for women and for men.

We each have unique needs. Women aren’t men. Men aren’t women. We need each other, but we also need a day set aside to minister to us – a day that affirms our gender and dignity as a woman made in the image of God, as a man made in the image of God.

And that is unique. It is not the same. I am so far and completely and hilariously different from my husband. I am not my father. Not my son. Not like any man.

I am a woman. The evangelizing of my soul looks different from the evangelizing of my husband’s soul.

In part, we need a break from our duties at home and work to gather with other women, with other men to be nurtured and filled.

And yet…

I noticed something Saturday that is essential. When the teams gather in the quiet of a diocesan room and plan our conferences, there is one aspect that is often forgotten.

It was not forgotten at the women’s conference here in St. Louis last Saturday.

In between the two female speakers, for a space of time following the female MC’s introduction, gracing the stage beside the Blessed Mother, to stand before the thousand-plus Catholic women, was Monsignor Eugene Morris.

He was the highlight of the day.

His mother watched from one balcony window. She looked down upon her son. He honored her, praised her, and then talked of Our Lady and Confession and Our Faith.

We laughed. We felt his mother’s gaze. We saw the love. We entered for a few minutes into their connection.

And I thought about the importance of seeing a man in the midst of this women’s conference. A son. A brother. A priest.

He belongs to us as women in a unique way. We need him. He needed us.

It is true that we needed a day away from our homes, a day just for us. But that day was made better – the best – because one man had been permitted to break up the day with all the female voices with a call to remember who we are as “woman.” A reminder that only a man, only a priest can deliver.

It’s like our children when they hear our voice all day long, and then daddy comes home.

He can say the same thing we have said, repeatedly. Now, they hear it. Now, they respond.

It made me think.

What if men’s and women’s conferences began adding one segment where a priest (for the women) or a woman religious (for the men) or a grandfather (for the women) or a grandmother (for the men) had a space of time to speak.

I’m going to sound like goldilocks…

not too young

not too attractive

not too distracting in that way.

But a voice with a cadence and timbre we would otherwise miss.

Telling us the same things in another way.

As the conference ended, we quieted our spirits and made a space for the Lord to come to us in the Mass.

The deacons and priests and Archbishop processed.

The Knights of Columbus raised their swords.

The women felt something. The renewal was coming full-circle. These are our men, our sons, our brothers, our fathers and priests. They are here because of us. We are here because of them. We are uniquely made. Knit together male or female in our mother’s wombs for distinct roles, then knit together in the fabric of the Church for distinct roles. We need a day filled with voices of women. But nothing can take away our need to hear a man’s voice calling us to the Confessional. A man’s sword raised as the Archbishop enters. A young man enters with eyes on the cross he carries as his alb flows and the belt swings at his side.

Gather in your little rooms. Eat your finger sandwiches. Jot your notes down for next year’s conference. Assign the action-items. Send the emails to the prospective speaker.

But in a deliberate and lovely way, preserve a space for us to see and hear from the one not like us.

They are flesh from our flesh. Flesh of our flesh. And male and female He created us.

The perfect women’s conference comes full-circle.

We are created in the image of God.

I came back home and saw my husband. My grandsons.

Thought of my priest.

Saw my deacon with new eyes Sunday morning.

Wondered if my husband had a calling to be a deacon (probably not). Or my son. Or my sons-in-law.

I wondered if my grandsons had a vocation to the priesthood. I imagined them as altar servers.

I felt my feminine genius acutely. And it made me see all of us more clearly.

I imagined talking to a Catholic men’s conference. Oh, there are many things I would say. But mostly, it would be this:

She needs you to be the man God created you to be. She.

Your wife.

Your daughter.

Your sister.

Your mother.

They need you to be firmly planted in Christ Jesus.

So listen to these male speakers. And go from this place changed. And ready.

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