Women come together for first WINE conference

| By Susan Klemond | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

On a cold St. Valentine’s Day, organizers of a new Catholic women’s conference at Epiphany in Coon Rapids did their best to set the hearts of close to 1,000 women on fire for Christ and to encourage them to share his love with others. WINElogo

The Feb. 14 conference titled “A Heart Drawn by Love, Sent on Fire” featured speakers, Mass, music, shopping and fellowship. It was the first major event of a national ministry started in the Twin Cities called Women in the New Evangelization (WINE) in collaboration with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In her keynote talk, St. Louis-based speaker and author Patty Schneier shared her testimony and explained how Christ equips us to spread the Gospel.

“Christ calls us to make a lifetime decision to him and at the right time be sent forth to draw others to him through our words and example,” she said, giving tips for evangelizing including not hiding the Catholic faith and saying ‘yes’ when God takes us out of our comfort zone.

St. Paul-based speaker and author Nancy Jo Sullivan told listeners, “claim your royal identity in Christ” by smiling, listening, making eye contact, forgiving and wearing your crown.

“I invite you to get up with a smile on your face and look in the mirror,” she said. “The crown of God is fashioned just for you.  . . . live your story of love.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who presided at Mass, reflected on contrasting images of death from sin and abundant life appearing in the day’s Mass readings.

“When we rely on ourselves, it brings death,” he said. “But when we surrender to Jesus, the incredible power of God comes into the world. Jesus is capable through his power of making all things new.”

Learning to evangelize
Sharon Perkins attended the conference to discover how she could bring it to her Austin, Texas, diocese. The diocese likely will adapt the conference to reach its large Hispanic population, said Perkins, director of evangelization and catechesis.

Perkins said she saw the excitement of women showing love for Christ and his Church.

“It was a springboard for women from all walks of life to receive the encouragement to evangelize,” she said.

Chelsea Moga, who attends Our Lady of Grace in Edina, said she wanted to find ways to grow in her faith and evangelize.

“With all the materials we’re getting, I hope I make good use of them and [develop] good skills of evangelization to encourage people to come back to the Catholic Church.”

Uniting women
A pilot for future conferences nationwide, the Twin Cities event drew women representing dioceses and organizations around the country. The conference replaced the archdiocese’s annual women’s retreat.

“The goal of this conference was to give women this incredible mountaintop experience where they were having this time of relating with women around them who may be just like them going through the same hardships, maybe, or going through the same joys,” said founder Kelly Wahlquist, who emceed the event with local speaker and author Alyssa Bormes.

Noting that they want to continue to give women glimpses of that mountain top experience, women of all ages and backgrounds were invited to attend upcoming WINE events, including a book club and a Theology on Tap-type event this spring.

The name WINE was inspired by Mary’s words at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5), said Wahlquist who also serves as assistant director of the Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in St. Paul. WINE seeks to encourage women to grow in their relationship with Christ and other women, and help them discover their gifts to build up the body of Christ, she said.

The ministry is seeking women to help establish WINE groups in their parishes, and it plans to launch the first groups this fall, Wahlquist said. The second annual women’s conference is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2016.

Jeff Cavins, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, said partnerships with ministries like WINE helps reach more people, while these ministries also serve the archdiocese.

“It’s kind of an unprecedented cooperation,” he said.

The conference fulfills St. John Paul II’s exhortation to use new methods and ardor in the New Evangelization,  Cavins said.

“You really have to meet people where they’re at and bring the Gospel to them,” he said.

For more information, visit WINE – Women In the New Evangelization.

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