By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
You are a woman of peace. These are the words heard by women who attended the 2018 Catholic Women’s Conference.
The message was delivered by Sarah Hart, a Catholic songwriter and musician who served as keynote speaker at the event. The day’s theme was “Experiencing God’s Peace.”
About 450 women attended the half-day conference held at St. Patrick Church in Eastwood. The day was filled with song, presentations and a Mass.
Speaking of what it means to be a woman of peace, Hart quoted St. Teresa of Kolkata: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Belonging, Hart said, is the “essence of peace.”
Interwoven into her talk were Scripture passages, personal stories and songs of affirmation, including her Grammy-nominated song “Better Than a Hallelujah.” Her songs have been covered by Amy Grant, Matt Maher and Celtic Woman. In 2013, she was invited to perform for Pope Francis and a crowd of 150,000 in St. Peter’s Square.
Seated at a piano in St. Patrick Church, she recalled the story of the Prodigal Son and noted that everyone has been
in a place of despair like the prodigal son after he squandered his inheritance.
“We’ve all been in a place like that in our lives. There’s no where to go but up — rock bottom,” she said.
If you have ever been at the bottom then you know there is no where to go but up, she said.
“How hard it is to make peace with ourselves. … You have to make peace with yourself and everything about your life and everything around you,” she said.
She asked those gathered, “What does this look like in our daily life?”
Hart recalled a story of a time she nearly fought over a parking spot at a Starbucks. She returned to her car, looked at herself in the rear-view mirror and thought that she looked “like a wild animal.”
“I pulled away and prayed, ‘God, make me a woman of peace’ because sometimes we blow it.
“Jesus understands how you feel when your kid hasn’t done their homework — again — and you’re yelling at them. Jesus does understand our frustration,” she said.
Hart encouraged the women gathered to accept themselves for “just who we are — beautiful messes, fallen people who are all broken in some way, just trying to navigate the world, trying to get through life, trying to see God,” she said.
Hart asked members of her audience to look at her neighbor and say, “You are a woman of peace” followed by “or at least you are working on it,” which drew laughter from the crowd.
The morning continued with a presentation by Sister of Social Service Eva Marie Lumas, who also spoke later that day at the African American Catholic Leadership Awards Dinner.
The women’s conference concluded with a liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
Conference attendees were encouraged to bring feminine care products to be donated to local agencies that serve women.