Submitted by
Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose, PhD

Last Sunday, under a sun-drenched Roman sky, Pope Francis canonized Louis Martin and Marie-Zelie Guerin, the parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, who wrote that her first blessing was to be born into a family that “surrounded me with love.” The first-ever married couple to be canonized together, Saint Louis and Saint Marie-Zelie bore their many human sufferings — the death of several children, breast cancer, financial worries, mental illness — with perseverance and joy, as Pope Francis explained, “trusting in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary.” Devoted as a family to the Virgin of the Smile, the parents created “day by day an environment of faith and love” that has much to teach and console everyday Catholic families —much as it taught and consoled the five Martin daughters, including Therese, called the greatest saint of modern times, who never forgot her earliest “sunny childhood” memories of her mother’s and father’s “tender smiles and caresses.”

The deep-seated joy that welled up daily in the Martin household continues to well up in the church and in our world — love never dies but grows! This contagious joy is the theme of this year’s Catholic Women’s Conference, on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oncenter in Syracuse. Three nationally recognized speakers will share their own joy of faith! We hope you will join us at the conference to hear their vibrant witness, to share in the celebration of Mass with Bishop Robert Cunningham, and to enjoy the company of hundreds of Catholic women from around the diocese. Confession with be available throughout the day, as will Eucharistic Adoration. Numerous vendors will offer items for sale. Attendees will enjoy a delicious sit-down lunch and an opportunity to question the speakers.

Father Andrew Apostoli, the first speaker, is a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and has spent decades teaching, writing and preaching. As a boy in the 1950s, he watched Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on television. Archbishop Sheen ordained Father Apostoli to the priesthood in 1967 in Rochester, New York. Father Apostoli’s many books include Following Mary to Jesus, Fatima for Today, and What to Do When Jesus is Hungry, and he appears frequently on EWTN. An expert on Fatima, Father Apostoli served as vice postulator for cause for the canonization of Venerable Archbishop Sheen.

Sister Miriam James Heidland — known on Twitter as
“@onegroovynun” — is the second speaker. She belongs to the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), a missionary community that serves needy areas. Serving SOLT missions in Rome, Seattle, and Texas, Sister Miriam has worked with schoolchildren, coached high school volleyball, and co-hosted a Catholic radio program. An athletic-scholarship student and communications major, Sister Miriam speaks widely on women’s vocations and on the theology of the body. She has been a guest on EWTN, Relevant Radio and Catholic Answers Live. Sister Miriam published Loved As I Am, her first book, in 2014.

Our third speaker, Simcha Fisher, has drawn a large and faithful following among Catholics with her lively and unique voice. The mother of ten children who lives in New Hampshire, Fisher writes with fluidity and wisdom — and great humor — about politics, domestic life, art, books, movies, education, the life of the Church and more. She is a frequent contributor to the faith blog Patheos and the National Catholic Register. Invited to speak at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fisher recently published A Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning, which reveals her trademark “tell it like it is” style.
Visit or call (315) 475-9332 for more conference details or to register. And hurry! Early birds who register by Oct. 28 will be charged $50; those who register by Nov. 5 will be charged $60; and those who register at the door will pay $70. The Crowne Plaza Hotel is offering a special weekend rate to registrants — see for more details! We look forward to welcoming you — and hundreds of other women — to a prayer-filled day of grace, fellowship and contagious joy!

Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose, PhD, attends Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica.

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