PROVIDENCE — More than 150 Catholic women from around the Diocese of Providence and beyond filled the Cathedral hall of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence on Saturday, Sept. 21, for the annual diocesan Women’s Conference.
This year’s theme was “Eucharist: Source and Summit — Transformed.” The conference began with morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, followed by an inspirational program that went until mid-afternoon.
Following Mass, a mix of experiences offered the multi-generational crowd of women time for quiet prayer in adoration, inspiration and education by two dynamic speakers, and a time for healing through the Sacrament of reconciliation.
The conference’s music ministry was provided by Philip Faraone during Mass and for the rest of the day by Melissa Roberts, youth minister, and some members of the St. Philip Church Youth Choir: Isabella Giacobbe, Hannah and Olivia Kline, and Sarah Michael. A variety of vendors provided a Catholic “mini-mall” experience for the women to visit between the scheduled events. The vendors offered religious gifts, books, and services such as Relevant Radio.
Catholic evangelist, author, founder of WINE: Women in the New Evangelization, Kelly Wahlquist, presented two talks — one on discipleship and another on why the Church needs women in the New Evangelization. Her presentations were lively and humor-filled, all the while teaching important lessons that helped to encourage and empower women to be transformative instruments of God. Wahlquist highlighted three parts of discipleship: knowing who to follow (Jesus), listening to Jesus and serving others by living out Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” She stressed that God has equipped each of his children with gifts that are to be used to build up the Body of Christ on earth and emphasized that “when we work in our gifts, that’s where we also find our joy.”
The second dynamic speaker of the day was Dr. Angela Franks, theologian, speaker and writer, who presented a deeply interesting talk entitled “Redemption of our Bodies.”
Dr. Franks gave the audience insight about God’s plan from the experience of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace to how that still impacts mankind today. She stated that since sin entered the world, “we have an interior fracture,” that needs healing, quoting from St. John Paul II. In order for behaviors to change there needs to be a conversion of heart. She unpacked this theological subject in a way that all ages were able to understand it and be inspired by.
The joy during the gathering of women was clearly evident. There was a sense of eager expectation for the day’s events. It was a day for Catholic women to relax, pray and learn, while gaining a greater connection to the Church and other women of faith.
Linda Ferragamo from St. Philip Parish in Greenville saw the conference listed in her parish bulletin and said, “I wanted to learn more about my faith and meet different people. This is my first diocesan event. I love my faith.”
Gina Audate from Holy Family parish in Pawtucket attended a women’s conference in the past. Speaking about Wahlquist’s talk, Audate said “She’s incredible! Great! I could listen to her the whole day.”
Similar praise for both speakers was overheard throughout the day.
Marcela Iurinic, who recently moved to Rhode Island from Argentina and was attending her first women’s conference, decided to come so she could meet people and hear the talks.
Anna Carnavale from the Cathedral parish of SS. Peter and Paul explained the many reasons why she keeps coming to these conferences.
“Part of it is connecting with other Catholic females and the other part is to be enriched in faith and hear different inspirational stories that help us live out our Catholic faith.”
Many agreed that the women’s conferences, offered by our Diocesan Office of Faith Formation, are blessings to all the faithful. Their benefits extend beyond the day’s activities because the women bring this experience back to their families, friends, parishes and work environments.
At the end of her first talk, Wahlquist presented the women with a “PHD,” telling them they were “Permanently His Disciples” with a mandate to leave the conference and spread the Good News of Jesus and make more disciples. Dr. Franks shared that “we can only be generous because God was first generous with us —He was generous all the way to the cross and continues that today through the Eucharist.”
Supplied with a newly granted “PHD,” and a reminder of God’s great generosity, the women left the conference with a renewed sense of mission as a faith-filled force of Catholic women eager to do their parts to transform the world.