Women praise inaugural gathering - Catholic Courier
Christine DiNovo (from left), Teresa Tomeo, Sister Joseph Andrew and Matthew Leonard take part in a question-and-answer session during the Rochester Catholic Women’s Conference March 1 at Aquinas Institute. Christine DiNovo (from left), Teresa Tomeo, Sister Joseph Andrew and Matthew Leonard take part in a question-and-answer session during the Rochester Catholic Women’s Conference March 1 at Aquinas Institute.

Women praise inaugural gathering

ROCHESTER — Seeing 925 women in one place to learn about and celebrate their faith was a powerful experience for Alana Schrader, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption in Scottsville.

Speaking at the inaugural Rochester Catholic Women’s Conference at Aquinas Institute March 1, Schrader said it was heartening to see so many women there for the same purpose.

“I just love these events for the visual presence: that you are not alone, and also that you are part of a church, and that the church is huge,” Schrader said.

Organizer Christine DiNovo told women at the conference that response had been swift; organizers had to send checks back to some who attempted to register after it sold out. DiNovo, who recently moved to the Rochester area from Syracuse, had been involved in the Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference and felt that Rochester should have one of its own.

The event also served as a time for many women from the Rochester Diocese to meet new Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, who celebrated Mass at the event. In his homily, he said he was deeply grateful and encouraged to see the group of women at the conference.

“In the course of our lives, we have all met extraordinary women who have had a profound effect in our lives,” said Bishop Matano, who mentioned his mother as someone who prayed fervently for his vocation. He also noted Religious Sisters of Mercy and laywomen who played a role in his faith journey.

“Women have indeed been the salt of the Earth and continue to be the light of the world,” Bishop Matano said.

The bishop held up Mary, mother of Jesus, as an example of a woman who stood firm in her commitment and in her constant presence in Jesus’ life.

“At Calvary, Mary became our mother, and she has been and continues to be present among us,” Bishop Matano said. “As I look at this beautiful group of women, I wonder how many beads have been worn thin by you seeking Mary’s intercession?”

He noted that though Israel had waited long for its savior, it took a young teenaged girl with the faith and hope of her youth to be the instrument that would bring Christ’s light into the world. Rather than faltering or slumping, Mary stood firm in her fiat at the foot of Christ’s cross, Bishop Matano said.

“Before her eyes, the wood of the crib at Bethlehem was being fashioned into the wood of the cross at Golgotha,” Bishop Matano said.

He said the church needs women who have modeled their lives on Mary to work with the church and pray with the church.

In her talk, Sister Joseph Andrew, one of four founding members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, drew on the words of Pope Francis and his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which outlines, among other things, the role that he sees women playing in the church. He drew on John Paul II’s emphasis of the nurturing role women bring to the church.

“We are all made to be mothers,” Sister Joseph Andrew said. “The feminine genius is needed everywhere in the world.”

She noted Pope Francis is a frequent visitor at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, and also maintains a special devotion to the image of Mary, Undoer of Knots. This image depicts Mary untying the problems and struggles that keep us from her son, Sister Joseph Andrew said.

“As women, we are made to carry,” Sister Joseph Andrew said. “We don’t just carry our own knots. We carry everyone else’s. I think that’s a thing we need to take to prayer.”

She noted that the differences in men and women allow them to be able to give life. She also pointed out that when God came to live inside Mary, it was because Mary’s prayer was beautifully moving.

“Her love lured God down from heaven to live inside her,” Sister Joseph Andrew said.

Speaker Matthew Leonard discussed the different Greek words for love: eros, or erotic love; filia, or brotherly love; and agape, or self-sacrificial love.

“When we elevate eros, it turns into vice,” Leonard said.

He said people need to instead focus on agape, which Christ modeled for us. This kind of love can triumph over suffering, he said.

“When Jesus offers himself at the cross, he is striking at the root of suffering,” Leonard said.

Many women said it was heartening to hear the speakers’ messages and see that there were many women interested, like they were.

“This is wonderful,” said Theresa May, a parishioner of St. Theodore in Gates. “We need more evangelization of this caliber in our diocese. It just takes one person to make a difference, and when we are fed spiritually, we can go out and be the light of the world.”

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