Diocesan women’s conference a day of inspiration, humor, fellowship

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PROVIDENCE — Nearly 140 people gathered to be inspired by a pair of dynamic speakers during the second annual diocesan Women’s Conference, held Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin began the day by celebrating Mass at 8 a.m. in the cathedral.

“My dear sisters and brothers it is my privilege to welcome you to holy Mass this morning at the beginning of your diocesan Women’s Conference. Thank you for being present with us today. I hope that your time together during the day will be very enjoyable and inspiring,” the bishop said during his homily.

Following the Mass participants proceeded downstairs to cathedral hall, where they were greeted by Bishop Tobin before the presentations began.

Kelly Nieto, the keynote speaker of the event, is an internationally acclaimed storyteller and Catholic speaker who infuses humor from events in her life into her presentations.

Nieto’s strong devotion to the faith took more than 35 years to develop. A self-described agnostic “New Ager” who frequently sought answers to life’s questions from psychics leading séances, the former Miss Michigan and then Miss America runner-up embarked on a path in which she blended comedy and music to travel the world and open for such big name acts Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels and the Judds.

While she may have had it all, she felt empty inside. When she learned that her mother was going to die Nieto decided to give her life to Christ. She formed The Cross and Light, a multi-faceted large-scale theatrical production that grew and inspired the faithful all over the country.

At the Women’s Conference, she encouraged those gathered to formulate and then begin to tell their own personal stories.

“Stories are the basis of our lives,” Nieto said, noting how organizing one’s thoughts in this way can help bring clarity of purpose to one’s life.

Every great story has moments of vulnerability and she encouraged those gathered to identify those moments in their lives and use them to help others to connect with their stories.

“These are great meaningful moments with a purpose,” she said.

Danielle Bean is a writer and speaker who helps struggling moms to value their dignity and worth so they can find balance and joy in family living. She is a brand manager at CatholicMom.com and also has a talk show on CatholicTV.

She used humor from her everyday interactions with her family to keep the audience entertained, but she also encouraged the women to form bonds that will help support them in the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

“We women need each other. We need the unique kinds of support that only we women can give to each other. We get it,” Bean said.

“We know our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, but also our strengths.”

The diocesan Marriage Preparation Office, and Linda Grimshaw, Rhode Island territorial deputy in the Supreme Council of the Columbiettes, and her group were the principal organizers of the event.

“It’s a good thing for the Columbiettes,” said Grimshaw, who was inspired to advocate for a women’s conference by the ones normally held each year for men.

“I thought, what better thing than to have a ladies’ conference,” she said.

Judy Murphy, president of the Providence chapter of SERRA, which encourages vocations to the priesthood, thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially Nieto’s presentation.

“She’s very passionate, a great speaker,” Murphy said.

Sister Cathy Almagno, a Daughter of St. Mary of Providence sister who is also a Columbiette, said that after hearing the presentations, in which each speaker was able to put a humorous spin on difficult life experiences each has had, she understands there is a great need to always be mindful of the sufferings of others around them.

“Sharing our faith with other women to me is the best thing. Years ago we never had this,” Sister Cathy said.

“When I heard her speak of her sufferings, I began to think that you really have to be praying for the people around you who may be suffering.