Keynote presenter and nationally known speaker and author Liz Kelly (now Liz Kelly Stanchina) addresses participants at the 2022 Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s annual convention at Heartwood Resort in Trego. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

After nine months of planning, Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women president Jane Schiszek arrived at Heartwood Resort in Trego Monday, June 27, to begin setting up for the organization’s 72nd annual convention.

Schiszek’s “anticipation and excitement were mounting as everything started falling into place.”
The introduction of a two-day format for the 2022 convention was well received, with 55 in attendance for both June 28-29 and another 33 participants for just the second day, which featured keynote speaker Liz Kelly and Mass with Bishop James P. Powers. There, officers were installed and the Pax Christi Award nominees and winner announced.

Schiszek was pleased to have 23 first-timers attend the convention. She was particularly grateful for the generosity of Bishop Powers and SDCCW chaplain Fr. Jim Brinkman, who were present both days.
“While the Heartwood Resort provided a beautiful and peaceful venue, it was the bishop, Fr. Jim and all the ladies attending the convention that added to the ambiance and success of the convention,” Schiszek said.

‘Unique,’ ‘unifying’ role

Wednesday’s keynote address was given by author and speaker Liz Kelly (who has since changed to her married name, Liz Kelly Stanchina) on the topic of “Your Mission, Your Majesty: Why the World Needs a Woman Exactly Like You.”

The sixth child in a family of seven, mostly girls, she introduced her talk sharing memories of what it was like to have her father affirm her femininity as a gift and blessing. This childhood experience revisited her in a message she received during prayer while preparing for the convention.

“You’re a good girl,” Kelly said, transmitting the words of God the Father to each one present. “What the Father thinks of us matters.”

Kelly then moved into a contemplation of scenes between Good Friday and the morning of the Resurrection – Mary’s hesitation to wash her son’s blood from her clothes. Once she has a basin filled with the bloody-brackish water, she wonders what to do with it, deciding on using it to water the roots of a tree in a nearby garden.

Fast-forwarding to to Easter morning, the Blessed Mother awakes to an aroma, wondering, what is that fragrance? When she walks to the window and sees the tree she’d watered with her son’s blood, Mary is startled to see it completely covered in white blossoms.

In that moment she senses Jesus behind her. He’s beaming and dazzlingly alive. Mother and son have a wonderful moment of reunion. She senses that something bigger is happening when realizes she is laughing and crying at the same time.

Jesus then tells her of the work he has for her before departing to encounter his disciples.

These moments of mediation are followed by Kelly’s affirmation to the women, “We add to the body of Christ in ways that are particularly unique and unifying. The gift of the feminine genius is the way it manifests in motherhood, the way we bring about more life and opportunities for people to flourish.”

Kelly then added, paraphrasing words of Edith Stein, now St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, “When a woman enters an environment, she humanizes it.”

Kelly continued unpacking the meaning of this “feminine genius” as coined by St. Pope John Paul II, calling it an “entrustment” of humanity to women.

In reality, she said, “No one possessed more than Mary,” the woman Jesus was mothered by and whom he gave to the church to help keep it nourished and alive.

“Our spiritual mothering is nourishing to the church body,” Kelly said. Addressing the largely hidden and behind-the-scenes work many women do, Kelly said, “You’re in good company.”

Then taking a look at early women in Scripture, she highlighted what it says about the role women are meant to take in the church. “Women are immediately tied to being keepers of life and guarding it.”

Woman is, Kelly said, quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The keeper of the seal of life, she who bears the key of life, and thus touching directly the mystery of being, the living God.”

“Our dignity, our majesty, is tied up with our ability to be bearers of the seal of life,” she added. “Even sin cannot remove it, and in this way we touch God’s very being.”

There is, Kelly continued, “Something intrinsic in women that hopes in life, that hopes in flourishing and wants to create environments where others can flourish … This is part of how we’re created in God’s image,” she said, iterating that it is a gift and an entrustment to protect, to guard and to nourish life.

Kelly asked, “Could there be a time where our entrustment is more needed?” She listed the numerous varieties of sin against life – all “directly contrary to our feminine genius. Oh, women, your majesty is needed,” she said. “Your feminine genius can become a vehicle for the Incarnation to work in the world.”

Concluding with another Scriptural contemplation, Kelly recounted the interaction between Jesus and his mother at the wedding at Cana.

She concentrated on how Mary exacts her feminine genius, seeing the couple’s needs, stating, “A mother does not prepare the path for the child, but the child for the path.”

The holy mother’s burning hope is in her child, in the inherent goodness of life. It is the confidence that extends to every woman seeing the goodness of her child, believing in the blessed dignity of every human person.

Mary serves as a corrective to Eve’s invitation to Adam to sin, Kelly said. This is her last effort before Jesus sets out on his mission.

“A woman believes and trusts in life’s potential for blossoming. Mary waters the root of the young tree with her son’s blood, but it was hers, first, after all,” Kelly concluded. “This is a kind of hope the world desperately needs.”