|It looked just like this, but with no leaves on the trees.|
First of all, Peoria is one heck of a diocese, with an amazing group of women who are faithful servants of the Lord. They worked very hard to put together a lovely conference for over 600 Catholic women. And they each paid the $60 to attend, just like the rest of us. (I totally would have made a fuss about that, if I had been a volunteer. Lucky for them, I wasn't.)
Fr. Don Roskowkisiezlakaykcachcyzs is an incredibly devout priest. This man faces some difficult challenges, including learning disabilities, and uses his challenges to emulate the St. John Vianney. And the set-up for Mass was gorgeous. Beautiful banners, chant, candlesticks and a breathtaking floral arrangement really transformed the ballroom space into a church.
Where are the photos you ask? Yes, I took all of one photo. With my phone, no less. The Chef asked me if I was taking my camera. I responded with something like, "Why would I lug my camera, when I'm lugging a 10 month old struggle pig, and I'm going to this event with my dear friend who also happens to be an super-awesome-photographer as well?"
Little did I know, she didn't bring her camera either. She wanted to be incognito, like Superman going to a party as Clark Kent. I guess I don't blame her. I have a painful memory of seeing our family practitioner at a NYE party and cornering him with all kinds of questions like, "Do you think that mole on the Chef's hand is cancer?" hangs head in shame.
There were two talks. Sr. Mary Elizabeth of the Sisters for Life gave a solid pro-life, dignity of woman talk. I missed most of it, because the struggle pig got squawky. Then I found the Mother's Room, which was loaded with iced water, leather chairs, changing table, and two nice flat screens projecting the conference, but it was overflowing with mothers and babies. Go figure. I sat on the floor behind one of the nice leather chairs, but Baby J kept crawling for all the water goblets filled with ice water under the chairs, so we had to go.
|AAACK! Stupid sideways phone photo of Sr. Mary Elizabeth. My one and only photo.|
After a delicious lunch from the quarter mile long salad bar, with the two mile long line, I did get to hear Kate Wicker's talk about body image and true beauty. She has an inspiring story to tell about her descent into a clinical eating disorder her subsequent recovery, and her recovery from "anorexia of the soul."
I think her message is especially relevant to our culture. I am constantly reminding my teens (my daughters AND my son) that the images we see on billboards and in magazines are not images of real people. I love the Dove corporation and their Campaign for Real Beauty for this reason and go out of my way to buy Dove brand specific products. If you haven't seen this Dove video yet, you should. And show it to your teens.
Lastly, image consultant, Ginny Baldridge gave a very entertaining presentation on image and style. She spoke of the compelling woman, which I believe is what my mom meant when she said it is her apostolate to make this vocation (of marriage, motherhood, large families) look good. If we want the world to take our message seriously, we have to look like we are in the world. In the world but not of it.
Her talk was great. Dynamic, funny, and informational. I especially enjoyed her fashion show, where she asked ten or so pre-selected conference attendees to come on stage while she explained what these women were doing right, image-wise. She picked my dear friend to be one of her "runway" models! Not my super photographer friend, my other dear friend who accompanied us and did ALL the driving so I could entertain Baby J in the backseat. I'm truly grateful for that.
My friend was the one who was wearing the polished denim pants that she had bought at Goodwill for $5 and had them tailored to fit for $20. Ginny said, "Now, she has a pair of $100 jeans!" She was also wearing the striking pink sweater set, heels, and great accessories. She told me ahead of time that she was going to wear a pink sweater set. I told her that photographer friend and I should wear pink sweater sets too. Then we would make a REALLY good impression.
I know that I was kind of sweaty after carrying 22+ pounds of Baby J around all day. In hindsight, a turtleneck sweater was a bad choice. Yes, I had forgotten to pack a comb or hairspray, so my ponytail had some flyaway issues. That reddish stain on my left shoulder? That was strawberry slobber, courtesy of you-know-who. So, I guess I can see why Ginny did not ask me to be one of her runway models. No hard feelings there.
For me, the most informational and inspirational part of the day was when Assistant Director, Bonnie Engstrom spoke about Peoria's involvement in Archbishop Fulton Sheen's cause for canonization. I had no idea that Fulton Sheen was from Peoria or that he was named Servant of God.
I love Fulton Sheen! I was first introduced to his wit and wisdom, about 15 years ago, when we joined our parish. The elderly Pastor Emeritus used to play audio cassettes of Fulton Sheen talks in lieu of a homily. He also played a Barbra Streisand song once. It was supposed to speak to the death of Mother Teresa somehow. He did better with the Fulton Sheen tapes.
Anyway, Bonnie told this amazing story of the birth of her son, or of his death rather. He was actually "medically" dead for 61 minutes, when his heart spontaneously began beating. Her son lives and is healthy, suffering no ill effects. She credits this miracle to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. She spoke beautifully, and passionately, and she did not cry.
Really, that was the best part of the conference for me.
You might think she named that son, Fulton. You'd be wrong, though.
Other great things about the Behold 2012 Conference:
The goody bags! Complete with handmade tags with a picture of St. Gianna Molla and a hand-written note. Whoever made all of those, your labor of love is truly appreciated.
Marie Miller. I bought her cd. This young, Catholic musician has got immense of talent, a beautiful, an incredible voice, great songs, and Lord knows, I love me some bluegrass Mandolin.
The Chocolate Break. Hershey Bliss. That's all I have to say.
And the sweet sisters, especially Sister Loretto of the Sister for Life who played with Baby J so I could eat my spaghetti the night before, and the Franciscan Sister of St. John the Baptist who sat next to me at lunch. Nuns will sit next to Baby J and me, because unlike mothers and waiters, they don't know any better.
I did meet some bloggers. Arwen Mosher is lovely. Our babies are all ten months. (She has twins.), and we have the same brand stroller (Baby Jogger), so we are totally kindred spirits.
I asked Jen Fulwiler and Hallie Lord to autograph my new copy of Style, Sex, and Substance. But seeing as I was already pretty sweaty by then, and I realized later that I was wearing my name-tag on my back, I'm glad we didn't strike up any lengthy conversations. Hopefully, they won't remember me or we will never meet again. I'm fine with either of those scenarios.