Today’s post originally appeared at Fleeting Photography last summer as a promo of sorts for the first Called to Love conference in Mobile, Alabama. I hope you enjoy. -H
It all began with a picture. This picture.
Actually, it was a painting. But my goodness; what a painting it was! Albertinelli’s Visitation literally stopped me in my tracks. As I gazed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, I saw in the women’s embrace what I, instinctually, and at a very visceral level, hoped for myself, and for every woman I knew and even those I didn’t: unconditional love, acceptance, and support for one another. Tears streamed down my cheeks. “This,” I breathed to myself, “is what women need; this is the icon of genuine Christian sisterhood.” It was a revelation. As I shopped in the teeny Catholic bookstore in a suburb of Portland, Oregon that day, there was no way I could know that a painting would inspire and change my life.
My husband began a men’s conference in the Portland area in 2008, and every year, women would call to register their sons, husbands, and friends. Without fail, the question earnestly and repeatedly arose: “When is the women’s conference?”
It is truly a testament to God’s sense of humor and His omnipotence that I was the one who started a Catholic women’s conference in Portland. What I couldn’t have possibly known when I finally committed to putting together Catholic Women Rejoice for the summer of 2012 is that my husband would be living and working a contract position thousands of miles away for the five months leading up to the event date while I was pulling frequent all-nighters, working two jobs, and trying to hold things together with four children to care for. All the while, God showed me in ways big and small, “This is Mine. I got this. And you.”
On July 14, 2012, the Feast of soon-to-be St. Kateri Tekakwitha, over 200 women converged on Resurrection Parish in Tualatin, Oregon to be encouraged, inspired, and supported in their Catholic sisterhood. In my mind, the painting that inspired me years before had come to life before my eyes that day. I cried several times throughout the event. I get choked up just thinking about it now – God is so, so good! Other than a hiccup with food service and the inconvenience of a very hot day, it was a resounding success. Now in its third year, CWR is still very close to my heart.
Our upside-down life with no husband and father finally came to an end when David accepted a full-time position with Archangel Radio here in the Mobile area and we dropped our nets to follow Christ’s call – away from friends, family, and all known things. It wasn’t long after our fifth child was born that one of my fellow parishioners approached me: “You started a women’s conference in Portland, right? You know, we really need one here.”
Slowly but surely, the wheels began turning, and Called to Love was born. It is still obvious to me that God’s quirky sense of humor insisted that I would have the blessing and privilege of working with such an amazing team of women to provide an opportunity to encounter Christ in one another here in my new home.
Because the Holy Spirit is in control, I know it is going to be phenomenal! The day includes Mass with Archbishop Rodi, breakfast, talks with Teresa Tomeo and Sr. Miriam James Heidland, catered lunch, live music from Kelly Pease Lombardi, Adoration, Confession, Catholic vendors, gift bags; a chance to pray, worship, and just be and rest in the gift of our Catholic sisterhood and the gifts that God gives us.
Wow – I can hardly wait. It’s going to be amazing! But you know what will be even more amazing? To see you there. I can see the picture in my mind’s eye right now, a smiling face greets you with these words: “Welcome, beloved of Christ. It is so very good that you are here.”