Hello! Forgive me for not writing for a few weeks…things have been a little crazy, between leaving West Virginia and getting ready to start a new job in Ohio (!!!) and attending a conference in DC. But now that I have a few moments to breathe (before packing and actually moving to Ohio, that is), I HAVE to speak on that aforementioned conference!
This past week, from June 7th through the 12th, I had the privilege of attending the GIVEN Forum. Sponsored largely by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (hereafter CMSWR), GIVEN is a leadership conference for young Catholic women held at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. This year, 300 women from all 50 states were selected to attend the inaugural GIVEN Forum on a full scholarship (including travel reimbursements) after a lengthy application process. GIVEN features talks, workshops, and discussions by distinguished Catholic speakers and scholars that center mostly around what Pope Saint John Paul II called the “feminine genius,” the unique way that women operate and respond to God’s love and call. These content pieces, small groups led by CMSWR sisters, liturgies and prayer experiences, and opportunities for networking all combine to inspire each woman as she forms and implements an Action Plan, a project that is her own unique expression of her feminine genius.
The GIVEN Forum was, without a doubt, one of the most wonderful and important experiences of my young life. I’ve never met so many women who are so on fire for Christ and so hungry to bring Him into our hurting world. I’ve never seen such authentic expressions of love and womanhood as I did not only in the 300 attendees, but in the dozens of sisters who organized, led, and guided the Forum. Their witness to the freeing love of Christ and the power of genuine femininity opened my eyes and my heart to some important truths, about myself and the greater role of women in the world. Among those truths:
- I am so uniquely gifted. I say that with all sincerity and humility. I struggle so much with comparison and thinking that what I have isn’t good enough, but I’m finally realizing what a heinous lie that is. To criticize myself is to criticize my Maker, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He gave me what I have for a reason, and it’s my job to give it back to Him.
- I am blessed and loved beyond my wildest imaginings and my ability to comprehend. The talks at GIVEN, those moments of silent reflection before the Lord in Eucharistic adoration and mass, all gave me tiny but knock-out glimpses into the abundance that Jesus has laid before me.
- The Church loves women. God loves women. The secular narrative of the Catholic Church would disagree with that, but the women at GIVEN are a testimony to how dignified and powerful the feminine genius is. It is not oppressive. It is not based in gender roles or limiting gender stereotypes. It calls all women to tap into their God-given nature as receptive, person-oriented beings, and that nature can take on an infinite number of expressions, as was evidenced by every single woman at GIVEN.
- Women can’t try to replace or compete with men; we can and should work together with them. The unique twoness of men and women does not imply inequality or that one is less than the other. God created two for a reason. We ought to respect and cooperate with that. But that said, women are powerful. The world needs us: our stories, our voices, our talents, our perspectives.
GIVEN ended a few days ago and I am still in awe of the power that was packed into those few days: the speakers, the prayer and liturgies, the inspiring example of my fellow attendees, and especially the sisters of the CMSWR who poured themselves into the planning and facilitation of the Forum. I am still processing it all and will probably continue to do so over the next few weeks. I know for sure that I’ll need to re-watch all of the keynotes to help me wrap my head around everything! And I still have a lot of work to do as I prepare to launch my Action Plan. But I’m so excited for the fruit that will no-doubt continue to grow in me as a result of GIVEN. I can’t thank the presenters, CMSWR sisters, and the 300 other attendees enough for their example of faith, womanhood, ingenuity, and love. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do to promote authentic femininity in your own ways!
If you want to learn more about GIVEN, head on over to their website, givenforum.org. You can also find them on Facebook by searching GIVEN Forum; there you can learn more about the Forum and see pictures from the first-ever conference!