Women find support and strength in Belonging

GREENVILLE—For women who have ever searched in vain for Catholic sisterhood, a space has been made especially for them: the Belonging Catholic Conference for Women. 

The event has a two-fold mission, and the first is to reach out to women who feel they don’t belong and bring them into the fold of the Church. 

“I want women to know that they don’t have to stay in emotional misery,” said keynote speaker Sonja Corbitt, “and that they can have a very intimate relationship with God, despite the woundedness that they may carry.”

The second goal of the conference is to pray for the Church and see it transformed by what these women bring home. 

“The Church needs us to be who God made us to be,” Corbitt said. “Humanity has been given to women. The Church has been given to women.”

In only its second year, the conference on Feb. 23 drew about 400 women, from Greenville all the way to Garden City. Its founder, Tami Kiser, said she had seen the “transformative power” of women’s conferences in other dioceses and wanted to bring that power to South Carolina.

The tradition of prayer during the event was powerful, beginning with a sung rosary and ending with Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. The sacrament of penance, an intention wall, and even a bowl with every diocesan priest’s name within it, were also offered.

Between keynotes, a wide variety of workshops were offered, ranging from the transcendent to the practical — from a deacon and his wife exploring the story of the woman at the well, to a dietician’s best tips for eating well on a budget. Consolation after a miscarriage, support after abortion, prison ministry, and fostering were among some of the other topics.

Dominican Sister Marie Celine said she hoped women “went away strengthened and renewed in heart and mind” after her workshop on pondering the “theology of joy” in Mary’s life.

Corbitt said she sees women-specific events as essential for building feminine, supportive communities and to give “time away from obligations … to be filled up.” 

Many of the women echoed that sentiment. Chinyere Uwakwe from Simpsonville said she came to learn ways to fuel her and her husband’s ministry work. Yvette Russo, from Taylors, came with her six-month-old daughter, Violet, for “renewal, to join with my fellow sisters in Catholic community … in all the parishes in the area.” 

Lema Sudik from Greenwood was moved by the personal witness of speaker Stephanie Sanders in a marriage workshop, while her friend, Annabelle Tinsley, appreciated the useful advice she received from Kiser’s session on, “Fourteen Ways to Bring More Peace into Your Life.” 

“Make time for yourself, that is the main thing,” Tinsley recalled from the session. “It doesn’t mean you are selfish. If you don’t take your time and take care of yourself, you won’t be able to serve the people you love, your friends, the people you work with. I am so happy I had the opportunity to come here.”

“We all belong in the heart of Jesus,” said Corbitt, contemplating the name of the conference. “And that’s where He wants us.”

By Grace Przywara/Special to The Miscellany

Photo provided: A participant at the Belonging conference gets some note-taking help.