This past week, I had the opportunity to travel with my dear friend & sister, Julia, to Washington, D.C. for the inaugural GIVEN Forum hosted by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is one of the two major councils of women religious in the United States. There were nearly 100 religious sisters present throughout our week from various orders across the country.
What’s the GIVEN Forum?
The GIVEN Forum is a leadership conference put together for Catholic women ages 20 – 30 to cultivate, inspire and recognize the unique gifts of each woman and her own unique contribution to the Church and to the world. Each woman is tasked with the development of an action plan. This plan is proposed to address a void or need in the Church, specifically based on experiences the individual has had in her diocese, parish or community. If selected, the individual will attend a week-long forum that will combine the practical with the spiritual in order to develop skills that will enable each individual to formulate and implement an action plan throughout the next year.
I found out about the GIVEN Forum through an individual who had posted the information on a Facebook group that I am a part of, Blessed Is She, which is for Catholic women in the midwest region. Upon reading what the forum was all about, I immediately sent a note to Julia to see if she would be interested in tackling an action plan that we could implement together.
Our Action Plan
We created an action plan surrounding the need we have witnessed and experienced through personal familiarity and countless discussions with other women regarding body literacy education and fertility awareness advocacy. We have found that young women, especially in high school and college, do not have practical tools or necessary education about reproductive health as each woman should. Not only is it necessary, it is her right to know and to understand how her body works in order to make informed and healthy choices. We both personally experienced the difficulties in finding information in one succinct location that offered us the tools and information necessary to understand our health, especially as a woman. The reproductive system isn’t rocket science – it’s easy to understand, especially if one is empowered and supported to learn it!
With that being said, Julia and I wrote up an action plan that addressed these issues in a feasible and practical way. This action plan will be finalized and implemented in spring 2017. Stay tuned!
Julia and I had an incredible week together in Washington, D.C. at the Catholic University of America surrounded by 300 beautiful women representing all 50 states and nearly 100 religious sisters from orders around the country. We felt so mothered and loved during our time together!
One particular aspect that stood out to me was the ability for women to truly be authentically free in ourselves and in our womanhood. Insecurities melted away and everyone was so receptive and welcoming to each other. Whether it was walking by and exchanging smiles or joining tables of women for meals – there was a beautiful sense of openness and immediate connections that were so incredible to experience!
In a culture of isolation and “friends” on social media, it was amazing to meet and enter into authentic friendships with so many women. Competition was non-existent, comparison didn’t rule, and cattiness was never experienced. It was this (among many other enriching moments) that the immense fruits of GIVEN were experienced and the authentic joy of being a woman was so beautifully lived out!
We heard from incredible speakers, including Dr. Carolyn Woo, Ericka Bachiochi, Sr. Mary Gabriel, Helen Alvaré, Luanne Zurlo, Catholic Voices, Hallie Lord, Laraine Bennett and so many other inspiring women of the Lord!
It was such a gift to experience and live out a joyfully free week with other women and to be receptive to the gifts that we have been GIVEN by the Lord.
St. Faustina, pray for us!