Apr 26, 2014

Mercy is recurring theme at Catholic Women’s Conference



Story and photos by Carolee McGrath

CHICOPEE – All three keynote speakers at the seventh annual Catholic Women’s Conference April 26 at Bellamy School here stressed the importance of reaching out to others with love and mercy.

Nearly 400 women from across the Diocese of Springfield came together for the day-long event.

“It is so fitting that we’re here today, that we’re here the day before Divine Mercy Sunday,” Lisa Hendey told the crowd. Hendey, the founder of CatholicMom.com, flew in from Fresno, California for the conference. She’s the author of three books and is also a sought after speaker for Catholic conferences across the country.

Hendey, who was fighting a case of laryngitis, spoke about reaching out to people who have drifted from the church. She also spoke about the power and beauty of the sacraments.

“We have Him (Christ) truly present in the gift of the Eucharist,” she told iobserve. “That gift isn’t just for one moment on Sunday morning. In so many parishes we have the gift of perpetual adoration and we can just go and sit in Jesus’ presence and soak up what he has for us,” said Hendey.

“He is there for me just as I am. He’s there for all of us, and in that moment we feel His embrace. It may not be a physical embrace, but sitting in the true presence of Christ in Eucharistic adoration is feeling that embrace and that’s fueling us for what each of us is called to do in the world.”

Kerry Weber, an author and the managing editor of America Magazine, a national Catholic weekly journal, spoke about how women can show Christ’s mercy in every day tasks. (Weber, pictured on the right, stands with Hendey.)

“One of the things I’ve learned is to recognize the ways we already do works of mercy,” she told iobserve, “the way we already serve the people we love and people that are in our lives.

“Works of mercy are not just something we do for strangers but for everyone,” said Weber, who wrote the book, Mercy in the City, which was published in February by Loyola Press.

“Being able to recognize that what we do in those small moments makes us able to reach out in those large moments, to reach out to strangers,” she said.

Sister of St. Joseph Eleanor Spring spoke about her years working with incarcerated women. She currently works at Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee as a group facilitator.

“The vast majority of our women were sexually abused, usually by someone they knew,” Sister Eleanor told the women gathered, “I often look at these women and think each one of them was once an innocent newborn child.”

She added that most women serving time were addicted to alcohol or drugs. “As we pray for all those who struggle with addiction … we must remember that addicts who are lost to self are still beloved by God.”

Women were treated to lunch and had the chance to visit the dozens of tables set up by various Catholic groups in the diocese. Attendees also had the chance to go to confession and to Eucharistic adoration. The day concluded with a Mass celebrated by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell.

Mary Makuc, a mother of five children, traveled from Monterey to attend the conference.

“It’s always a great day to reflect on your faith and to get together with other women and have fellowship time,” Makuc told iobserve.

“There’s a beautiful Mass, adoration, reconciliation,” she said. “I was interested in what the speakers had to say. It was a day of renewal for me.

“I believe that being with other women of faith pumps you up and helps you get ready to go back and deal with the world and bring your faith to others.”

For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.