April 11, 2014

2014 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference: ‘An opportunity to get together as women of faith’

Janet Sahm, left, and Our Lady of Mercy Sister Caterina Esselen, right, listen as Julia Calandra-Lineberg answers a question from a woman attending the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference on March 22. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Janet Sahm, left, and Our Lady of Mercy Sister Caterina Esselen, right, listen as Julia Calandra-Lineberg answers a question from a woman attending the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference on March 22. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Promoting modesty as true beauty through a secular fashion magazine.

Sharing rare stories of St. Padre Pio as relayed by his personal assistant.

Revealing Christ’s own words on the grace and mercy bestowed through confession and the Eucharist.

These topics formed the foundation for the ninth Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference hosted by the Marian Center of Indianapolis on March 22 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

During the event, more than 300 women from central and southern Indiana, and even from Chicago and other areas outside the archdiocese, listened to three powerful speakers: Verily magazine co-founder Janet Sahm; Julia Calandra-Lineberg of the National Center for Padre Pio; and Our Lady of Mercy Sister Caterina Esselen.

The day started with welcoming words by Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Mass was held at St. John the Evangelist Church, concelebrated by Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, and Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship.

Opportunities for adoration and confession were included, and the day ended with a closing reflection and Benediction by Father Beidelman.

Below are excerpts from each speaker’s talk.

‘Tilling the soil of the hearts of women’—excerpts from Janet Sahm’s talk on modesty and Verily magazine

Janet Sahm is an Indianapolis native and graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. After interning for Elle magazine, she co-founded Verily magazine and Verilymag.com, a secular fashion magazine to promote modesty, true beauty and self-worth in women.

“Modesty invites women to come to believe in their own self-worth and to dress in a way that reflects their own worth.

“Many think of modesty only in terms of helping protect our brothers in Christ. That is certainly part of it. In Love and Responsibility by Pope John Paul II, he has a whole chapter on modesty. There’s one sentence that just burned in me: ‘First and foremost, modesty is good for the woman herself.’ There’s no relationship to men in that sentence, no mention of how we need to protect them. It’s good for you, regardless.

“Fashion is powerful. It can complement and draw out a woman, who she is, who she wants to be, her dignity. But it can also completely undermine our want to be beautiful, our want to be noticed. It can objectify us. We can objectify ourselves. We can equate that attention with our worth.

“This new understanding of modesty and my worth was the catalyst for starting Verily. Culturally, what was being held up for women to strive to [by fashion magazines] was so wrong. Verily means truly, really, authentically, genuinely. It’s everything we hope to live out in our lives as women.

“Why start a fashion magazine to address the culture? Magazines have the ability to hold up for women what is successful, what is beautiful, how we should live, what we should strive for.

“We can till the soil of the hearts of women so they may be open to a seed of truth. So by doing a secular publication, a fashion magazine of all things, we were able to speak to women no matter where they’re coming from, no matter where they’re at.

“[In a recent study,] 68 percent of 6-9 year-old girls identified with a sexy object. What that’s referring to is a study where the girls were given a choice of two paper dolls, one dressed not so nice and the other was a healthy, natural looking girl. The girls were asked questions: Which doll is more popular? ‘The sexy one.’ Which doll is more loved? ‘The sexy one.’ That just tells you how pervasive this is, and that there needs to be something different.

“Father Robert Barron had a very simple quote talking about the new evangelization. ‘First, start with beauty, then the good, and then the truth.’ Beauty is the gateway for all of us.”

‘God knew how to hook us in’—excerpts from Julia Calandra-Lineberg’s talk on St. Padre Pio

Julia Calandra-Lineberg is group coordinator and pilgrim director of the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, Pa. Her sister’s miraculous cure helped lead to the canonization of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, whose personal assistant for three years, Padre Alessio Parente, was a close personal friend of the Calandra family.

