“You are women and this revolution has mostly been conducted in your name. We have the credibility to say, ‘It’s not working. It’s a failure.’”
This is the message Helen Alvaré shared with nearly 700 women who attended the annual Diocesan Women’s Conference, Women of Light, Sisters in Christ, on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.
A law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Washington D.C., Alvaré shared many examples from both a legal and cultural viewpoint that have led to our current hyper-sexualized culture. She explained that when it comes to conversations about the Catholic Church, the vast majority of the information presented revolves around the “Sexy Six issues – celibacy, sex abuse, abortion, contraception, married priests and homosexuality.”
Alvaré explained that the Church is one of the “last voices on these subjects that is talking sense,” and that Catholic women have “a special vocation to speak to this and about this. After all, a lot of what’s going on is supposedly in the name of our freedom…so we have a special responsibility to speak to it.”
Casual sex, contraception, abortion, a decrease in the number of marriages – no topic was off limits as Alvaré walked through the rise of the sexual revolution and how this movement has been destructive for women, children, families and society.
Alvaré reviewed several legal cases during her keynote address, stating that “all of these separate sex from marriage from children. What they really did was add value to non-procreative sex. That’s the trajectory of sex cases.”
Traveling back to the early years of Christianity, Alvaré added that Christians stood out in Greco-Roman times because of their views on sex, marriage and parenting.
“Jesus’ statement about how husbands should treat their wives, His statements against divorce, how He treated children; Christians became quite distinctive,” said Alvaré. “They rejected contraception, abortion, infanticide from the very beginning of the Church.”
Fast forward to today, where the views of marriage and procreation have been drastically changed under the guise of freedom, and now is the time for women to stand up.
“The sexual revolution has been devastating for children. We now have four out of every 10 children growing up without both a mom and a dad. It can’t be fixed in every case, but it shouldn’t be celebrated as some kind of progress for women’s equality. We also want to take the lead to avoid the awful violations that come with a lack of sexual respect between men and women,” said Alvaré. “We are so against the world’s view of things now. We need to do this not as a defensive rear guard action, but in a celebration that what we promote is love.”
Faith and Fellowship
Alvaré’s keynote address kicked off a day filled with more than 40 workshops, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, music by Seasons, opportunity for Confession, fellowship with hundreds of women, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer.
“My hope, my prayer for each of you that came to our conference, my hope and prayer for you is that today’s experience here, some of the things you heard, some of the times of prayer, some of the time in receiving absolution, some of those experiences will help you on the path to true happiness, authentic beatitude,” said Bishop Gainer during his homily. “Maybe you find yourself at this time in a valley of decision and I hope that you received some grace today that will help you in this valley of decision. Maybe some of you found a burst of enthusiasm for some aspect of our faith, a burst of new enthusiasm for how much God loves you. I hope today has helped you in that way. Maybe you encountered Christ in confession, which brought you peace and strength.”
“By obedience to Christ in the ordinary routines of your lives, you will be for your families, in the workplace, in your neighborhoods, in your parishes, in the Church and in a world that so desperately needs you to be, you will be Women of Light and Sisters of Christ,” said Bishop Gainer.
The conference was a group trip for several young women involved in campus ministry at Bloomsburg University.
Gabriella Zimmerman, a St. Columba parishioner and campus minister at Bloomsburg, said she heard about the conference and saw it as a great opportunity for those involved in this ministry. The young women found Alvaré’s keynote thought provoking and were looking forward to the rest of the conference sessions.
“I think she (Alvaré) made a lot of great points that it’s up to us to make decisions,” said Sarah Emily D’Agostino, a parishioner from Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Harrisburg and a member of campus ministry at Bloomsburg University. “A lot of these laws were made to help us, but haven’t helped. It seems like they have been using women and we have to be aware of that.”
“We need to have other resources in our conversations (related to hyper-sexualization) or we’ll be put to the side,” added Zimmerman.
Kira Paige, a Catholic-in-training who attends St. Columba, added that she was excited to attend the conference to learn about using her gifts more fully in whatever way God has in store for her.
Elena Vergura from Our Lady of Victory Parish and Anna Watson from St. Peter’s both explained they were looking forward to the sessions on how to discern real love.
The Women’s Conference is coordinated through the Diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. More information on the conference can be found at www.hbgdiocese.org/event/womens-conference.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness