UPDATED: Women gather for the Second Annual Latino Catholic Women’s conference
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath
CHICOPEE – Close to 75 women gathered at Almunae Library at Our Lady of the Elms College, here, for the Second Annual Latino Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The conference, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., had various speakers, music, and eucharistic adoration. This year’s theme was "Passing the Torch of Faith."
Alina San Miguel, from St. Anthony Parish in Chicopee, spoke on the importance of women in the church.
“My focus is going to be on rising and shining as women. I think that’s important because we have a lot to give,” said the mother of three boys, ages 12, 18 and 22. “Sometimes we go through a lot of trials and issues in our life and sometimes we think we have nothing to bring out, but with faith I think we do.
"We have a lot to put out to encourage other women that Jesus is there, that his strength is with us, that we’re not alone," San Miguel said. "Even if the struggles are hard, just like he taught us to bear the cross, look at him and he’ll help us with it.”
San Miguel’s husband, Lino San Miguel, has been accepted into the permanent diaconate program for the Diocese of Springfield. She said both she and her husband cling to their faith when navigating the many difficult trials of raising children in the Catholic faith, in a world that often rejects church teaching.
“The most important thing is the truth. Jesus is the truth. You can’t compromise that. It is evident that everything is against what we’re teaching. It’s really not an easy job being a mom and saying ‘No this is not right,’” Alina San Miguel said. “We have a spiritual warfare and we’re fighting constantly, but Jesus says, 'Do not be afraid, for I have conquered, I have conquered the world.’ On his cross, on his death and resurrection, we have eternal life.”
Aixa Rivera, a mother of four and grandmother of six, also gave her testimony. Rivera’s husband is Deacon Pedro Rivera from St. Mary Parish in Westfield.
“We want to talk about the mission God has for us as women of faith, to be that channel of grace,” said Aixa Rivera. “So tell the women that we are a very important part of this world. We have to pray every single day. We have to be like spiritual mothers, not just biological mothers. We have to live the life God wants us to live and we have to give testimony every single time, no matter where we are, no matter we’re at work, the house, around friends, we have to bring God to every person.”
The Missionary Sisters of Perpetual Help also attended the conference. The sisters, who are from Mexico, have been in the diocese for the past few years, helping to evangelize and going door to door in many cases, bringing Christ’s good news in Springfield and other areas.
“We send Mary as our mother. She was all entrusted to God. She will bring us close to Jesus and close to God,” said Sister Caritina. She also spoke about her order’s pro-life work, reaching out to mothers considering abortion. The sisters work closely with the New Women’s Center, a crisis pregnancy center in Springfield’s North End.
Sister Caritina said defending the unborn is a great mission for all Catholics. She shared one story about a young woman who wanted to have an abortion and who was very angry when the sisters came to visit. But after much prayer, Sister Caritina said, God delivered a happy ending.
“The baby was born. We went to the hospital. She went home with the baby … She said, ‘Sister this is my baby. This is my son.'"
The conference was a Year of Faith event.
Watch for more on the Latino Catholic Women's Conference on an upcoming edition of the Springfield Diocese's weekly newsmagazine "Real to Reel," which airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.