Conference brings women ‘closer to God and one another’

A sell-out crowd of nearly 2,000 pack the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the 2010 Boston Catholic Women’s Conference. The day-long event featured adoration, confession and inspirational Catholic speakers. Pilot photo/ George Martell, The Catholic Foundation

SOUTH END -- A sellout crowd of women, estimated at about 2,000, from parishes across the Archdiocese of Boston gathered for spiritual renewal and solidarity at the 5th annual Boston Catholic Women’s Conference at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Feb. 27.

“It’s nice to see 2,000 women who are on the same page -- from all different nations and all different nationalities,” said Claire Nicholson, a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury who has attended all but one of the conferences to date. “It’s a great day.”

Annamarie Monks, a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Mansfield, attended her first conference this year.

“It was very uplifting,” she said. “I felt a lot of joy.”

Monks recalled her father who recently passed away. She said he was a staunch Catholic whose faith inspired him to be active in the 1960s civil rights movement.

“I feel like I was honoring him too by being here today,” she said.

The all-day event included four speakers, confession, adoration, praise and worship music, a chance to meet with exhibitors in the adjacent Cathedral High School gymnasium, and Mass with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.

Saturday’s first speaker was Leah Darrow, a former participant in the television show “America’s Next Top Model,” who spoke of her Catholic upbringing, modeling career, and return to Christ.

Darrow was followed by Patti Mansfield, a Catholic author who has also participated in Catholic Charismatic Renewal, who spoke about the role of Mary in the lives of today’s Catholic women.

After lunch, noted Catholic author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle spoke to participants about how they can share their faith with others, using the example of Mother Teresa.

The speakers’ portion of the program was rounded out by Sister Olga Yaqob, an archdiocesan hermit and chaplain at Boston University, who spoke of her journey from Iraq to becoming a nun in the United States.

Saturday’s program concluded with a 4:00 p.m. Mass.

“The conference provides an opportunity for women all over the archdiocese to come together in a community of women and be nurtured in their faith and grow closer to God and one another,” said Jennifer Schiller, a member of the conference’s leadership team and master of ceremonies for each of its five years of existence.

This year’s theme was taken from Phillipians 4:13; “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”

Schiller said that the theme was appropriate this year because of the challenging economic and cultural times that mark today’s society. She said St. Paul wrote those words while in a Roman prison.

Darrow discussed how she embraced Christ as her strength after recent modeling endeavors. She admitted to not always living in accordance with her faith in high school and college despite her Catholic upbringing. After college, she appeared on “America’s Next Top Model” was but was subsequently eliminated. Then, she went to New York City for a risque photo shoot with an international magazine.

That shoot was a turning point for her.

“It was the furthest thing from modest clothing,” Darrow said. “It was embarrassing.”

She said she had a vision during the shoot of standing before God and giving to him all that she had.

“My hands were empty because I had wasted all my talents on myself,” Darrow said. “I was living my life up to this point, in the past decade, for Leah Darrow.”

At that point, she left the shoot.

She also discussed how her father drove to New York City from the Midwest and brought her to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as the founding of Pure Fashion, which promotes chastity, purity, and modesty in the actions and dress of girls ages 13 to 18.

“It was totally good to hear when she had that conversion and really related to God,” said Bridget Rose, 15, a freshman at the Montrose School in Medfield.

Sheila Tighe, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Melrose, also liked Darrow’s speech.

“She was energetic,” Tighe said. “She was fun and she nailed it.”

After Darrow’s speech, Mansfield addressed the conference.

Mansfield’s remarks described how one can get to know and serve Jesus better through a personal relationship with the Blessed Mother.

“My dear and precious sisters, God wants us to be happy,” she said. “Surrendering our lives to Jesus is the source of happiness in our hearts.”

She also encouraged women in attendance to pray the rosary. She admitted she has difficulty praying the prayer herself.

“It’s such a powerful prayer,” she said. “It’s a prayer that has been requested by our Lady herself.”

