500 women ‘Seek Together the Kingdom’ at Behold 2014

Photo Caption: Marie Miller, a Curb Records recording artist, gave a special musical performance near the end of Behold 2014, a Catholic conference for women March 1 at Embassy Suites in East Peoria.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Like diamonds, which start as carbon and only become precious after years of pressure, women who live out their vocation to the best of their ability are the true diamonds of the world, according to one of four keynote speakers at Behold 2014.

“I see women as the solid rock that gives stability and purpose to family life and to all areas of the culture in which we live,” said Mother Assumpta Long, OP, one of the foundresses of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, at the March 1 conference on the dignity and vocation of women. “They know how to love and how to suffer. They are the solid rock needed desperately in our culture.”

More than 500 “diamonds” from around the Midwest, as well as California, South Dakota and Oklahoma, converged on the Embassy Suites Conference Center in East Peoria tor “Seek Together the Kingdom.” In addition to the keynote talks and breakout sessions, participants had an opportunity to spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, seek the sacrament of reconciliation, and attend a Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

In talking to the women gathered before him, Bishop Jenky recalled the Blessed Mother’s words to the attendants at the wedding feast of Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”

“That sound advice . . . is just as true and as necessary today,” the bishop said, calling Mary “the first and greatest of the Lord’s disciples.”

“Mary tells us believe in Jesus, obey his word, and you will share in the heavenly wedding banquet,” he said. “Let us come to the table of the Lord, filled with awe but hungry and thirsty, for God.”

“I felt like the conference room was huge until Bishop Jenky started to talk,” Rose Marie Rudolph, the executive director of Behold 2014 and Behold Catholic Women’s Ministries, told The Catholic Post. “Then it became very small. He has a way of filling the room.”

STAND UP FOR CHRIST
While the conference started bright and early, Rudolph encouraged the women to relax and take advantage of everything the day had to offer.

“We know that you find Christ here and find love and we want you to know how beautiful you are. You are a beautiful daughter of God,” she said, adding that each one was unique and unrepeatable. “There will never be another you.”

St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee,” Rudolph reminded them. “I encourage you to rest in (God) today. Soak in everything he has to offer.”

Not everything said during the day was easy to hear, however.

“If you stand up for the teachings of the church, if you stand up for the morality we believe as Catholics, you’re going to suffer,” Mother Assumpta said. “People are going to think you’re crazy, you’re uncompassionate. That’s not it at all.

“If you stand up for Christ you’re going to suffer because we have to be like Christ,” she said, and God is sharing with us the privilege of working with him for the salvation of souls.

“God wants everything from us, not just leftovers. He wants us to trust in him and will never let us down. He repays us a hundredfold,” Mother Assumpta assured them. “It’s scary, but give God permission. . . . He’s going to ask great things of you.”

RESISTING TEMPTATION
In their breakout session, “If Only I Were Perfect,” Mary Rice Hasson and Deirdre Folley acknowledged that women love perfection and stress over imperfection. But sharing the Good News of God doesn’t require perfection, they said.

“If you’re here because God wants you here, then God has a plan for you when you leave here,” said Hasson, a fellow in the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Catholic Studies Program in Washington, D.C. “You are called to be an evangelist. It’s faith bubbling over — that’s it.”

Pope Francis has said evangelization is not about sharing abstract truths, but providing an opportunity for an encounter with Christ, Hasson said.

“None of us will ever know it all in its entirety,” said Folley, who works from her Washington, D.C., home as a research analyst and art tutor, and volunteers as a counselor and public speaker for a local pregnancy resource center. She suggested they invite people to go hunting for answers with them and trust that the Holy Spirit would guide them in their interactions.

Attention to their own prayer life and relationship with God is vital, the speakers said. They continued this part of the discussion during their keynote session, “Mission: Holiness in the Everyday.”

Like any other relationship, intimacy with God takes time, Hasson said, encouraging them to make a commitment to prayer.

“Set aside a regular time,” she advised, telling them she goes to Mass as often as she can during the week. Good spiritual reading can also help because “we’re not just hearts, we’re intellect, too.”

Folley said she makes time for basic prayers throughout the day, such as the Morning Offering, grace before meals, the Angelus at mid-day, the rosary with her husband when he gets home from work, and night prayer. She added that their week revolves around Sunday and they try not to do business or shop on that day.

She asked them to consider how they use the Internet and social media. The temptation is to share too much, compare ourselves with others, seek glory and replace real communication with virtual communication.

Behold 2014 was made possible with the help of 150 volunteers, Rudolph said. “Every single one of them did an incredible job. It felt like it was a well-oiled machine.”

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See related story on speaker Jeremy Rivera’s message to both women and men here.

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