Women gather to receive God’s love at the North Texas Catholic Women’s Conference
KELLER — “Ladies, here this morning, you all have chosen the better portion. Oh, and I know it was a struggle,” said Father Agustino Torres, CFR, at the Bowden Events Center in Keller. “It probably was a struggle to get out of the house.”
On October 14, five hundred women gathered at the second annual North Texas Catholic Women’s Conference. Speakers Fr. Torres and Jackie Francois Angel gave encouraging messages about the love God has for each woman. Special guests at the event were a second-class relic of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as Jesus, present in the Eucharist.
Over a decade ago, Tammy Sandoval had the idea to host a women’s retreat. She brought this idea to her spiritual director, who encouraged her to pray about the idea for nine months.
Nine months turned to nine years, and eventually Sandoval’s friends encouraged her to bring her idea to fruition. This was the birth of the nonprofit North Texas Catholic Women. While the nonprofit hosts pop-up events throughout North Texas, their crown jewel is the North Texas Catholic Women’s Conference. Sandoval hopes that the organization will grow to host many more events to serve even more women.
Already, they serve many. While the majority of the attendees to the conference came from the Fort Worth and Dallas dioceses, some attended from Midland, the Woodlands, DeLeon, Forney, Allen, Canton, and Rowlett. Out of state attendees came from Arkansas, Michigan, and Idaho. Almost 40 Catholic parishes were represented as well as an Episcopal church and a non-denominational church.
Sandoval, the other six board members of North Texas Catholic Women, and many volunteers worked together to create a beautiful atmosphere and arrange for a day of formation and support for the women who attended. The room was well lit from sparkly chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows. Each table was adorned with a white tablecloth, a beautiful centerpiece of floating candles, and a rosary. “We’ve tried to make it immensely feminine,” Sandoval told the North Texas Catholic.
Good Shepherd parishioner Marylynn Landry attended the conference last year and was excited to come again this year. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend an entire day with other ladies, immersing yourself. Not thinking about the laundry or any chores,” she told the NTC.
Abigail Vanikiotis, also from Good Shepherd, came to the conference looking for community in the North Texas area — and for something more. “Conferences are such a good way to deepen your personal faith,” she told the NTC.
Speaker Fr. Torres talked about the Father’s love. “Women, you all know what it feels like to be looked at, but not seen. To be gawked at and not gazed upon. You all know, and you feel in your bones these feelings of being used and abused.”
But the story doesn’t end with woundedness. Fr. Torres invited the women present to “allow the Father to gaze upon you in love.”
Worship leader Francois Angel affirmed that it can be difficult for women to trust God after experiencing pain, betrayal, and trauma. Inviting the women to sing with her, Francois Angel played a song about the Father’s love. Afterward, many dried their eyes. Francois Angel encouraged them with a quote from St. Ephrem the Syrian: “Crying is a sign that God is working in you.”
Francois Angel believes “Mama Mary” is a perfect model for trusting in the Father’s love — Mary said “yes” to God as a teenager. Indicating the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe prominently displayed at the front of the room, Francois Angel said, “She is the woman on fire with God’s love... She is clothed with the sun.”
Speaking of being clothed with the sun, as Francois Angel spoke, the sky darkened. After Francois Angel’s message, several women gathered outside. Gabriela Janes from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller had brought eclipse glasses, passing them around for women to take turns looking at the annular solar eclipse.
“It was hard to get here,” Janes told the NTC, “because I have kids, I have a husband, but I made it a priority. It’s so good to be here, to be inspired.”
Joan Orlowski, also from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, agreed. “Jackie is so inspiring!”
After lunch, Fr. Zachary Burns, TOR, spoke about Eucharistic Adoration and how Jesus was adored in the Blessed Sacrament. The gold monstrance sparkled amidst the backdrop of the blue sky shining through the windows.
During breaks, women venerated the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe — a replica that had touched the original tilma.
Ingrid Meyer from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Dallas and Aurora Tinajero from Immaculate Conception Parish in Grand Prairie hosted the visit of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Our Lady of Guadalupe is completely Christ-centered,” Meyer told the NTC.
As was the conference. Sandoval told the NTC that the event was “bathed in the Holy Spirit.”