Mary Bielski gave the keynote address at the Women of Dignity Conference. Photo by Kyle Greenham

Women challenged to be ‘warriors’

By  Kyle Greenham, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 15, 2019

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. -- For Kelsey Papastritas, motherhood is a delicate balancing act.

The 28-year-old says it’s a daunting task to keep up with managing a household while raising three kids. Add imparting her Catholic faith amid an increasingly secular culture that seems to put God aside, and being a parent can seem overwhelming.

“To find moms who are around my age and Catholic is a little difficult sometimes,” said Papastritas as she held tight to seven-month-old Eleanor, her youngest child. “It’s a great challenge to live out our faith along with all the other responsibilities of raising kids. And one thing I worry about all the time is that I personally have to be strong in the faith before I can really pass it on to my children.”

So for Papastritas, and more than 300 other Catholic women of all ages, the annual Women of Dignity conference at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove has been an oasis of peace in the maelstrom of life.

“It’s reassuring to come here with other young mothers who have those same priorities. I feel very understood,” said Papastritas, who attended the Nov. 29-30 event for the first time.

This camaraderie is the essence of the Women of Dignity Conference, said organizer Kristen Schiller of Catholic Family Ministries. The objective has remained the same at every conference: to offer Catholic women a sense of belonging and empowerment.

“The message here is not one of ‘God loves me so whatever I do I’m fine.’ It’s about asking ourselves ‘How can we take that love forward?’ We want to go out there and evangelize and live the Gospel,” said Schiller.

For Mary Bielski, the great threat to Catholic women today is losing sight of that message.

“What we have now is an identity crisis. Many of us have lost sight of who we really are,” said Bielski, an internationally recognized Catholic speaker and youth minister.

“The culture has a lot of lies we have to fight through … that our joy in life rests in worldly things and not in God. People seek their identities in so many things, but it’s only the beauty of Christ that sets us free. So we need to have faith and be warriors for the Church.”

But to be a warrior is no simple feat. The challenge to keep faith at the centre of family life was a concern for many women in attendance.

“There’s no doubt our Catholic faith is quite contrary to most popular culture now,” said Stacey Jost of St. Albert. “We’re constantly challenged to balance our faith against what goes on among (our children’s) peer groups or the world at large.”

Spiritual growth amidst life’s difficulties was a main focus for Bielski and Fr. Paul Moret, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish. Bielski emphasized that women should not cope with their patterns of sin, but bring them in prayer and seek God’s grace in healing bad habits.

In his presentation to the conference, Moret identified many permanent changes left by the sexual revolution of the 1960s — such as the normalization of birth control and the rise in divorce. Moret says prayer is crucial for women who wish to raise their families with traditional Catholic values.

Harriet Fraser, a mother of 12 children and grandmother of 32, said she felt refreshed by the talks.

“Not only as a Catholic, but also as a mother of 12, you can sometimes think you’re alone in the boat,” said Fraser, 70.

“But to hear Fr. Paul defend the Church’s teachings on birth control, which is something I’ve always been passionate about, it’s a great reminder that Jesus is in the boat, too. 

(Grandin Media)

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