By Ellen Benton | Contributing writer
On Sept. 4, 2016, Pope Francis elevated Mother Teresa to sainthood, noting in his homily that she “was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.” It is truly fitting that her canonization would occur during this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy we are celebrating in the Church.
As we prepare for the 7th Annual Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference on Oct. 29, Saint Teresa of Calcutta illuminates our theme — “Mercy is Love in Action” — perfectly! Every action the petite foundress of the Missionaries of Charity took was for the love of Jesus. She truly saw the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor, in the suffering, and in the dying.
On Easter Sunday of this year, Jesus called another holy and merciful woman home to her eternal reward, Mother Mary Angelica, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network. In mid-September, the EWTN family celebrated her life and legacy, sharing many stories of the love Mother Angelica had for Jesus, his church, and each one of us. We are honored that her acclaimed biographer, Raymond Arroyo, who knew her so well, will be our conference’s keynote speaker.
Arroyo, an internationally known media personality, is the news director and lead anchor for EWTN. He hosts “The World Over,” seen in over one hundred million homes each week. Arroyo is known for his stimulating interviews with many spiritual and political luminaries, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, shortly before his election.
In his latest book, “Mother Angelica: Her Grand Silence,” Arroyo shares intimate moments of the last decade of Mother Angelica’s life. He discusses the time she was confined to her cell due to illness in Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, as well as his own relationship with Mother.
The Women’s Conference is very excited to welcome Arroyo. No one is more excited than Kitty Spinelli, co-foundress of Joseph’s House, a haven in Syracuse for women facing unplanned pregnancies, who credits Mother Angelica with being the inspiration for Joseph’s House! After reading Arroyo’s “Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network,” Spinelli thought, “If she did all this with $200 and twelve nuns, I can do something!” A few years later, with lots of prayers, Joseph’s House came to be. Spinelli continued, “We have helped more than 60 moms and babies in our two and a half years and our story is one of miracles. It makes absolutely no sense that we are doing what we are doing unless you know God!”
Other conference speakers include the inspirational recording artist and author Emily Wilson, whose recently published “I Choose the Sky” is a scriptural reflection on 17 women in the Bible and their individual encounters with Christ. Wilson, a popular speaker, especially for young people, appeared at World Youth Day in Poland this summer. Her message of hope inspires hearts of all ages, helping women to see their truth and dignity in Christ.
Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Mich., will introduce the Healing Hour of Mercy, a new addition to this year’s conference in light of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. She holds a licentiate of sacred theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. At the invitation of John Cardinal O’Connor in the early 1990’s, she assisted with the initial formation of the Sisters of Life in New York.
The doors at the Oncenter will open at 7:30 a.m. and the conference will get under way at 9 a.m., when Arroyo will speak. Confession will be available 8-9 a.m. and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. After the Healing Hour of Mercy will follow a lovely sit-down lunch. At 3:30 p.m. the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed, and the conference will conclude with Holy Mass with Bishop Robert J. Cunningham. Plenty of vendors will be on hand for shopping for those “holy reminders” that Mother Angelica encouraged Catholics to have as reminders of Jesus and Mary, and of God’s love.
Visit SyracuseCatholicWomen.org to register or call (315) 735-4429, ext. 5, for more details. This year introduces a new and exciting way to register for the conference: “TABLE FOR TEN” for $550 with guaranteed seating for groups that would like to sit together at lunch. Tables must be reserved by Oct. 10. Individual registration is $55 through October; registration will be $70 at the door (if space allows). We are anticipating a sold-out conference!
We look forward to welcoming you — and hundreds of women from across the region – for a day to relax, renew, refresh, and experience MERCY that is LOVE in ACTION!
Ellen Benton is Evangelization Coordinator at St. Joseph & St. Patrick Church, Utica, and a recent appointee to the Diocese of Syracuse Commission on Women in Church and in Society.