By Emily Rolla
Special to the Review
EMMITSBURG – The Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference was a time of introspection, spiritual growth and sisterhood for nearly 140 women.
Formerly known as the Illuminate Catholic Women’s Conference, the Oct. 11-12 Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference took place on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University, featuring praise and worship, testimonies, mini-sessions, vendors and chocolate.
In a keynote address, Christina King, an author and radio host, shared her history of sexual abuse and explained how it was through family that God showed her what real love is.
“Seeing where she came from, with her history of abuse, and how much she loves the Lord and shares her witness is encouraging,” said Jane Hargadon a conference participant who attends Patronage of the Mother of God Church in Arbutus.
For Hargadon, the event allowed women to share their struggles with faith, providing hope and solidarity.
The conference, which began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, included breakout sessions. The mini-spiritual workshops were led mostly by women from various walks of life, from missionaries to religious sisters to mothers in ministry. Father Brian Nolan, campus chaplain at Mount St. Mary’s, led a walking rosary to the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, and Deacon Mark Ripper of St. John’s in Westminster held a breakout session on repentance and reconciliation.
Dr. Patricia Fossarelli, associate dean at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Roland Park, gave an animated talk on the nature of love and the role it plays in building up the body of Christ. Fossarelli, a part-time faculty member of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, noted that many people are ready to share their gifts, but are not always ready to receive the gifts of others. Allowing oneself to receive ministry, she said, is part of charity.
During a group discussion following Fossarelli’s presentation, several women said they felt a call to grow closer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The event came to a close with a short testimony by Beth Poolio, who shared her struggles and emphasized the importance of trusting in God. Following the theme of her talk, the day ended with a Divine Mercy Chaplet and praise and worship.
Some women weren’t sure what to expect coming into the conference, but said they enjoyed the event greatly. Attendee Corrie Sandy said she came “just to have an opportunity to spend time with women who are devoted to Christ, who give priority to their faith.” The parishioner of St. Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor in Buckeystown said women need a conference to come together and spend time with other women with the same morals and values. Women need the opportunity to share with each other how they live out the Gospel in their lives and build each other up, she said. It’s a need that Jeanne Link, conference chairwoman, highlighted as the reason why a women’s conference is necessary.
“Women ministering to women simply has a different depth than men ministering to women,” Link said.
In previous years, Illuminate conferences were held at St. John in Westminster. Link said she wanted to open the renamed event to more women and felt the pull to host it on “Mary’s mountain” in Emmitsburg. She noted that women attended from all over Maryland, as well as Washington D.C., northern Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.