After speaking to families throughout the Diocese of Orange, longtime youth ministers Pam Hurwitz and her daughter, Jyllian Rhodes, have found that Catholic women greatly need spiritual nurturing.
In talking with these women, Rhodes and Hurwitz discovered that parents and kids aren’t often communicating face-to-face. Gone are family dinner hours where children and their parents share news of their day. ‘Family time’ has come to mean something altogether different, and the families who pray together are rare.
Tired and anxious, women of all ages – young professionals, working mothers, retired grandmothers and stay-at-home moms all “need a pasture to lay down in,” Hurwitz says. “Women want very practical ways to find meaning in the midst of all the craziness in their lives. They don’t want more – they want meaning.”
In response, Hurwitz and Rhodes and their team are offering a first-ever, intergenerational conference, “Women Gather,” beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse at 480 S. Batavia Street in Orange. A keynote speaker, breakout sessions for particular ages and interests, lunch and Mass are part of the program.
The conference theme is “Known.” Organizers say it offers “a chance for women to be seen, heard, held and known by Christ.” Its aim is to encourage attendees “to find the mission and call that lies within them.”
“What’s been so empowering is that every woman we’ve brought this up to has said ‘our hearts have been wanting this,’” Hurwitz says. “Each one of them echoes that the time is now for this need in our community.”
Rhodes says their discussions with women of various ages shared these themes:
- I am wanting to take another step in my own faith journey. I went on the internet this summer and I was willing to pay whatever it takes to go to a Catholic conference for women, but I couldn’t find one.
- I’ve lost my husband and I need to connect with and be with other women who have walked a similar path. I need to hear the message of Christ’s healing.
- My kids aren’t going to Mass anymore. I want to find a way to make the Mass relevant to our family’s life, but I can’t find a place for that specific message.
- I must find a way to make my own journey back to experiencing Jesus. I want to be reminded of who He is to me.
- I’m a young adult and just moved home from college, and I want to meet other young adult women to reestablish a spiritual community for myself.
“I’ve met quite a few women from three generations who want to hear the message of Jesus together, as mother, daughter, and grandmother,” Rhodes adds.
“Women Gather” kicks off with keynote speaker Michelle Benzinger, a Florida-based theologian, podcaster and entrepreneur who leads Greenhouse Collective and Meaningful Market. After her presentation attendees can select various options for smaller workshops, focusing on topics such as women in scripture, spirituality and friendships, art, and practical ways to incorporate prayer into daily life. Cost is $45; included in the event are lunch, vendor exhibits, and Mass. To register, visit www.womengather.net.
Also involved in planning the conference are Amy D’Ambra, owner of Wearable Blessings and My Saint My Hero; Cara Morales, licensed marriage and family counselor and a former religion teacher; and Lori Stanley, of the Loyola Institute for Spirituality.
“What we find is that the passing on of faith through the generations is starting to become weaker and quieter,” Hurwitz notes. “I’m discovering that I must be specific when I speak about things like Advent wreaths, for instance, because faith traditions haven’t necessarily been passed on in families.”
The mother-daughter team say that one merely needs to observe how few families attend Mass together on Sunday mornings to realize the growing importance of parents and children working together to develop strong, mutual, and practical ways to incorporate faith into their lives.
The duo speaks individually and together to groups small and large throughout Southern California and beyond at back-to-school nights, parish meetings, and in family homes. In the past few weeks they’ve appeared at diocesan schools as well as to groups as far afield as Salinas, Tehachapi, and Bakersfield.
“We offer very practical ways for families to find meaning in their messy, busy lives,” Rhodes says.
In addition to founding “Women Gather,” Hurwitz and Rhodes – who have years of experience ministering to youth and young adults at San Antonio de Padua parish in Anaheim Hills and St. Anne’s Church in Seal Beach – recently established an Anaheim Hills-based business, Faith + Family Collective.
Faith + Family Collective offers the team as speakers and facilitators for parishes, organizations, and small groups, for various presentations, including workshops, reflection days, parish missions and retreats. They also offer a small selection of inspirational resources for parents and families. To learn more, visit their website, faithandfamilycollective.com.