Years ago I read an article right here on CatholicMom that profoundly affected me. It gave me a phrase that I’ve said over and over again: Inspiration, Obedience, Success. Basically it means, if you feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to do something, don’t worry about the possible obstacles. Just take one step forward in obedience and God will provide success. I’ve seen it work over and over again in my life and in my job.
I work at our diocesan radio station, Spirit FM 90.5 and five years ago our development director said, “I really want to do a women’s conference. We need this in our diocese.”
No venue, no speakers, no actual budget … but we just started planning. In our first year, Spirit FM’s Catholic Women’s Conference maxed out a church social hall at 400. In this our fourth year we sold out 700 tickets in one month. And next year we are moving to a venue which will allow us to welcome 1,200 attendees. These women WANT to come together and pray, love and grow — and it’s awesome. Inspiration. Obedience. Success.
I’ve had the privilege and challenge of being the MC for the conference every year and here’s what I learned hanging out with 700 women on September 23rd.
Lesson 1: Don’t underestimate the power and ministry in just chatting with the girls.
Women like to talk and, if given the opportunity, we will do so without stopping. Sometimes too much talking gets us picked on by the guys, but the fact of the matter is, we love to connect. We surveyed our planning committee, and asked if we should change the seating from round tables to auditorium style, which would allow us to fit over 300 more guests. That was met with a resounding, NO! To them, the connection with their sisters is just as important as the keynote speaker.
Lesson 2: Everybody’s got something going on.
Of the 700 women in attendance, I’d guess I knew about 20% by name. At one point, during the celebration of the mass, we sang Lauren Daigle’s “Trust In You.” I saw tears everywhere and it was just the start of the conference! As I looked from face to face and focused on the women I knew personally, I was reminded of what burdens everyone brought that day. Infertility, death, family illness, miscarriage, a marriage on the rocks, cancer, uncertainty in a career, incarcerated family members, alcoholism, abuse … I think it’s fair to say that the stories I knew were an accurate sample of the entire group. We need to stop looking around in church and thinking everyone has it better than we do. We are all carrying something and what we carry can be redemptive.
Lesson 3: I’m not the only one who feels guilty taking time for myself.
Jennifer Fulwiler was our second speaker of the day. She rocked. I loved her and her message. One earth-shattering point she tried to drive home: Ladies! You are not selfish for being here today! Why do we connect doing something for ourselves with hurting others? We’ve gotta stop doing this, especially because most of us do things for ourselves so we can go right back and serve our families and churches even more! So quit feeling bad about taking time for yourself. Seriously! Quit it!
Lesson 4: The P will arrive.
No joke. The night before the conference we still didn’t have our “P” and well … it was kinda important.
Our decorations committee chair was angry that the balloon order was incomplete and slightly nervous that the final letter wouldn’t arrive at all, that is, until she received a text from her husband: The P is here! Praise God! I’m convinced that if you are doing your darndest to love God, love people and share the Good News, the details will fall into place. If somewhere in your life you are missing your own “P” and worried what things will look like without it (yikes, that’s a different kind of women’s conference), remember, our God is the God of the smallest details and he’s got them covered. Find HOPE in that!
The date is set for next year’s conference: September 29, 2018 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. One of our speakers is Fr. Leo Patalinghug of Grace Before Meals. I’d love to see some CatholicMom readers there! I guarantee you’ll take home some lessons of your own!
Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage