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About 700 women attended the Catholic Women for Christ conference for speakers, prayer, and Mass on March 11 at St. Louis University High School.
About 700 women attended the Catholic Women for Christ conference for speakers, prayer, and Mass on March 11 at St. Louis University High School.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Moved to be 'more like Mary'

Catholic Women for Christ conference brings 700 for speakers, Mass, confession and adoration

God doesn’t just want something from you — He wants good things for you, Katie Prejean McGrady told the women gathered for the Catholic Women for Christ Conference on March 11.

Women laughed with Katie Prejean McGrady, a featured speaker at the Catholic Women for Christ Conference.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
McGrady, a Catholic speaker, podcaster and radio host, spoke about conversion to more than 700 women from around the archdiocese and beyond who filled the Si Commons at St. Louis University High School. The day included three more talks, Mass, eucharistic adoration, confession and fellowship, similar to the annual Catholic Men for Christ Conference one month prior.

We often think of conversion as turning away from sin, but “I think the greatest conversion that we consistently have to make in our lives is a conversion to receiving the love that God wants to give us,” McGrady said.

Women often have the desire to take care of others and constantly look for ways to help. This desire is good, McGrady said, but the challenge comes when we think that we must always be doing things for God to love us. God wants us to find room in our lives to receive His love, too.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re only allowed to be somewhere if we make ourselves externally useful,” she said. “And I’m sure you have done plenty of wonderful, externally useful things in your life. But that’s not why you’re lovable … what makes you lovable is the fact that you exist, the fact that God sees you as His beloved daughter and desires nothing more than to hold you close and love you as you are.”

Several women who attended the conference shared their experiences of faith and evangelization as women:

Jenna Mayo, Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield

Women are all about community. We’re all about inviting, we’re all about coming together. I recently heard that the two “I’s” of the devil are isolation and inadequacy. How often does he use that — isolation being the main one, and inadequacy, thinking we’re not enough? But the more we can say, ‘Hey, I’m attending this retreat, you want to go?’ then God can take care of the rest. We’re not isolated any more, and we’re not feeling inadequate — we’re all here together.

I have a firm belief in not trying to be somebody I’m not. I can’t spout the Catechism, but what I can do is use the gifts God has given me, and that’s using my emotional intelligence and the ability to ask questions. Evangelization is simply asking questions and letting God do the rest, right? So whether it’s in my work, or meeting somebody at church, if somebody mentions their faith, I always ask, what does your faith mean to you? We just need to do the asking, and the inviting, and then trust God to do the rest in their hearts.

Charlene Sansone, St. Bridget of Kildare Parish in Pacific

In the first talk, (McGrady) talked about conversion and Martha and Mary. That made me think that I need to work on being more like Mary, and not making myself so busy with all kinds of things that I’m only thinking about what I need to get done. I go to adoration every week, and I really need to sit there and just listen to God speak to me, rather than me saying all these words or just reading something.

I belong to the St. Vincent de Paul Society at my parish, and we meet on Thursday afternoons to go out and help people. I want to bring more people from that group to (events like this), because I think it’s worth sharing, to hear speakers like these and be able to talk about it. I can make that invitation, to help more people get involved.

Sherrie Zeng, Sacred Heart Parish in Valley Park

The speakers today were very impactful for me, especially Father John Schneier talking about confession. I went through the RCIA process to become Catholic before I got married. I’ve been married for 27 years now, but confession has always been something that seemed foreign or scary to me. In recent years, I’ve realized more how helpful and important it is, and I try to do it every Christmas and Easter season. But in today’s talk, Father said it should ideally be more of a monthly event, which now makes more sense to me. I guess I hadn’t really grasped the deeper meaning of confession.

Over the past few years, this (conference) has been a transformational experience for me. I think we have to kind of transform ourselves to be able to go out and feel comfortable and have the passion to share our own experiences with others. Then, other people can see how deep our faith is. As we as individuals deepen our faith and reflect on it, other people will be able to see the difference in us, too.

Mary Ann Ripper and Ellie Simon, St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville

Mary Ann: I was invited here by a friend, and then I asked Ellie if she would want to go with me. I think it’s important to share our faith to bring people closer to Christ, to share in the joy. I’m a PSR teacher, and I love teaching the little kids. Also, in my life, when I’ve known people who are close to dying, it’s been comforting to them for me to share my faith and my experiences of God. Recently, my husband’s father passed away, and we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. And when he listened to that, he was just so comforted.

And I think it’s awesome to share faith especially with my children, like today. To see (Ellie) get excited about Christ — it’s just wonderful.

Ellie: I went to the Spirit Alive retreat recently, and I loved it, so I decided to come here too. I loved listening to the talks, and the atmosphere and singing the songs.

I’m in eighth grade, and when Lent started, I was talking to one of my friends about how we were going to a fish fry. So I got to talk to her about what Lent is and how it actually works. We talked about why we give stuff up and all of that, so that was a chance to share my faith.

Beth Willett, Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County

I want to be someone who lives my life how a young Catholic should. For me, (that means) I’m open to life, working in a career that I love, being a mom to my children and being a good daughter and wife. So, I have to do those well, and then I need to have the words to back up why I do what I do — why I practice NFP (natural family planning), why I go to Church on Sundays, why I prioritize Catholic education for my kids, why I go to confession regularly.

I bring my children to Mass, and they’re a mess, but that’s where Jesus wants them to be. And I am grateful for all the people who are very supportive of us bringing our kids to Mass, even when they’re not the best behaved. As a young, working mom, I think there’s a lot of space to grow in supporting (young parents) and thinking about things like: what would a good mother’s ministry really look like?

Today has been helpful because parenthood can be so isolating, because you don’t have time as you’re building your family — young kids require a lot of time to be spent with them. There’s not always lots of time to go do something for myself, so taking a day out to be here is part of finding that balance.

Elsa Gutierrez, center, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Pillar, knelt during eucharistic adoration at the Catholic Women for Christ Conference.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand

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