Tuesday, November 06, 2018 - Updated: 3:22 pm
Nearly 1,000 women representing six states and every vocation gathered to delve into the bursting abundance of God’s love and rise to become great women of faith at “Overflow: Live in the Abundance of Grace,” the Catholic Women’s Fellowship Conference. It was held on Oct. 27 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township.
The overflow theme was woven through the day’s prayer, talks, fellowship, and vendors. It encouraged women to allow the Holy Spirit to fill them beyond capacity with grace, equipping them to fully live out their vocation. The speakers included: Benedictine Father Boniface Hicks; Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ Sister Bernadette; Barbara Heil; and Andrea Thomas. Bishop David Zubik celebrated Mass and Station XII worship band led praise music.
“The whole point of this theme is to ask yourself: how is God asking me to pour out in my life?” said conference co-chair Erin Stuvek.
The conference planning team imbued the day with feminine touches, such as floral arrangements, a photo booth, and a Pittsburgh cookie table. Attendees could write and leave a prayer intention at a prayer wall and take another woman’s prayer intention. The team had been praying for months that the Holy Spirit would work powerfully in attendees, said Stuvek.
Father Boniface spoke on a feminine style of holiness, an expression used by Pope Francis. He addressed four characteristics inherent to femininity: receptivity, maternity, sensitivity, and generosity. These four qualities allow women to first receive the Father’s love and then to give life, compassion, and their very selves to others. He echoed Pope St. John Paul II’s statement that women have unique and unrepeatable contributions to offer humanity.
“Don’t question your dignity,” he said. “Your dignity is defined by what the Lord has done, not what you have done.”
During the homily, Bishop Zubik encouraged the women to consider their virtues and God-given gifts and to think about how they can use these gifts to help people see the face of God in their own face.
“It’s God’s overflow of grace that must be our overflow of thanks back to him,” Bishop Zubik said.
Sister Bernadette spoke on healing and said that when faced with even the most horrendous or daunting situations, we are not powerless. We have the cross, where Christ’s life was not taken from him; he gave it freely there for our sake. She offered tools to help women combat the giants in their lives and said that we are most powerful when we are on our knees in prayer.
“If you never go to the well, how are you going to get the overflow?” she asked.
Barbara Heil encouraged women to drink deeply of God’s grace and encounter Jesus in a new way. Their witness will help others to find meaning in their own lives.
“Don’t witness to people by bringing them information,” she said. “Witness to people by bringing them into an encounter.”
Heil later shared her unlikely journey of faith that led her to the Catholic Church. After growing up in a godless, abusive home, she had a profound encounter with God’s love in college, and spent decades serving as a Pentecostal minister and missionary. Without realizing she had been baptized Catholic as an infant, numerous encounters with Catholicism eventually brought her into full communion with the Church.
Andrea Thomas addressed the moments when the well runs dry and we feel abandoned by God. She used the example of a person at the beach during an overcast day who surprisingly finds herself tan the next day; we do not have to feel God in order for Him to be working hard on us. She encouraged women to go to Mass, adoration and the sacraments, even when they do not feel like it.
“In his relentless pursuit of us, God uses the darkest moments for the greatest glory,” she said. “We need only look to the cross.”
The day concluded with adoration, during which Catholic Women’s Fellowship chaplain Father Anthony Sciarappa encouraged women to bare their brokenness to the Lord and receive the depths of His love.
“I really appreciate that this conference is rooted in prayer with other women,” attendee Rosemary Callenberg of St. Raphael Parish said. “It brings us together as the Body of Christ.”
The next Catholic Women’s Fellowship Conference, “Unshakable,” will take place in fall 2019.