Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Hundreds Gather To Share Faith And Sisterhood

Father John Pfister leads the blessing of the speakers as the conference begins. The Message photo by Trisha Hannon Smith

They did it again.


The outstanding team of volunteers at St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh welcomed more than 275 mothers, sisters and neighbors to the parish’s second annual “Gather in Faith” women’s conference. Women of all backgrounds and ages gathered to share their energy and words of inspiration, following the day’s theme “With Great Love.”


The day began in prayer, which coordinator Bethany Logan reflected on as she opened up the conference in her welcome.  “Have you felt our prayers? Our prayer warriors have been praying for all of you!” She mentioned that special prayers were being offered by the eighth graders of St. John the Baptist School who were, at that moment, journeying to Washington D.C., on their class trip.  The group prayed a Rosary for all travelers and for the women participating in the conference.


St. John the Baptist Associate Pastor Father John Pfister shared a reading from the book of Sirach, “If you are willing to listen, you can learn; if you pay attention, you can be instructed. Stand in the company of the elders; stay close to whoever is wise. Be eager to hear every discourse; let no insightful saying escape you.If you see the intelligent, seek them out; let your feet wear away their doorsteps! Reflect on the law of the Most High, and let his commandments be your constant study. Then he will enlighten your mind, and make you wise as you desire.”


The crowd was reminded that women are always giving - as mothers, daughters and sisters.  It was a day of faith, inspiration and connection - just for women. Attendees were encouraged to disconnect from their phones and connect with new friends.


Catholic writer, speaker and radio host Hallie Lord gave the keynote address. Pregnant with her eighth child, Lord spoke of overcoming the fears and anxiety that had once taken over her life. As a convert to the Catholic faith, Lord says that Catholicism has taught her that the best antidote to anxiety is to pour in as much love as possible. 


“When I looked back at the last decade of my life, I saw a young woman who had been utterly paralyzed by anxiety until God took me by the hand and showed me the path to freedom from my fears,” Lord said.


Faced with challenges ranging from infertility, back-to-back pregnancies, unemployment and poverty, Lord told of her struggles to remain committed to her faith.


“I remember thinking, ‘What are you doing God? I prayed, I give my life to you, and you’ve given us one challenge after another.’”  She recalled sitting on her couch, feeling like she hit rock bottom, and feeling no comfort or reassurance from God.  Lord said that, in that moment, she offered one desperate prayer and allowed herself to let it go.  She credits that moment as the beginning of a transformative journey that would ultimately change her life.


Breakout sessions focused on overcoming anxiety and fear, as well as marriage, living with purpose, adolescent spirituality, learning about Mary and the Saints, loving the Eucharist and answering God’s call.  Guest speakers included Colleen Buechler, Barb Butler, Mary Grady, Leigh Gray, Benedictine Sister Kathy Huber, Benedictine Sister Jenny Miller, Erin Ramsey, Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia Anastasia Reeves and Mimi Scheessele. 


Music played an important part in the day’s spirituality. Members of St. John the Baptist’s choir and young-adult choir began the day leading song during Mass and before the opening of the conference. Following lunch, Reitz Memorial High School student Ellie Durcholz led attendees in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.


Priests were present throughout the day to offer the sacrament of reconciliation to the conference participants. At the end of the conference, a prayer service was held and door prizes were awarded.