By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
The Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference started last year as a way to offer women in the diocese an opportunity for spiritual renewal and inspiration.
“Women were seeking affirmation in their roles as women—mothers, wives, friends,” said Michelle Kirk, one of the Women’s Conference organizers.
With support from Bishop Robert Cunningham and the Diocesan Commission on Women in Church and in Society, an organizing committee composed of women from around the diocese put together an inaugural conference that attracted more than 900 women. The conference was an overwhelming success, and planning for a second installment began almost immediately.
The Women’s Conference will return this Oct. 29 to the Oncenter in Syracuse. Kirk says that the organizing committee is anticipating growth and “an even better conference this year.”
The conference will open with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Cunningham and there will be opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, reconciliation and reflection throughout the afternoon. There will also be an area honoring Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, a Sister of St. Francis in Syracuse whose cause toward canonization is progressing. Information about her cause for sainthood, as well as the first class relic that was taken to Rome for her Beatification ceremony, will be present.
Three popular speakers will be featured, chosen based on feedback from last year’s attendees as well as trends in the field.
“The goal is to address the needs and interests of a wide variety of women with a message that inspires and instructs,” said Kirk. “Each [speaker] has such a different area of interest, one is bound to touch you somehow.”
Each speaker will give talks that relate to the scripture quote chosen as this year’s conference theme: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way…” (Luke 24:32).
At the top of the bill is Father Leo Patalinghug, a priest born in the Philippines and raised in Maryland. He developed a love of cooking while studying at the North American College in Rome, Italy, and has turned that love into Grace Before Meals, a movement for building stronger families through shared meals. He is also well known for beating chef Bobby Flay in a fajita-making contest on the Food Network show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Father Patalinghug will do some cooking during his presentation, and attendees will be able to enter a raffle to sample his dish.
Also in the lineup are Leah Darrow, a former contestant on the reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” who will share her conversion story and insights on how authentic love and virtue can impact the world, and Helen Alvare, consult to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council on the Laity, who will focus on areas of particular interest to women, including marriage, family and respect for human life.
Additionally, a number of improvements have been made for this year’s conference, including more room for seating, additional space for vendors and a seated, plated lunch for all attendees.
Tickets are $45 before Oct. 1, $55 thereafter and $65 at the door.