Women encouraged to reach out, spread ‘joy of the Gospel’

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

Sharon Furchner remembers her mother saying, “Sometimes it is hard to be Catholic in a small town.”

Furchner, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Wahkon, now understands what her mother meant. She has to drive a distance to celebrate most faith-related events including Mass, eucharistic adoration and other church-related activities.

Like many women, Furchner works full time and isn’t able to be involved in ministries that meet on weekdays. That’s why she was especially excited to attend the annual fall conference for the St. Cloud Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Sept. 20 at St. Marcus Parish in Clear Lake.

“When I travel to an event,” Furchner said, “I look at every opportunity to feed my spirituality as a pilgrimage. It gives me a real sense of joy knowing I am going somewhere to share my faith with like-minded people.”

Joy was the theme of the conference, beginning with a keynote address by Bishop Donald Kettler centered on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Sharing the message

“I would really feel like I accomplished a lot today if you went away and decided to read Pope Francis’ letter yourselves,” Bishop Kettler said. “He is inviting us all to a renewed personal relationship with Christ. Despite all of our difficulties and challenges, he reminds us all to remain joyful.”

Bishop Kettler shared his own points of interest from the document and encouraged everyone to accept the call to go out and seek those who have fallen away and to meet the outcasts of society.

“I have shared this message with you,” he said, “with the hope that you will reflect on it and see your own call to be missionaries, evangelizers and help spread the joy of the Gospel in your homes with your families, in your churches, communities and wherever you are.”

Marty Roers, community education and leadership manager for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, continued the theme with his presentation, “Pope Francis’ Gospel Joy: A renewed look at our faith and service as the Council of Catholic Women.”

“It was a great reminder to hear it explained that there can be joy in suffering,” Furchner recalled. “We can always be full of joy, even when life is messy. We shouldn’t wait until tomorrow or until we are older. Marty reminded us to live joyfully today.”

Roers also described the difference between being happy and being joyful.

“He said that happiness is a feeling but being joyful is a choice,” Furchner said.

Taking action

Chris Codden, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, was a third presenter, talking about spiritual adoption and 40 Days for Life.

“The joy of the Gospel is not just sitting back with a smile on our face,” Codden said. “It is about action. Joy is a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and bears fruit. So, how do we reach out to evangelize and bear fruit? By assisting mothers and fathers to feel Christ’s love and compassion as they may struggle with a pregnancy, to know the love Jesus has for all his children, born and unborn, and that each one, from the moment of conception is worthy of dignity and respect.”

Amy Schmitz, reverence life coordinator at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Springfield, Minn., and her five daughters traveled from the Diocese of New Ulm to help staff the spiritual adoption booth where participants could make name bracelets to help them remember to pray for babies in danger of being aborted.

A business meeting was lead by current president, Julie Moorhead-Miller, and two new officers were elected. Carol Brunn, parishioner of Mary of the Visitation Parish, Becker, was elected treasurer, and Eva Koep, member of St. Edward Parish, Henning, was elected as vice president. Mass, lunch and installation of the new officers were part of the day.

“All the events of the day helped me remember that I need to spend time deepening my own conversion,” Furchner said. “It means not staying in my own little box. As Bishop Kettler said, we are all evangelizers. By living our faith daily with the joy of the Gospel, people will see us going through our life situations and notice that, despite our trials, we are not in despair. Our example will give them hope.”