This column is adapted from the Philadelphia Archbishop’s Charles J. Chapiut's opening remarks to the October 21 national “Women in the New Evangelization” conference, held at Doylestown’s Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Good morning, and thank you for being here – all 1,250 of you. This is a sold-out conference with women from all over the country. The only word for that kind of a turnout is “extraordinary.” So anyone worried about the future of the Church just needs to stand where I stand and look out on a roomful of good and faithful and beautiful Catholic women. It’s a great way to start the day.
I’m especially grateful to Kelly Wahlquist and Meghan Cokeley and the rest of the conference leadership team for making this event happen so impressively. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says that he makes all things new. But here and now, in our own day, he does that work of renewal through his Church -- and the Church is only as strong as the zeal of her daughters and sons. This is a roomful of feminine zeal, and that’s good news for the Church; bad news for the devil.
You’ll be glad to learn that -- in the eyes of the world -- all of you here today are radicals. You may not feel that way unless you’ve had five or six cups of coffee. But “Women in the New Evangelization” is built on the shocking idea that women and men are different -- and that the “difference” between the sexes is one of life’s great blessings and grand beauties.
God made man in his image, male and female he made them, equal in dignity, equally reflecting his goodness, but different in strengths, gifts and leadership styles. And we’re equal in another way as well. We’re all equally incomplete. We need God, and we need each other, and the answer to that need is love -- which by its nature is “radical,” which means linked to the root of who we are as creatures.
God made us to give and to receive love. That’s why we’re here. For most people, it means marriage and family. For others it means religious life or the single vocation or holy orders. But we all yearn for fertile lives. We all need to love. And women and men, in distinct but complementary ways, create that love and – at their best – fill the world with it.
There’s a lot on today’s agenda, so I’ll be brief. But I want you to know as you start this conference how much I admire you, and how deeply the Church depends on you. No one says this more powerfully than St. John Paul II in his 1995 Letter to Women. So I’ll borrow loosely from it here. John Paul writes:
Thank you, women who are mothers. You shelter new life within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. You’re God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides a child's first steps, who helps a young life grow, and who anchors the child in love as it makes its way along the journey of life.
Thank you, women who are wives. You join your future intimately to that of your husbands in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.
Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters. Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your generosity and fidelity.
Thank you, women who work. You’re active in every area of life -- social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you help build a culture which unites reason and feeling, a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery,” and the kind of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
And finally but no less intensely: Thank you, consecrated women. Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind embrace a "spousal" relationship with God, one that embodies the fellowship God wishes to have with his creatures.
In remembering John Paul’s words, I hope this meeting of “Women in the New Evangelization” will be a time of deepening your encounter with the love of God. I hope it will build stronger bonds of friendship with your sisters in Jesus Christ. And I hope you’ll leave here with a renewed sense of how profoundly you’re loved by God, the importance of your mission in the world, and the gratitude of the Church for your witness.
God bless you always. I’ll pray for you and your families. And please don’t forget to pray for me.
“Women in the New Evangelization” (WINE) can be reached at https://catholicvineyard.com/. Or contact Ms. Meghan Cokeley, Director of the Archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization, for more information about WINE and other excellent evangelizing efforts. She can be reached at 215.587.5630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.