April 21, 2023

Blessed Mother’s life of faith offers compelling witness at Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference

Sister Mary Augustine McMenamy, a member of the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Steubenville, Ohio, speaks at the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference on March 11 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Jennifer Lindberg)

Sister Mary Augustine McMenamy, a member of the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Steubenville, Ohio, speaks at the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference on March 11 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Jennifer Lindberg)

By Jennifer Lindberg

More than 400 women participated in this year’s Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference to find that walking together allowed them to more fully understand the conference’s theme: “Holding Mary’s hand in Faith and Hope.”

The conference at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on March 11 provided a line-up of speakers with inspiring talks on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, miracles of the Miraculous Medal and Catholic teaching regarding abortion and infertility.

“I do better with my faith when I’m with a community,” said Olivia Kitchell of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. “I see so many women here who have done this before me, kids in tow even, and that’s inspiring to me.”

Kitchell brought her 3-month-old daughter Olivia with her to the conference. “I know that I’m not alone or in a bubble when it comes to practicing my faith.”

‘Medicine follows natural law’

Dr. Casey Delcoco has seen her practice, Magnificat Medicine in Indianapolis, flourish since it began in 2014.

“You have to ask what God is calling you to be and really pray about it,” said Delcoco, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

She is known for helping with crisis pregnancies, saving babies through the medical abortion reversal protocol and helping her patients in all pro-life issues.

She advocates natural family planning, Natural Procreative (NaPro) Technology and adoption for couples struggling with fertility. Delcoco also incorporates St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teachings into her medical practice.

“Medicine follows natural law,” she said. “We don’t need to be afraid of the truth or following the Church.”

As a family practice physician, Delcoco said she wrote her business plan based on a study at the time that showed that 90% of patients wanted their spiritual needs addressed as well as their health care needs. However, only 30% of doctors were comfortable addressing those needs. In her practice, combining those needs is normal.

“It was inspiring to me to hear how [Delcoco] helps women choose life and not abortion,” said Sarah Winternheimer. She and her mother Karen Winternheimer, both members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, attended the conference to deepen their devotions with women also seeking to grow in their faith.

The power of the Miraculous Medal

The day also included two talks about Mary from Jennifer Waldyke and Sister Mary Augustine McMenamy of the Sisters of the Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus based in Steubenville, Ohio.

Waldyke hosts the “Catholic Mom and Daughter: Real Life, Living the Faith” YouTube channel. She gave attendees an overview of the Miraculous Medal by focusing on the conversion of Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne in the 19th century. His hatred of the Catholic Church increased after his brother became a Jesuit priest. He began wearing the Miraculous Medal as a sort of bet when he spent time in Italy. It led to an appearance of the Virgin Mary, his conversion and his becoming a priest as well.

Understand Mary ‘through her sorrows’

Sister Mary Augustine of the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus guided the women through an in-depth meditation on the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

“She wants to take you into her arms,” said Sister Mary Augustine. “We need to understand Mary, and one way to do that is through her sorrows. She stepped onto the path of reparation and suffering out of love for each of us.”

Uniting our sorrows with the Blessed Mother has great efficacy, she said.

“There are griefs that lie too deep for tears in a mother’s broken heart,” said Sister Mary Augustine.

Those griefs include the indignities that women experience through abuse and pornography, watching a child die, pleading for a lost child to come back to the Catholic faith and other sufferings that can be united with Mary, she said.

Sister Mary Augustine’s meditation outlined the sins and virtues present in each of the Seven Sorrows of Mary:

• The Prophecy of Simeon: Mary is told that she will suffer with a sword piercing her heart. This sorrow reveals the sin of wrath, which is countered by the virtue of forgiveness.

• The Flight into Egypt: Just after the magi presented the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, St. Joseph was told in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect them from the wrath of King Herod. This sorrow represents the sin of envy, which is countered by the virtue of gratitude. It was a 300-mile journey that took 30 days on foot through a land full of robbers and little water.

“Mary understands your grief if you ever had to fear for your safety or the safety of your children,” said Sister Mary Augustine.

• The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: This was the first time Mary did not know where Jesus was and went searching for him. This sorrow represents the sin of sloth—or lack of hope—which is countered by the virtue of persistence, as well as practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

This sorrow includes losing someone to drugs, alcohol, depression or a child blaming you for their problems.

The sorrow shows the sin of sloth and how sloth begets gossip, said Sister Mary Augustine.

Mary and Joseph were probably blamed for losing Jesus, or people thought they were bad parents. It also shows how people want to look at other people’s lives instead of their own, she said.

“Sloth is the opposite way of how Mary lived her life,” said Sister Mary Augustine. “She made haste to her cousin Elizabeth. She helped when the wine ran out at Cana. We must take ownership of our own lives and who we are.”

• Mary meets Jesus on the Way of the Cross: This sorrow reflects on the sin of lust, which leads to treating “other people like objects—it hardens our hearts [and] causes violence,” Sister Mary Augustine said. This sin is countered by the virtue of chastity.

“Lust treats other people like objects,” she said. “It hardens our hearts. It causes violence.”

The way to overcome this is modesty.

“Our role as women is to nurture our children and show that there is a holy expression of love for the world,” she said.

• The Crucifixion: Sister Mary Augustine said that when Mary stood at the foot of the cross, watching Christ die, the Blessed Mother saw what pride can do. The opposing virtue is humility.

God is rebuked. He will not be served, just as when the angels rebelled in heaven. The sin of pride encompasses indifference, ridicule, being pompous, and not being able to take any criticism, said Sister Mary Augustine.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to be last. It’s OK if someone is better than you. And be willing to ask for forgiveness.”

• Jesus is taken down from the Cross: Sister Mary Augustine said this sorrow represents the sin of gluttony in that Christ used the opposing virtue of temperance to empty himself. Mary held the dead Christ in her arms, who emptied himself of everything; yet we cannot deny ourselves even simple pleasures. This can lead to over consumption of food, alcohol and drugs, she said.

“Temperance is how we repair this,” she said.

• Jesus is laid in the Tomb: This sorrow is a meditation on the sin of greed and its opposing virtue of generosity, said Sister Mary Augustine. Mary had to rely on the generosity of another to provide Christ’s tomb. Jesus could not have the traditional burial because he was considered a criminal. Mary had to borrow a burial place for him. It is the sin of greed represented in this sorrow.

“One way to make reparation for this is generosity and to live simply,” she said.

Walking in faith

At the end of the day, the soothing music of Catholic composer Francesca Larosa helped the women process all they learned. Larosa, the former music director at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, sang her newest song, “Let Me Hear Your Voice,” about St. Teresa of Avila’s writings.

Her song, using the words of the saint, summed up a conference day meant to strengthen the women’s faith life as she sang: “You are God’s beloved. You are not forsaken. You are not alone.”

(Jennifer Lindberg is a freelance writer and a member of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon.) †

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