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.
“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.
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.
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.