Neither rain (it was brief!) nor snow (the six inches in Minneapolis didn’t deter our keynote speaker from flying to Baltimore) nor gloom of night (though it was still dark when we volunteers arrived that morning) — not even worldwide pandemic !! could stop the Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday, October 24th!

The theme –Made For Joy! – was discussed in a variety of ways by everyone from Archbishop Lori to our three spectacular speakers.  Attendees prayed the rosary, as a group.  Others took advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation offered throughout the day.  And we all ended the afternoon with Eucharistic Adoration – songs and prayers in the presence of our Lord.  As the event wrapped up, co-chair Catherine Liberatore reminded us of the importance of gathering in person, as a community of believers.  In these last few lackluster months, we “radically relational” women warriors really needed that!

But for me, self-confessed Bible geek, word nerd, and erstwhile screenwriter (because who else uses words like erstwhile?) the day was about stories. 

Keynote speaker Kelly Walquist illustrated the concept of the feminine genius* with a story about how a young mother at an airport evangelized by simply being Christ to a harried traveler whose boarding pass had just been eaten by a self-compacting garbage can.  The young mother, traveling, Lord help us, with a toddler, was the most encumbered person in the room.  Yet she was receptive  – hearing the scream of her fellow passenger – sensitive – asking, “Can I help you?” and generous – to the point of putting down her own baggage,  sticking her hand into the “flesh eating” garbage can, and producing the ticket.  A reminder that we, too, might be “the only Jesus that some people will ever see.” 

Jeanne Link told the story of being awakened in the middle of the night with a terrible vision – a tractor trailer jackknifing into her son’s car – and a voice telling her to pray, pray pray!  And how, the following morning, her son, having arrived safely home, said, “The strangest thing  happened last night…” and proceeded to tell her that, as he drove home, a tractor trailer started to jackknife in front of him, and “somehow” he blinked, and was in the breakdown lane, safely passing it.  A very vivid reminder of our guardian angels’ protection and love for us!  “Find the prayer ,” she advised, “that brings you peace.” In a powerful moment she led us in prayer – over, and for, one another.

Finally, Annie Mc Hugh reminded us that, while true joy will ultimately come from unity with Christ in heaven, we’re able to cultivate it here, while we wait!  She suggested that we use prayer as an anchor, working it into the natural rhythm of our day; of not only reading about the saints but also reading what the saints themselves had to say; and of finding a phrase to “chew on,” to mutter throughout our day to keep our focus on Christ.  She described how she overheard her 8-year-old daughter, struggling to put shoes on her 3-year-old son, whisper, “Sweet Jesus!  Help me!”  A reminder that, whether we’re a stay at home mom, a successful physician, or a stock clerk at a store, what we “mutter” matters!

I’m reminded of my Aunt Maria, who used to answer the phone by saying, “Good morning, God bless you, what’s your story?”  I’m so very grateful to have been a part of this day, where I was drawn in and captivated by like-minded, strong, beautiful, faith-filled women who were willing to share their stories with us!

*The feminine genius (two words that should always be used together!) is a concept attributed to St Pope John Paul II