joankingThere is something special about coming together in a group to listen, be inspired and share with others the message of a day dedicated to “Healing through the hope of Jesus.”

Mothers, grandmothers, young mothers with infants – in all, 2,300 attended the day-long third annual Women of Christ Conference in West Bend in late January. They listened to speakers who urged them to heed the voice of the Blessed Mother, pray the rosary, receive the Eucharist, read the Bible and bring Christ to their families and those around them.

There was an atmosphere of expectation, sharing and reverence. It was evident in the long line for confessions during the noon hour, the packed area of eucharistic adoration, and the friendly buzz of conversations throughout the day.

Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, reminded those present that women have always translated love into practical and realistic everyday healing by feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, teaching children and generally responding to the needs of those around them.

Throughout the day there were reminders that the true meaning of love became evident when Christ died on the cross for us. We need look no further than his daily presence in the Eucharist as a basis for love.

01-29-11-CHN-39Conference attendees attend Mass at the Women in Christ gathering at the Washington County Pavilion in West Bend, on Saturday, Jan. 29. Approximately 2,300 women attended the third annual women’s conference. More photos from the event can be viewed and purchased at http://photos.chnon (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)I sat next to a mother of 12 who was attending with two of her daughters and three granddaughters. A grandmother and mother with a tiny baby were across the aisle. On the bus ride home, my seatmate spoke of praying furiously for the young girl, about 15 years old, who was sitting next to her, possibly with her mother and grandmother. In direct contrast to most of the young women, we both agreed the teen did not want to be there, demonstrating a grudging attitude throughout the day. We hope our prayers that day and since have helped her to heal the anger she seemed to have.

We could learn about the speakers and their messages from the books they have written, but there is something about coming together in a group to listen and be inspired, and to share with others the important message of the day.

Sometimes we need a dramatic presentation to help us get a perspective on our own troubles. The devastating experience of speaker Immaculee Ilibagiza during the Rwandan genocide demonstrated how the love of God protected her and the seven others who hid with her for 91 days in a 3-by-4 foot bathroom, about the size of a bathtub. From the beginning of her experience when she sought safety and realized that people were not safe even in the churches, she discovered the power of love. With her ever-present rosary and a borrowed Bible, she prayed and read to find purpose during those difficult days.

“They never found me, but I found myself…. Forgiveness is a part of my story,” she told the audience. “The rosary is for every human being. Don’t say, ‘Why me?’ and complain. The ‘Our Father’ came from God. I must say it, surrender, put myself in his hands. We cannot see right when we have stepped to the side of hate. They (the murderers) are blinded. My God is on my team. I felt so much love for God…. You are true, You are here.” Her biggest shock was to realize that “God listens, God is there, he sees what is in my heart.”

Ilibagiza spoke also of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in her life, especially in the apparitions nearby Kibeho, the only ones on the African continent approved by the church in 2001. She has told her story and that of her country in books – “Left to tell, Led by Faith,” “Our Lady of Kibeho” and “If Only We Had Listened.”

The importance of daily prayer was also enthusiastically explained by Fr. Larry Richards, a weekend presenter on Relevant Radio in “Changed Forever,” who urged that the Bible be at our bedsides, available to read on waking in the morning and before sleep at night. He also said that we have the opportunity to unite with Christ daily in the Eucharist at Mass and should make every effort to do so.

The message to women was more evident in the words of Helen Alvare, a professor and theologian and advisor to the pope’s Pontifical Council for the Laity. Alvare regularly addresses current controversies about marriage, parenting and new reproductive technologies.

She has followed both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s addresses to the pressing problems women faced beginning in the 1970s and how what we are seeing began before that. The Vatican gives an accurate portrayal of how we “come back” from the current “market” geared to men in that it promotes sex, birth control, abortion and STDs and is responsible for women’s declining happiness. She pointed out that when a justice of the Supreme Court calls sodomy a constitutional right and the Iowa Supreme Court states that marriage has nothing to do with children, we can see that the trend is to make the Catholic Church the enemy. It is at the heart of the movement to “separate woman from man, woman from children, woman from one another, woman from God.”

We can’t compete but can find solidarity among women by reinforcing that we are first in the order of love, made in the image of God.

  • The annual Men of Christ Conference is scheduled for the 4,100 seat Milwaukee Theater on Saturday, Feb. 19 with 3,000 men already registered. This is a great day for fathers and sons to share.  For more information, visit
  • A fun event for women, especially mothers and teen daughters, is the “Spring Into Fashion” show at the Country Springs hotel, Golf Road, Pewaukee on Saturday, April 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Register online at
  • The February men’s prayer breakfast at TYME OUT has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Feb. 15. For information on the March through May programs on the first Tuesday of the month, check the TYME OUT Web site.
  • Women’s prayer luncheons at TYME OUT are scheduled on the second Tuesday through May. Call (262) 966-1800 or find details at the TYME OUT Web site.