Conference encourages young women to be leaders, share gifts with church

| Ana Franco-Guzman | June 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
Women laugh June 8 as they listen to keynote speaker Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., during "Given," a leadership forum for young Catholic women at The Catholic University of America in Washington. The six-day event was sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Women laugh June 8 as they listen to keynote speaker Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., during “Given,” a leadership forum for young Catholic women at The Catholic University of America in Washington. The six-day event was sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. CNS photo/Bob Roller

An invitation to think big during the Catholic Church’s Year of Consecrated Life in 2015 turned into a meeting of about 300 young women from all over the nation in Washington.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious hosted the Given Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum June 7-12 at The Catholic University of America. Organizers said it was spurred by the Church’s special focus on consecrated life, which ended this past February.

The principle themes of the conference were to “receive the gifts you are, realize the gifts you’ve been given and respond with the gift only you can give.” Faith formation, professional skills development and networking also were part of the gathering.

Among attendees was Susanna Bolle, 25, a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul who works in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Susanna Bolle

Susanna Bolle

“It was very encouraging to see so many other women in the United States who are motivated and inspired and on fire to spread the Gospel and help others recognize their dignity and their worth,” she said.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious described the Given forum as “a launchpad for what St. John Paul II called the feminine genius and a response to Pope Francis’ call to activate women’s gifts in the Church.”

“By creating an environment of mentorship, the next generation of Catholic women leaders will be equipped to develop and implement initiatives to utilize their gifts for the life of the Church,” organizers said.

Seventy-five women religious volunteered at the conference to be a source of encouragement and have a presence “as spiritual mothers” accompanying the women at the conference.

With funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the council provided each attendee with a scholarship to participate in the conference. In applying for the scholarship, the young women had to submit an “action plan” to show how each would offer her gifts in service to her home diocese, workplace or university over the next few months.

For her action plan, Bolle plans to launch a reading and discussion group for young women, and is exploring the topic of complementarity of men and women.

Other local attendees Julia Ennen and Bridget Scott proposed to create a website with information on fertility and “body literacy” for high school and college-aged women.

“This is important because we have experienced a lack of cohesive information available to women and want to create opportunities for greater education and understanding of the Church’s teachings regarding family planning and fertility,” said Scott, 23, a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony and a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in health communication.

Shannon Conroy, 23, a development associate in the archdiocese’s Development and Stewardship Office and parishioner of St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center in Minneapolis, also attended the forum. She plans to form a group of young adults to reach out to homeless people.

“I left the conference wanting to take a new leap of trust and respond boldly to what the Lord will ask of me, convinced that only this is where I will find purpose and peace,” she said.

— The Catholic Spirit contributed to this story

 

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