By Emily Booker
Women from across the diocese gathered to celebrate their faith, friendship, and femininity during the Knoxville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women annual convention at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville June 10-12.
Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated the Mass of Remembrance on June 10. Monsignor Bob Hofstetter and Fathers Peter Iorio, Joseph Kuzhupil, Ray Powell, Alex Waraksa, Dan Whitman, and Michael Woods concelebrated. Deacons Scott Maentz, Otto Preske, and Walt Otey also served.
“I have to tell that standing here, I am overwhelmed by beauty,” Bishop Stika said.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked as several giggled. “The beauty of faith. The beauty of faith and friendship. And the beauty to remember beautiful people who have been called home to God.”
The Mass of Remembrance honored all the KDCCW women who have died since the last convention. Because last year’s convention was canceled due to COVID-19, this year’s Mass honored women who have died between April 2019 and June 2021.
“Today, in a very special way, we’re remembering people who have gone home to God…to remember with fondness just good and holy people who have made a difference in so many lives of families and friends and parishes,” the bishop said.
Bishop Stika reminded those in attendance to also pray for the souls of the departed.
“Remember those people with fondness. And never forget to pray for them because someday you will be on that list. And don’t we want people to pray for us? … May God bless our sisters. May God be good to them. May God have welcomed them into His presence forever.”
Deanery presidents M.J. Uhlik (Chattanooga), Joan Rowe (Cumberland Mountain), Aimee Place (Five Rivers), and Michelle Peckham (Smoky Mountain) held candles as the names of those who had died were read.
Father Waraksa, associate pastor of St. Jude Parish in Chattanooga, read the names from the Chattanooga Deanery. Father Woods, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Fairfield Glade, read the names from the Cumberland Mountain Deanery. Father Kuzhupil, MSFS, pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville, read the names from the Five Rivers Deanery. Father Dan Whitman, who is the spiritual adviser for the KDCCW, read the names from the Smoky Mountain Deanery.
Monsignor Hofstetter is pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Newport, Father Iorio is pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Alcoa, and Father Powell is pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lenoir City.
After the names were read, the candles were placed on the altar in front of the statue of St. Mary.
Following Mass, a dinner was held in the cathedral hall.
Writer and speaker Maria Johnson spoke on Mary and lessons from the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.
“Women, we have unique gifts that make us who we are. We are created to have those gifts and use them. So I want to offer you today, among other things, encouragement for the tasks we have ahead of us,” she said.
She reminded the women in attendance that Mary serves as an example of how to be a woman.
“We are made of the same stuff as the Blessed Mother. We are women, like her.”
Ms. Johnson spoke on St. John Paul II’s philosophy of the feminine genius and how women are called to share their gifts and impact society.
She broke down the feminine genius into four elements: sensitivity, generosity, maternity, and receptivity. These traits are expressed and perceived in different ways, but each reflects a woman’s feminine genius and how she interacts with others.
“We can’t just be here among ourselves. We need to be out in society,” Ms. Johnson said. She explained that women are relational and that the feminine genius is realized in relational interactions.
She noted how the past year of isolation and online meetings instead of in-person connections made it difficult to have authentic, relational connections.
“We are made to relate, and we weren’t able to. How many of you were on a Zoom call? I feel like this generation is going to have tons of years off in purgatory because we lived in Zoom chats.”
“The way that we interact with each other is where we are doing the work of the Lord,” she said. “I’m not going to convert anybody; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. But I can tell you what my story is. I can live a life that demonstrates the Gospel.”
Using the Joyful Mysteries, she went through how Mary modeled sensitivity, generosity, maternity, and receptivity.
“The Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of feminine genius for us. You want to know how to be a woman? You don’t have to look too far. Mary shows us,” Ms. Johnson explained.
Ms. Johnson encouraged the women to recognize those gifts in themselves and then go out into the world to share them.
“Each one of us has our unique path in this life. But each one of us has these four gifts, but chances are very good we are living the feminine genius whether or not we had the words to describe it in such a way,” she said. “We are the feminine genius. We can’t escape it. It’s who we are. It’s who we’re made to be.”