By Dan Russo
CEDAR RAPIDS — At the latest Archdiocesan Women’s Conference, participants took a long hard look in the mirror. By the end of the day organizers hoped to remind everyone how to see that the beauty of Christ emanates from them, no matter what they may look like on the outside or feel like on the inside.
Over 600 women from around the archdiocese gathered at the Double Tree Hilton Conference Center Jan. 26 to hear two nationally known Catholic speakers, celebrate Mass, engage in the sacrament of reconciliation, pray and experience fellowship. The day’s theme was “Perfect isn’t perfect.”
“With all of the internet and everything that portrays that we need to be perfect, we needed to put out the message that you don’t,” said Jennifer Clancy of Epiphany Parish in Mason City. “And that perfect does truly come from God and that to him we are perfect and really that’s all we need.”
Clancy was co-chair of the conference with Ann Kunst of St. Patrick Parish in Clear Lake. In solidarity with the theme, mirrors were placed on the stages where keynote speakers Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, an author and EWTN TV host, and Kate Wicker, a wife, mother and story teller, shared wisdom on overcoming suffering through faith and then using one’s gifts to serve. In one of her two talks, Wicker, 40, revealed her own struggles with an eating disorder as a young person who didn’t conform to society’s standards for body image.
“I realized as I was recovering that you can be cured, but you may not be healed,” she said. “Healed is what the great physician comes to do. Jesus may not cure you if you have a sickness, but he can heal you. He can help you to make peace with it. I was cured from my eating disorder, but I wasn’t healed. I had so much brokenness. The problem was my plans to get better didn’t involve God.”
Wicker eventually did turn to the Lord and shared a different perspective on how to handle the challenges of aging and dealing with family issues. An overriding theme of the day was the power of the individual to work with Christ for good.
“We don’t give ourselves enough credit of the power we have to pass on the faith and be able to be confident in that,” said Clancy.
During his homily at Mass, Archbishop Michael Jackels alluded to the influence of two women in Scripture, Lois and Eunice. He said each one of us is called to be a beacon to others like those women.
“All of us have someone in whom the faith was living and translated the faith to us,” he said.
He then reached out to a person in the crowd named Becky.
“I want someone someday to say to me the faith lives in me because of Becky! That should be a goal for us. This is a duty for all of us. It’s not by a pastor’s concession; it’s by a great commission,” he said.
The event was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the Sisters of the Presentation, Theisen’s and the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. Many participants returned after attending in previous years.
“I came last year, and I was totally inspired,” said Mary Kay Polashek of St. Cecilia Parish, Ames. “It made a difference for my year … we’re all called, and we need to be inspired as women of God who have an important role to play in the church.”
More photos of the conference can be accessed at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/nHeMnM2hrWHh9J446
Young women hold hands as they pray during Mass at the Archdiocesan Women’s Conference Jan. 26.
(Photo by Dan Russo)