Women have ‘crucial’ task as challenges to faith increase

It is not possible for a woman to remain indifferent when a baby cries, according to Helen Hull Hitchcock, founder and director of Women for Faith and Family in St. Louis.

“You pick up the baby. Why? Because you have to. You love him,” she told the 100 women from around the Diocese of Peoria who attended the annual Women’s Day of Recollection sponsored by the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society.

“Well the whole world is crying for truth,” she said. “It’s our job to get it out there as best we can.”

In addition to Hitchcock’s words of encouragement, those who gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria on March 20 learned more about the cause for canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. They also heard an eloquent call to support the priests serving in central Illinois through spiritual motherhood.

Before they got to the luncheon, however, the women went to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria for eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of reconciliation and a rosary followed by Benediction. The day’s opening Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation and director of the diocesan Office of Divine Worship.

Using the words of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, Hitchcock spoke of the dignity of women and the gifts they can offer to a world in need.

At the end of the Second Vatican Council, for example, Pope Paul VI urged women to “reconcile men with life and overall we beseech you watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man, who in a moment of folly might attempt to destroy human civilization. Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race, in the intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters the traditions of our fathers and at the same time prepare them for an unsearchable future.”

“The human race is undergoing a transformation even more deep and more dangerous than when Pope Paul spoke those words,” Hitchcock said. “Our task as women, as Catholic women, is even more crucial today.

“The challenges to our faith are escalating, not diminishing,” she told them. “Virtually no basic moral or ethical teaching, belief about the meaning of human life, belief in God, virtually none of these beliefs have escaped being eroded, deeply damaged, imperiled.”

Pope John Paul II noted the conspiracy against life and the war of the powerful against the weak in his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), Hitchcock said, adding that these very concepts were at the heart of the U.S. bishops’ objections to health care reform as it was proposed.

Pope John Paul II offers a course of action for people of faith who may feel overwhelmed in the face of this “culture of death,” however.

“It is from the Eucharist that we draw our courage and strength and wisdom to respond and to serve the truth,” Hitchcock said.

“I think if there is one thing we can manage to get across to each other today, it’s that in every way we can think of we need to encourage each other to get close to the source of the truth and of that love,” she said. “God is love and the source of that . . . is the Eucharist.”

Those who have been ordained to celebrate Mass and bring the Eucharist to the people of God can also benefit from the gift of motherhood that all women have within them, said Mary Dyas of Danville, who invited her listeners to consider spiritual motherhood.

Comparing the priests to soldiers, she said they are fighting a spiritual war to save souls.

“The battle our priests face requires them to be as spiritually, physically and emotionally fit as any serviceman is expected to be. Why do you think that our much-loved Archbishop Sheen was so passionate about the importance of making a personal, daily hour before the Blessed Sacrament? He knew where his strength was to be found,” said Dyas, a member of St. Anthony’s Parish in Hoopeston and chair of the spiritual motherhood committee of the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society.

“As spiritual mothers we can transform our prayers and sacrifices into daily, meaningful contributions to the ‘war effort’ our priests engage in as they go about winning souls who will celebrate the victory in heaven forever.”

Dyas encouraged the women to contact the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth House who are making sure that every priest of the Diocese of Peoria is “adopted” during this Year for Priests.



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