Attendees appreciated Mansfield’s remarks about Mary.

“I’m glad they brought her up,” said Kathy Cogan, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Middleboro. “I feel she’s not mentioned enough in the Church. I go to her quite a bit, especially being a mother.”

“As mothers, it can make a woman feel closer that we do have someone in the smallest way we can try to mimic,” Monks said.

Mansfield’s talk led into a eucharistic procession led by Father Michael Harrington, the assistant director of the archdiocese’s vocation office. Adoration was available in the lower chapel of the cathedral all day, but the Blessed Sacrament was brought into the main church following Mansfield’s talk.

The afternoon featured two more speakers -- O’Boyle and Sister Olga -- and Mass with Cardinal O’Malley.

O’Boyle discussed how Catholics can witness to their faith today. She shared stories from her own life when she helped lead others closer to Christ during situations that may not, at the surface, seem to lend themselves to faith sharing.

She described how she prayed with other passengers on a turbulent airplane ride and how she gave copies of her books to a UPS driver, who shared with her the insight he received from them when he made subsequent deliveries to her home.

“We have to remember that we represent our Church, and what we say and do can have an impact on those around us,” O’Boyle said.

Sister Olga discussed how she journeyed from Iraq to the United States, and shared her struggles to realize her dream of becoming a Catholic nun.

Sister Olga was raised as a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, and was a teenager during the First Gulf War.

At that point, she knew that she wanted to become a nun.

“I just really wanted to be near Jesus and I wanted to follow Mary,” she said.

Later, she was disowned by her family for refusing an arranged marriage and dismissed from a community of Iraqi nuns she helped form for participating in traditional Catholic devotional practices. She came to the United States in 2001 and received a Master’s degree after studying at Boston College and Boston University.

During the Mass, Cardinal O’Malley summarized the meaning of the conference, saying in his homily that the event allows Catholic women to join with their fellow disciples to “faithfully and generously” embrace their mission.

“If we fail to live our mission, the whole world suffers the consequences,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our humanity is diminished and our destiny is frustrated.”

“We need to climb the mountain of prayer to be able to experience God’s glory in the community of our fellow believers, and we can survive the Gethsamene experience.”

For many who attended, it was powerful indeed.

“I think it opened me to ways to deepen my faith,” Monks said.

“It’s moving,” said Cogan, who attended with her 10-year-old daughter, Kailyn. “It’s a good renewal.”

“I wait for this to come every year,” the elder Cogan added. “This is my big day out.”

Cardinal beatifies 22-year-old Romanian as 'martyr to chastity'

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A 22-year-old Romanian peasant has taken a step closer to sainthood as a "martyr to chastity," six decades after she was murdered ...

Maryland attorney general will review church records on child sex abuse

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a Sept. 24 letter to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori informed priests and deacons that the ...

People helping people is what attracted actor to 'God Friended Me'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Television audiences may recall seeing actor Joe Morton as Eli Rowan Pope, the father of professional Washington fixer Olivia Pope, ...

Pa. bishops support creating fund to compensate survivors of sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The bishops of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses are supporting creation of an independent fund to compensate survivors ...

CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities ...

The Jesuit who survived the KGB

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 24, 2018 CNA.- When Pope Francis visited a former KGB building in Vilnius, Lithuania Sept. 23, Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius ...

Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to ...

Update: Scandals create outrage, but there is time for conversion, pope says

TALLINN, Estonia (CNS) -- In what is probably the least religious country in Europe, Pope Francis said he is surprised by how many people hold firm to ...

Catholic leaders oppose administration's plan to limit green cards

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders are speaking out against a Trump administration proposed rule announced Sept. 22 that would deny green cards to legal ...

Head of Georgetown Prep urges renewed commitment to being 'men for others'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a letter to the school community, the president of an all-boys Jesuit high school in suburban Washington emphasized the schools' ...

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...