November 5, 2021

Fall conference gives women a spiritual ‘booster shot’

Society of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity Father James Blount holds a picture of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, popularly known as Padre Pio, during the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 25. (Photo by Sara Geer)

Society of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity Father James Blount holds a picture of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, popularly known as Padre Pio, during the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 25. (Photo by Sara Geer)

By Sara Geer (Special to The Criterion)

“It may have taken you a little bit of a struggle to get here,” Gina Bauer told those present at the 2021 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference. “Yet, Jesus will take all our tears and doubts and raise it up. The Father is going to accept the gift of our suffering, and the Holy Spirit is going to be released on the Church. We are going forward.”

Guest speaker Bauer, a wife and mother, connected with the more than 400 conference attendees by opening up about her own struggle with anxiety and fear during the COVID-19 pandemic. These feelings, she explained, were “blocking” her from happiness, joy and love and needed to be removed to allow grace to fill her life.

“God is above all of this,” shared Bauer. “And he is working through it to draw you back into his heart to give humanity a new heart.”

Sponsored by the Marian Center of Indianapolis, the annual conference welcomes and encourages women across central and southern Indiana to gain inspiration from nationally known Catholic speakers, like Bauer, and to grow closer to God and the Church.

Postponed 18 months due to COVID-19, the annual conference’s return on Sept. 25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis was a much-needed spiritual “booster shot,” said Shelia Ludwig, a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville.

“I missed this spiritual camaraderie of women and prayer warriors, so it’s wonderful to be here today,” Ludwig said.

And for attendee Tina Schmidt, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh, the conference was a nice “breath of fresh air” as it was the first large-gathering event she registered to attend since the pandemic began. “Good speakers, Mass, lunch—it’s been a good event to get back some normalcy and meet other women.”

Bauer’s stories from her life woven in between teachings of the Catholic faith inspired many listeners to gain a new perspective about their own faith journey. She explained that women and families play an important mission in God’s plan “to guard, to reveal and to communicate love.” And that often God’s love is simply communicated through the simple actions performed daily.

“These tiny sacrifices do so much to help build up the kingdom of Heaven,” Bauer said. “We won’t see until heaven, but it’s so important that love is the principle and power of communion, which is indivisible and indissoluble and poured out through the Church on to the world through our families, through the family of God.”

The connection that small actions create great change resonated well with Cio Davis, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, who attended the conference for the first time after hearing about it by word of mouth.

“I never knew about the conference until a friend of mine brought it up one day,” Dias said. “The talks have all been relatable and full of impact. I’m looking forward to bringing home what I learned to share with others.”

Other conference speakers included Father James Blount of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, an exorcist, and Catholic singer-songwriter Annie Karto.

Most speakers who had originally been scheduled for the 2020 annual conference appeared at this year’s conference, except for Missionary Hermit of St. Joseph Father Pio Mandato. He was not only going to speak, but was going to offer individual blessings with a glove of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, popularly known as Padre Pio.

Coincidentally, guest speaker Father Blount started his talk by holding up a relic he brought of an actual habit worn by Padre Pio. He said he felt called by the Lord that the conference attendees needed Padre Pio present even though Father Pio could not be.

“I felt by the Lord that you wanted to have Padre Pio today, a true lover of our Lady,” Father Blount said. “I understand that last year you had a scheduled speaker, and his name was Father Pio. And guess who came today!”

The room erupted with applause. Joan Nobbe, a member of St. Peter Parish in Franklin County, saw the relic as a sign that she was “supposed to be here” at the conference, having accepted the offer to attend from a friend. She shared that she attributes praying though the intercession of St. Padre Pio to the curing of her daughter 51 years ago from cancer—she had not been expected to live. Now 58, her daughter is a living miracle, she said.

The day’s schedule included talks in the morning and afternoon, Mass across the street at St. John the Evangelist Church, and a few breaks in between. Guest speaker Annie Karto, who cantored at Mass, also mentioned how wonderful it was to once again celebrate the liturgy in a church completely filled with faith-filled women.

“Today, I was so lifted up by all of you,” Karto said. “You know from the cantor’s podium you can see the reverence, you can see your love and your devotion to our Lord. And your voices, to hear that many voices, how long has it been to hear that many voices together at a church. How beautiful it was.”

From the stage, Karto sang several of her songs and invited the women to join and sing along with her. Her advice after sharing her own personal family struggles that nearly caused her to not attend the conference, and the hardships felt during the past year and half was to surrender and let go as Mary did “from the womb to the tomb.”

“It’s better to have the courage to step out and fulfill our mission in this life than to retreat,” she said.

Many agreed with Karto as the conference brought a renewed purpose for attendees to leave the convention center lighter, refreshed and ready to turn a new page in their faith journey.

“This conference is a reminder to focus more on God, not the evil present in our world,” said Venessa Staley, a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, who has attended the annual conference four times. “It’s my beginning of the year.”

(Sara Geer is a freelance writer and a member of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.)

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