“Padre Pio bore five visible wounds [of Christ]. I stress ‘visible’ because Padre Alessio taught us so many things in our home that are just now starting to be published after his canonization. [One of those things is that] Padre Pio suffered the entire Passion of our Lord.

“There are documented facts and photographs that had not been made public during the lifetime of Padre Pio. There is testimony that the wounds that caused Padre Pio the greatest suffering was the shoulder wound upon which our Lord carried the cross.

“There is clothing that has been photographed and is archived showing that Padre Pio suffered the entire flagellation and the crown of thorns. During the Mass, when he would be in a deep ecstasy, the priest would use a purificator to blot [Padre Pio’s] forehead and it would come away soaked with blood.

“Padre Pio first started suffering the Passion of Christ shortly after his ordination to the priesthood in August of 1910. No one knew except his spiritual director. Padre Pio begged our Lord to not have the wounds visible on his body, and our Lord complied for many years. Padre Pio suffered the Passion in complete anonymity.

“In 1918, on August 5th, Padre Pio was hearing confessions when all of a sudden he went into an ecstasy. He describes that there was a heavenly person before him holding a fiery spear. This spear was thrust into the chest of Padre Pio, and he claims that he was on fire with such agony, but the agony was great pain but at the same time great joy for having been able to be wounded with Christ.

“It was later, on Sept. 20, 1918, that the rest of those wounds became visible, the wounds on his hands and feet. Had he had all those other wounds visible, he would never have been allowed to be seen in public.

“The wounds were manifested on his body for you, for me and all those who will come after us because Almighty God knows that we are curious. God knew how to hook us in.

“Later in his life, people would ask him, ‘Padre Pio, what is your legacy for us? What do you leave us with?’

“And he said, ‘My legacy to you is this: Love our Lady, and make her loved, for her Son denies her nothing, and when you go to the Mother, you go to the heart of the Son.’ ”

‘ “I want to give myself to souls” ’ —excerpts from Sister Caterina’s talk on Divine Mercy through confession and the Eucharist

Our Lady of Mercy Sister Caterina Esselen is a member of the order to which St. Faustina Kowalska belonged—the saint who is known for spreading the Divine Mercy devotion and whose visions from Christ were recorded in The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

“Jesus said to St. Faustina this about confession: ‘Tell souls where they are to look for solace—that is, in the tribunal of mercy, the sacrament of reconciliation. There, the greatest miracles take place.

“ ‘[C]ome with faith to the feet of my representative, and reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated.’

“Jesus says again about confession in the diary: ‘When you go to the confessional, know this—that I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest. The person of the priest is for me only the screen. Never analyze what sort of priest it is that I am making use of. Open your soul in confession as you would to me, and I will fill it with my light.’

“[Regarding the Eucharist,] Jesus said to St. Faustina: ‘When I come to a human heart in holy Communion, my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul, but souls do not pay any attention to me, and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize me. They treat me as a dead object.’

“We need to receive Jesus in holy Communion with great love and awareness, realizing that we’re receiving the Lord who is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine—truly and really present, and ready to give us all sorts of gifts. Can you imagine how many gifts we’re missing out on by receiving Communion routinely?

“ ‘I want to give myself to souls, and to fill them with my love. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to me because I pour all my graces into them. It is my desire to give much.’

“[Christ told St. Faustina,] ‘Every soul should reflect my mercy.’ We want to seize everyday opportunities to reflect God’s love. Let’s not wait for those big heroic actions. Jesus said every act toward one’s neighbor is done to himself. We should perform at least one deed of mercy every day out of love for Jesus. That gives [the act] a pure intention.

“St. Faustina would worry because she didn’t feel love toward her enemies. But Jesus said: ‘It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who made you suffer and wish them well.’ ”

(To purchase a CD of the event and presentations for $20, contact Kathy Denney of the Marian Center of Indianapolis at 317-888-0873, or e-mail her at mariancntr@aol.com. Production of the CDs is limited to the number of copies made the day of the event, so quantities are limited.)

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