Women of Christ has announced that it will return to hosting its popular annual conference in person at the Washington County Fair Park in November.

“It’s going to be a normal conference,” said Elizabeth Meier, president of Women of Christ. “We’re ready to roll.”

Like so many other events, Women of Christ had to conform to COVID-19 mitigation efforts during 2020. The conference went forward in the fall but pivoted its model from one large gathering to simultaneously held, parish-based retreats that allowed for smaller groups and more social distancing, while still affording access to the sacraments.

But 2020 is in the past, and with restrictions on gatherings loosening all over the state, Meier said the Women of Christ leadership team knew the time had come for a return to in-person, large-scale programming. Washington County, where the conference’s usual venue is located, lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in March, and after receiving the go-ahead from Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Meier said the choice was made.

“People are starving to be with others,” she said. The conference is now planned for Nov. 6 with the theme of “Let Him In,” inspired by Matthew 7:7-8.

Attendance will be slightly restricted this year, added Meier; registration, which begins Sept. 1, will be capped at 2,000, but masks will not be required. Archbishop Listecki will once again celebrate Mass at the conference and serve as homilist, preaching on the Gift of Sunday theological reflection released earlier this year.

Vendors will return as normal, said Meier, and Women of Christ is currently lining up priests to hear confessions — “one of the centerpieces of the conference, the other being the Mass and the reception of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives,” she said. Around 1,000 confessions are typically heard at Women of Christ conferences, Meier said.

The speaker lineup has also been announced, and includes Fr. Nick Baumgardner, Fr. John Burns, Fr. Leo Patalinghug, Patty Schneier and a representative of the Sisters of Life, along with emcee Anne Auger.

Meier understands that there will be some regular Women of Christ attendees who are still uncomfortable with venturing out to large gatherings, and though the group does not plan to livestream any part of the conference, the talks will be recorded and made available for purchase afterward.

This is the 14th year for Women of Christ, which was inspired by the success and popularity of the Men of Christ conference held each spring. Meier said that the leadership team relies heavily on the guidance and intercession of the Holy Spirit — particularly this year.

“We set up the chairs,” she said, “but he changes the hearts.”

For more information, visit womenofchrist.net.