A Time For Renewal: Annual Diocesan Women’s Conference Inspires Print this post

By Nadia Smith (Special to the Florida Catholic)

2/24/2017

With more than 600 women from around the Diocese of Venice and four outstanding speakers, the annual Diocesan Women’s Conference offered the perfect prescription for renewal: laughter, encouragement, wisdom and spirituality.

More than 600 women from across the Diocese attended the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

“I think it’s important to step back every once and awhile and let the Lord speak to you, and I think this Conference allows for that,” said Cristin O’Conner, of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. “All four of the speakers were fantastic ­– you could tell they were all on fire for their faith and it was truly inspiring. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to go to confession, adoration, and to end the day with Mass. I left feeling renewed.”

Visiting the vendors was one of the fun activities during the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. About 600 women attended the spirit-filled event.

The Conference, held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, featured nationally known speakers: Lisa Cotter, founder of Made to Magnify Ministry; Edward Sri, theologian, author and well known Catholic speaker; Susan Conroy, former volunteer who worked with St. Teresa of Calcutta for 11 years and wrote about her experience with the saint’s blessing; and Rachel Balducci, newspaper columnist, author and co-host of The Gist on CatholicTV.

During a lunch break, Bishop Frank J. Dewane one of the 600 attendees of the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane welcomed the women to the Conference and visited with them throughout. He also celebrated the closing Mass. In his welcome address, he took the opportunity to thank the women for all they do.

During a lunch break, Bishop Frank J. Dewane speaks with some of the 600 attendees of the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

“It’s the feminine genius that makes many things happen in the Parishes and throughout the Diocese. It’s all of you with your presence, your prayers, your encouragement, and we are most grateful for that,” he said. “In the end it allows others to be ‘the more’ they are called to be. I stand here humbly before you today to thank you.”

Lisa Cotter speaks during the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. About 600 women attended the spirit-filled event.

Cotter kicked off the Conference with a look at femininity from a cultural perspective that spanned fifty years. Women’s identity went from “domestic queen” in the 50s to “liberated feminist” in the 60s and 70s to the “be like a man” of the 80s and 90s.

“If we follow the advice of our culture about femininity, we’d have to change who we are about every 10 to 15 years. It’s exhausting,” she said.

Instead, Cotter suggested a different perspective – one that reflects the truth that “the essence of what makes a woman doesn’t change. Her purpose, which was given to her by God, doesn’t change.”

To that end she used the creation account in Genesis and St. John Paul II’s explanation of it to explain how God chose two unique genders to compliment so that through their interdependence the person fully realizes his or her humanity.

“These differences are a good thing and your uniqueness as a female is so good that St. John Paul II calls it the feminine genius,” she said. “Our world needs our genius and he encouraged us to allow it to come into its fullness.”

The essence of woman – the feminine genius – are those qualities that make her uniquely female such as emotional strength, inner beauty, intuition, generosity, fidelity, receptivity and empathy. As Cotter noted, the purpose of woman is to help make the world more human by using her feminine genius to glorify God.

Dr. Edward Sri speaks during the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. About 600 women attended the spirit-filled event.

Dr. Sri spoke about the “weeds” in the culture choking out faith. He pointed to the culture’s superficial definition of love as one example.

Dr. Edward Sri speaks to attendees of the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. About 600 women attended the spirit-filled event.

“In this case love is how the person makes you feel. It’s what you do for me. This view of love will not last because as soon as you lose that loving feeling, the marriage is over,” he said. “Real love is to will the good of the other – it’s other centered. Real love is standing shoulder to shoulder with your spouse to serve something bigger.”

Susan Conroy speaks during the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. About 600 women attended the spirit-filled event.

Speaking from the heart, Conroy spoke about her decade long friendship with St. Mother Teresa, the lessons she taught her, and her work as a volunteer in Calcutta serving the poorest of the poor.

“Calcutta, for the most part, was like a living nightmare. Yet in this dark city, I would soon see ‘a great light’ – and her name was Mother Teresa. She changed an earthly hell into a bit of heaven for everybody, especially for those who were most in need of mercy,” she said. “Living in Calcutta’s rock-bottom condition gave me a profound attitude of gratitude that will last a lifetime.”

Rachel Balducci speaks during the 2017 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference held Feb. 11 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. about 600 women attended the event.

Balducci rounded out the daylong Conference with practical tips to “be yourself, love your life and do it all with courage.”

Oftentimes women in their roles as wives and mothers can be filled with doubt and insecurities, which she says only keep a woman from truly experiencing God’s grace and gift of joy. Fighting the temptation to compare one’s life to others and fostering a heart of gratitude along with acknowledging that one’s perceived flaws are not mistakes made by God. Instead, redeemable qualities for God’s glory, are all ways to see the good in her state of life, Balducci said. Ultimately, she advised, it is doing the small things to the best of our abilities and loving those right in front of us that leads us to holiness.

For Margaret Adams, parishioner of San Pedro Parish in North Port, the Conference exceeded her expectations and having Bishop Dewane’s presence made an impact.

“To have the Bishop there all day was a treat and a testament to how much he values the women of this Diocese,” she said. “The Conference was well done. I have told all of my girlfriends that they must come next year.”

The day opened with Eucharistic Adoration, while throughout the Conference priests were available for the many seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Print this entry