Fr. Dan Whitman, keynote speaker Kelly Wahlquist encourage diocesan women to be God’s joyful witness to the world
By Emily Booker
Reflecting God’s Joy was the theme of the Knoxville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 30th annual convention, and joy was visible among the women attending.
The convention was held April 4-5 at St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge.
Father Dan Whitman, pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville who also serves as the KDCCW spiritual adviser, celebrated the opening Mass on April 4. Concelebrants were Father Joseph Brando, Father Ron Franco, CSP, and Father Robert O’Donnell, CSP. Deacon Gary Sega served as deacon of the Word. The young people’s choir of St. Mary’s provided music.
“Christ wants us to be a joyful people of God,” Father Whitman said in his homily. “We cannot reflect what we do not have. How are we going to allow that joy to enter our hearts, let it be a part of our lives and our choices?”
He encouraged the women to find joy in Christ so that they may reflect it to others.
“So in the two days we have together, enjoy each other’s company and friendship, and take it home and be a change in the parish, my family, my friends, my neighborhood, my school. Everywhere you go, be a joyful witness of Jesus,” he said.
At the end of Mass was a remembrance of deceased women of the CCW in the diocese from the past year. Each deanery president held a candle as names of the deceased were read. A banquet was held in the school gymnasium where Father Whitman was presented an oversized check that showed the number of volunteer hours women in the diocese have given, totaling 394,136.
Keynote speaker Kelly Wahlquist spoke to the women on “Why the Church Needs WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.”
Ms. Wahlquist is an author and speaker from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She is the founder of WINE, a ministry that aims to invigorate Catholic parishes through inspiring, supporting, and nurturing women and by equipping and mobilizing women as intentional disciples of Christ.
“Evangelization is about love,” she said. “It’s about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength, and loving that person right across from you enough to share that love.”
Women, Ms. Wahlquist said, are made “radically relational,” with gifts that facilitate relationships. This makes each woman equipped to share her story with others and meet others where they are.
“We have to meet people where they’re at and tell them what God has done for us. How did the Holy Spirit change your life when you were sobbing on the floor in the middle of the night? How did Jesus come to you when you were suffering? How? We have to tell people that. Tell people your story. People love to hear a story,” she said.
She encouraged women to grow in their trust of the Holy Spirit and dive into Scripture.
Women played a large role in salvation history and in evangelization, she pointed out. God came into the world incarnate through his mother, Mary. Elizabeth was the first person to proclaim the incarnation when she exclaimed, “Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary Magdalene was the first person to proclaim the resurrection when she said, “I have seen the risen Lord.”
“So I want to encourage you to tap into this, to recognize you have been given an incredible mission,” Ms. Wahlquist said.
“You’ve been given great gifts in order to accomplish that, just in being a woman, that you are radically relational, and that you do have these gifts. Tap into the Holy Spirit, call on him to help you. Go to Scripture. Fall in love with the Lord so you can share him with the people you are sitting next to,” she added.
She concluded by encouraging the KDCCW. “Ladies, pray to the Holy Spirit to impregnate you with that spirit of the Gospel, because right now, more than ever, the world needs women in the New Evangelization for such a time as this.”