For those who don’t know, there’s a gem in this little town of Steubenville Ohio called Franciscan University.
Okay so first off, I want to go back in time and attend there.
Secondly, since time travel is not an option, I am determined to have my nephews attend there. The oldest nephew is 13 so this gives me 4 solid years to work on him. Hey, I mean, he’s already seriously considering attending a Franciscan high school so, I don’t think this will be too great a task.
So why mention this university? Well, I recently had the privilege of attending an academic conference there called Woman: Gift in Culture and Church.
Now when most people hear “Steubenville” and “conference” they automatically think of one of these – a teen or young adult or adult conference. But this wasn’t one of those.
This conference was the brainchild of a young woman named Haley Ketschke, an education major. This Friday/Saturday conference was essentially her senior capstone project for the University’s Center for Leadership program.
Together with co-leaders Toni Brown and Marykate Heim, these young ladies put on an amazing and well-organized conference with 4 of the most prominent and popular theology speakers of our time giving their keynote addresses. I was just in awe from start to finish. To think that 3 students put on this conference was just amazing to me.
I don’t have the ability to dissect every session that I attended but I wanted to give a few quick snippets of wisdom that I learned while I was there.
Dr. Pia de Solenni
I attended her keynote called Women in the Body of Christ and in Society as well as one of her breakouts called Maternity and Its Impact on Society.
Main talking points from both talks:
- A relationship built and based on love and not one of power, is the goal.
- No one questions their “rights” and “power” when their relationship is based in love
- Adam and Eve were promised love but chose power. In effect they lost love and gained power.
- Motherhood is not something you “do.” It’s who you ARE.
- Jesus broke ground in several ways with women – Mary Magdalene as the Apostle to the Apostles. At the Last Supper the disciples were asked to do “women ‘s work.” The woman at the well was the only one who gets up and proclaims He is the Messiah. Everyone else questioned him.
- “Helpmate” – a form of divine assistance; woman was created as a form of divine assistance to man. (Examples – Moses’ sister returning him back to his mother; Judith helping to liberate Israel)
- “The future of the world depends upon women.” Pope Paul VI
- Every woman is called to live in maternity – every part of her – spirituality, physicality, mentality
- We know men and woman can do the same things; the question is about being and how that effects what we do; what does it mean to be a bride? The Church is the Bride of Christ
- This all points to marriage of some kind. We have the gift of modeling bride- we have the ability of what it means to be Church.
- We need to keep with the love story, not a story of power. We need to stop asking how we can have better roles in the Church of POWER. This is not what we were created for.
- Here’s our challenge: How can men and women better live out their vocations outside the 4 walls of the Church?
Dr. Michael Waldstein
I attended his keynote called Where the Order of Love First Takes Root: Woman as Help
The poor guy had to talk after lunch, the most undesirable spot for any speaker anywhere in any venue. But he handled it like a champ and despite his soft spoken and soothing voice, I managed to understand and take a great interest in what he was saying. He gave a great presentation incorporating lines from John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women) and this beautiful piece of art called Assumption of the Virgin by Titian.
It was kind of like art history blended with theology. Really fascinating!
I also attended one of his breakouts called Why the Dominant Culture Opposes the Order of Love which was all about how we have gotten to this point in our culture. He discussed Sir Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. He discussed this ambition for power over nature. It was a short talk in order for him to answer questions instead so we could focus on solutions. One of his answers to “How do we reverse these effects of how the culture has been heading?” was to find like-minded people and to “delight in goodness. See deeply the goodness in people, especially those who serve.”
Dr. William Newton
He was the first keynote speaker and his talk was titled:
Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: Exploring the Ecclesial Vocation of the Women
- The Genius of Woman is not an IQ – it is a kind of intelligence. It allows a woman to read inwardly the heart of the a person
- She sees the human dignity of each person, the value.
- It’s written into us as women, like a charism.
- The family is the most important job for a woman – to build Christendom in the household, this is the goal and it is always collaborative!
- The mother has a more decisive role in bringing Christendom into her home – Why? Because she is essentially the home. Her womb being the original home.
- Women evoke love, we kickstart the process of loving, softening a man’s heart.
- If we are going to live our vocation we need to bring our femininity with us!
Dr. Newton’s breakout session I attended was titled:
Deaconesses in the Church: Why or Why Not?
My notes were super sloppy on this one but he presented both sides of this issue by asking two questions:
- Is there any compelling evidence in favor of deaconesses?
- Is there any compelling evidence against it?
After addressing these questions he asked if this was of ecclesial or divine origin? He also questions if we then include the deaconate in the Holy Orders. If Canon Law says it IS a Holy Order, then is the Canon Law infallible?
The whole discussion was really interesting and although my notes are clear, I couldn’t obviously present his case right here. He concluded, in his own opinion, that there is no compelling evidence for deaconesses and strong evidence against it. But he also said the jury is still not out on this so don’t be surprised if we hear people debating this again soon.
Dr. Deborah Savage
I only heard her keynote talk called The Genius of Man and Woman: Complementarity as Mission
If I had a to pick a favorite, I would say this one was it for me. She had awesome anecdotes, she was very clear about what she was trying to communicate and she was funny!
Some key points:
- Why did God create us male and female? We have a responsibility to answer this question in order to save the world and fix the culture
- Creation story – Life forms were created from lower to higher. Women being created “second” to man is not accurate; we were created last! We are on our way up!
- The word “helper” is not a servant or a slave – We are considered Divine Aid. We are help sent by God, someone who can help men to live.
- Eve is not below Adam but she’s also not above him – she is NEXT to him.
- Man knows things that woman does not – he has dominion over the animals. He likes to know how things work, what does it do, what is it for?
- This is part of his masculine genius
- He also knows woman is not an object and cannot treat her like the other “things” and animals. It’s a reciprocal relationship from the start
- Woman Genius – We are more naturally oriented towards persons
- Woman sees herself in light of the other
- The existence of living persons, either in the womb or walking around, cannot be forgotten while we frantically get tasks done
- We are ordered toward authentic human flourishing
- Why did the serpent tempt Eve if they are equal? Because she knows very little about the things of this world; she was at a disadvantage.
- The serpent starts at the top! He knew if he could trick Eve, he could get to Adam
- Adam failed Eve at the moment she needed his protection the most
There was a Q&A Panel discussion that I couldn’t stay for but I’m sure it was incredibly helpful and informative. It was to be audience-led and I’m willing to bet there were many questions that were addressed that I myself wanted to get answers to. But another conference for another time I suppose!
I will say I left the conference feeling hope for the future. Granted I was clearly one of the few non-students in attendance, it was really encouraging to see so many young people eager to learn how they as women (and men) can be a gift to our Church and how to turn our Culture around from one of death to one of life giving love!