Speaker discusses vocation of being male, female at Young Adult Theology of the Body conference

By Juan Guajardo

Correspondent

Photos by Michael McGee

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Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, was the keynote speaker at a young adult Theology of the Body conference held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller Nov. 23.

As St. Elizabeth Ann Seton youth minister Gabe Gutiérrez started gaining more experience in the world of youth ministry, he began witnessing a trend: Many of his youth were becoming young adults. And Gutiérrez, now in his 10th year as a minister, began realizing the need to keep informing and preparing them “so they can ultimately go to Heaven.” So earlier this year, when Father John Riccardo’s EWTN show introduced him to the idea of putting together a Theology of the Body retreat aimed at young adults, and when Nashville Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, a 17-year theology professor at Aquinas College, called him a few days later about possibly letting her offer a TOB talk, he knew what he had to do.

“If that’s not God telling you to do it, then what is?” Gutiérrez said.

With the help of 10 volunteers he hosted his first Theology of the Body Conference on Nov. 23 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. Braving the cold weather, nearly 60 young adults from around the diocese attended the conference, which featured two keynote speakers and guy and girl gender sessions.

Using examples from Scripture, religious artwork, medicine, science, and everyday life, Sr. Laurel broke down one of the more complex and heavier theological works of our time, Blessed John Paul II’s 129-part Theology of the Body, into more relatable terms for her young audience.

She used many examples to explain the differences between men and women and how those differences — biological and psychological — were instilled by God into our bodies and souls to inform us of what it means to be masculine or feminine. She discussed how the entire female body says “active receptivity” and how the entire male body says “life giving initiative” and how the designs of our bodies communicate this to us. One of those key differences is in the brain, Sr. Laurel said. More white matter in the female brain makes them better at understanding emotions, and at communicating, nurturing, and relationships. Men’s brains, meanwhile, contain more gray matter, which makes them better at finding order and working toward a common goal.

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Father Benjamin Cieply, LC, leads the men’s breakout session.

“Our bodies say we came from love but our bodies also say we came for love,” Sr. Laurel said.

She explained to the young people in the audience, many of whom were couples, that strong marriages create strong families, and strong families create strong societies. But Sr. Laurel reminded her audience that there is a vocation that is being attacked and mocked in society today that is key to creating those strong marriages, families, and societies.

“We have an even more fundamental vocation,” Sr. Laurel said. “The vocation to masculinity and femininity.”

 
 

She went on to outline some of the archetypes surrounding femininity and masculinity and explained that one of the ways the devil attacks us is by using fear — which can lead to perversions of masculinity and femininity, like the controlling woman, the workaholic man, or the criticizing woman and the porn-addicted man.

“God did not intend for man and woman to hold their fears against one another,” Sr. Laurel said. “He intended for man and woman to hold each other in their fear — he protecting and providing, and she encouraging, nurturing, and supporting.”

She added, “The joy and love between them and their children reflects the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

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Sister Maria Simona Pia of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate takes questions from women during their breakout session.

Indeed, Sr. Laurel pointed out that a loving relationship between husband and wife is the most important indicator that a family will raise a happy and secure child.

In an interview after her talk, Sr. Laurel mentioned that helping young adults have a true understanding of love, and self-gift of body could lead to positive and big changes in our society and could stem the tide of divorce.

Indeed, she and Gutiérrez hope to keep sharing the message of the Theology of the Body.

“I think it’s fantastic and what the Church needs,” Sr. Laurel said of the conference. “Maybe it’ll catch on in other dioceses.”

Gutiérrez was pleased with the conference and hopes to do it again next year.

“I think people are hungry for truth,” he said. “When you offer them, ‘Hey let me tell you something different. Let me tell you something real.’ It resonates. That hits to the core of who we are as people.”

Elizabeth Gonzalez, 23, attended the conference with a few friends from her young adult group at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fort Worth.

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St. Elizabeth Ann Seton youth minister Gabe Gutiérrez (right) poses with Sr. Laurel.

“The whole Theology of the Body is a message we need to hear,” she said. “As far as our bodies or sex it’s portrayed differently out in society than what it’s supposed to be.”

Gonzalez said she plans to learn more about Theology of the Body and do more reading on the topic.

That’s exactly what Gutiérrez wants to hear. He hopes the participants will use what they learned from the conference in their daily lives, and if they are called to marriage, to use it as preparation to form a strong marriage and family. Moreover, he hopes they take the TOB message back to their peers at their home parishes or their universities.

“When people hear it, it’s mind blowing,” he said.

YA-ToB-Sr-Jane-Dominic-Laurel-Button.jpgAs St. Elizabeth Ann Seton youth minister Gabe Gutiérrez started gaining more experience in the world of youth ministry, he began witnessing a trend: Many of his youth were becoming young adults. And Gutiérrez, now in his 10th year as a minister, began realizing the need to keep informing and preparing them “so they can ultimately go to Heaven.” So earlier this year, when Father John Riccardo’s EWTN show introduced him to the idea of putting together a Theology of the Body retreat aimed at young adults, and when Nashville Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, a 17-year theology professor at Aquinas College, called him a few days later about possibly letting her offer a TOB talk, he knew what he had to do.

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