By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“Men and women are created different but equal,” said Kelly Wahlquist, one of the keynoters at “Women: Hearts Afire – Be Who God Made You to Be,” the second annual Diocesan women’s conference May 5 at DeSales University, Center Valley.
“God made Eve from Adam to be his helper, to complete him,” Wahlquist said in her afternoon presentation “Setting the World on Fire: Living the Call in Daily Life.”
Women of all ages were invited to learn how their lives can be transformed through a deeper understanding of their vital role in God’s plan for creation.
The event was sponsored by the Diocese of Allentown Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization in partnership with Stewardship: A Mission of Faith.
Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization and director of the Diocesan Office of Adult Formation, said 400 women attended the event.
Presenters challenged women to discover who God made them to be through topics of embracing the universal call to holiness in daily life and unveiling their unique vocation, as St. Catharine of Siena affirmed when she said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
There were four keynote speakers, exhibitors, and opportunities for adoration and reconciliation. Susan Teaford of the Commission for Women offered remarks on Women’s Parish Small Group Formation. Lucia Baez Luzondo offered Spanish music.
The daylong event wrapped up with a bi-lingual Saturday evening Vigil Mass celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert.
A separate Spanish track was offered, and a special session for high school-age young women was offered as part of the day.
Speakers and topics were:
“A Universal Invitation: Embracing the Call to Holiness” – Msgr. Andrew Baker, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown serving as rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
“Who God Meant You to Be: Discerning Our Unique Vocation” – Sister Faustina Maria Pia, of Sisters of Life in Stamford, Connecticut, who helps care for vulnerable pregnant women and their unborn children.
“Setting the World on Fire: Living the Call in Daily Life” – Kelly Wahlquist, a Catholic author and speaker, and assistant director of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“My Sisters the Saints: Role Models in Holiness” – Colleen Carroll Campbell, an author, print and broadcast journalist and former presidential speechwriter. She has served as executive producer and anchor of EWTN News Nightly with Colleen Carroll Campbell, a television newscast airing worldwide on EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, and as creator and host of EWTN’s Faith and Culture television and radio interview show.
Principales en Español (Spanish track) – Lucia Baez Luzondo, director of the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage and Family Life and Youth and Director of the Office of the V Encuentro San Antonio at the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. With her husband, Ricardo, she co-hosts the television series “Creados Para Amar” (Created for Love) which broadcasts on EWTN Spanish worldwide.
She also co-hosts, “En el Día a Día Con Ricardo y Lucia” (In the Day to Day With Ricardo and Lucia), a weekly live-radio program that broadcasts worldwide on EWTN Radio Católica Mundial (EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network) and in “radio on television” at CTSA, Catholic Television San Antonio.
In her presentation, Wahlquist defined mercy as “love when it encounters suffering.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son,” Wahlquist said, quoting John 3:16. “We were suffering.”
She also discussed the importance of mercy and evangelization, and that women can do both in everyday circumstances.
“God has given us the perfect tool kit to live that life of holiness. He gives us the feminine genius, our charisms, the Holy Spirit, sacred Scripture and the Eucharist,” Wahlquist said.
She said there was a change in her life when she called out to the Holy Spirit, “and the Holy Spirit is love.”
Wahlquist said she travels a lot teaching people how to have a Catholic Bible study. “I always pray for the people next to me on the plane for many reasons. When you’re strapped in at 33,000 feet, you’re going to be talking about Jesus soon,” she said in a presentation laced with faith and humor.
She told the story of sitting next to a man who wanted to open a Mexican kosher restaurant when he returned home to New Jersey. He asked her several questions about Catholicism, including what is the rosary
“We pray to Mary to meditate on the life of Christ and ask Mary to intercede,” Wahlquist answered him. “Can we go to Jesus directly? Absolutely. But nobody loves Mary more than Jesus. What’s he going to say, ‘no mom, not today?’”
The man told Wahlquist she was the first Christian who had not told him he wouldn’t be saved if he didn’t believe in Christ, and asked why she didn’t try to convert him.
She responded to him, “Because it’s not my job. My job is to tell you about Jesus. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to convert hearts.”
“The Holy Spirit is pure love. What converts the heart? Love.”
Wahlquist said she had prayed, “Come, Holy Spirit” when the man asked her questions so she would respond with the right words. “The Holy Spirit said, ‘Here you go kid, I’m going to toss you a little softball, knock it out of the park.”
“Evangelization has to be heart to heart,” she said. “What is the bridge from heart to heart? Joy. Radiate that joy of Christ – that’s how we bring others to Jesus.”
Wahlquist recalled that every day the religious sister who was principal of her school said over the public address system, “Joy is J for Jesus, O for others and Y for yourself. If you do this, you’ll be joyful.”
“Think of Mother Teresa. In her eyes we saw joy, and after she died we learned of her dark night of the soul,” Wahlquist said.
“In Scripture, God is speaking directly to us,” Wahlquist said, encouraging women to “get into a good Catholic Bible study – you’ll find Jesus there, and in the Eucharist – bring people to the Pascal Mystery.”
Wahlquist shared Psalm 51:8, “Let me hear the sound of joy and gladness, and the bones you have crushed will dance.”
With this Psalm in mind, she spoke about how a shepherd would tend his flock and “one wily lamb would always go astray.” Wahlquist said there are those who believe when a shepherd found a lost lamb, he’d break the lamb’s leg with the thought it would grow back stronger.
While the lamb’s leg healed, the shepherd carried the lamb on his shoulders. When the lamb was healed it would walk next to the shepherd because the lamb now trusted him.
Wahlquist said we too sometimes need to suffer to learn to trust God.
She spoke of The Visitation, when “Mary goes in haste to Elizabeth” after the angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of our Lord.
“Mary is the perfect feminine genius. She exudes joy,” Wahlquist said, recalling the opening words of The Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my savior.”
“Mary is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit,” Wahlquist said.
“That’s how we evangelize – we lead with our joy. Then share your story, as Mary does in The Magnificat – she tells the world who God is. Tell the world who Jesus is – that’s how we set hearts afire.”
“God never underestimated the role of women in salvation history,” said Wahlquist. And Jesus, in great pain on the cross, said, “Woman, behold your son … behold your mother.”
“Don’t underestimate your role in evangelization,” Wahlquist told the women.