SCRANTON – A sold-out, energized crowd of 400 women filled Nazareth Hall on the campus of Marywood University June 10 for the 2023 “Refresh Your Faith” Catholic Women’s Conference.

Gathering under the theme of “With the Holy Spirit,” attendees participated in Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary meditations and more.

A sold-out crowd of 400 women attended the 2023 Catholic Women’s Conference which was held June 10 at Marywood University.

“It is wonderful to be in the presence of so many women who have such great faith. It encourages me to grow,” Lois Rinaldi of Archbald, a parishioner of Queen of Angels Parish in Jessup, said.

Evie Rafalko McNulty of Scranton, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish, first attended the Catholic Women’s Conference last year, and had been looking forward to returning this year.

“I need to be reinvigorated and just reminded about how much I depend on my faith to get me through the difficult times and the struggles of daily life,” Rafalko McNulty explained.

Johnnette Benkovic Williams, founder and president of Women of Grace, a Catholic apostolate for women, and founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly International, Inc., served as the main conference speaker. Due to illness, the keynote speaker, Kathleen McCarthy, was unable to attend.

Johnnette Benkovic Williams delivers one of her speeches during the 2023 Catholic Women’s Conference.

Gladly accepting conference organizers invitation to speak for extra time, Williams told the conference attendees that each one of them is essential to God’s plan.

“I want you to know how important you are to God’s plan. There is nothing that God will not take and use for the good when we surrender it and give it to Him,” she said.

As she ended the daylong conference, Williams had just as much energy and excitement as when the day began, raising her voice in praise to God, calling each woman to mission. The crowd responded by standing in boisterous applause.

“You have such a marvelous future as the daughters of the Most High God. He is calling us into this great and glorious mission. He is suiting us up with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and setting us on fire, sending us into the highways and byways of life to bring the word of God to everybody,” Williams said to constant applause.

“Johnnette is an energizing speaker. I don’t know if I’ve seen such a dynamic speaker before and it’s been incredible to sit here and listen to her. I don’t think I’ve ever been so engaged listening to a speaker before,” Maura Kettel, a parishioner of Saint Gregory Parish in Clarks Green, said.

Geri Featherby of Covington Township prays during Mass.

The conference began with the celebration of Mass with the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, who focused on the theme of “With the Holy Spirit” during his homily.

“The real miracle of the Spirit’s presence within our Church is that in spite of the brokenness of its members, the Church has always been blessed by the presence of God within it – not because we are righteous and have earned that presence – but because God is rich in mercy and faithful to His covenant,” Bishop Bambera said.

Dara Dirhan, a native of Luzerne County who now lives in the West Chester area, returned home for the conference so that she could be filled by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

“This is a testimony to women of great faith. We need to support one another as women and uplift one another in our faith,” Dirhan said. “We are all walking different journeys at this point in our lives and it is so valuable to share with one another our stories of faith and continue together on this faith-filled journey.”

As the day concluded, women were encouraged to save the date for next year’s Catholic Women’s Conference, which will be June 8, 2024, when the theme will center on the ongoing Eucharistic Revival and the Real Presence of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

That “fire” is the fire of the Holy Spirit, the love of God poured into our hearts, enabling us to be healed and transformed and to be used by the Lord.

This year, the Catholic Women’s Conference, “With the Holy Spirit,” will delve into the gift we receive when we open our hearts and souls to the Holy Spirit and the transformative power of healing and spirituality the Holy Spirit brings to us.

Featured speakers Johnette Benkovic Williams and Kathleen McCarthy will share their journey from devastating loss to spiritual rebirth after accepting the healing gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Johnette Benkovic Williams was having difficulty sleeping in the early hours of the morning of March 20, 2004, when she heard a knock at the door.

Being already awake, she opened the door to find two Florida State Highway Patrolmen on her doorstep. She invited them in and woke her husband, knowing in her mother’s heart that this was not good news.

Her son Simon had been killed in an automobile crash, an irony not lost on Johnette as Simon had served in Korea and Afghanistan and was a decorated Army veteran. She left her husband and the patrolmen in her family room and went to her bedroom, prostrating herself on the floor in grief.

Suddenly, in the midst of her heartbreak, she saw and felt the loss that Mary, the Blessed Mother, would have suffered at the foot of the cross while her Son suffered and ultimately died. She felt the pain of that loss as acutely as her own, embracing her pain and her loss.

She felt God’s word in her heart, telling her that she had labored to bring her son into this world, and her pain and suffering were her labor to give Simon spiritual life. Pain was grace, there was merit in suffering, and that suffering was union with Christ.

One year later, at the Christening of their first grandchild, her husband suffered a Grand Mal seizure, ultimately leading to his diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. Johnnette survived another terrible loss and was strengthened by her faith, family, friends, and the prayers of the supporters of the organizations she founded, Living His Life Abundantly and Women of Grace.

Johnnette is a popular conference speaker, published author, retreat director, and seminar presenter. She will lead the rosary in the morning and in the afternoon, she will give a talk on the gifts of the Holy Spirit with heartfelt and inspiring stories.

Featured speaker Kathleen McCarthy was a mother of twelve when her husband died of cancer. It was through divine intervention that Kathleen discovered and accepted the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life and began her ministry to share the gift of the Holy Spirit with others.

Kathleen went on to become a published author, Catholic radio broadcaster and a Catholic lay evangelist for more than 40 years.

Her message of the Father’s merciful love, the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and the power of the Holy Spirit will inspire others to embrace the healing power and love of the Holy Spirit.

The conference will feature a celebration of Mass with the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, the divinely inspired music of Maria Salamida, and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The day will conclude with a Eucharistic Healing Service, led by Kathleen McCarthy where women will experience tremendous healing from the awesome touch of the Heavenly Father. Participants will also enjoy a continental breakfast, buffet lunch and the opportunity for shopping in the Catholic Vendor Marketplace.

The cost to attend the conference is $55. Student tickets are $20, and women religious are welcome free of charge.

For more information or to register for conference tickets online, please visit