MADISON Carrie Lupini’s heart sank, as she saw a police cruiser pulling into the driveway of her Indiana home. She would learn that her eldest son, Anthony, who was home on Christmas break from Purdue University, had suffered a head injury in a car accident — so serious that he had been airlifted to a hospital an hour away.
“I was in fear and panic. Yet, during this dark time, I felt God’s love. He was in control,” said Lupini, a married mother of six and director of Birthright of Kokomo, Ind. On April 1, she recounted the story of her son’s grave injury — one of the greatest moments of crisis in her life — during the fourth-annual diocesan Women’s Conference at St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Diocesan Center for Evangelization at Bayley-Ellard here. “By the third day, doctors said that there was nothing they could do. I felt enfolded in the love and peace of the Almighty Father. At his bedside, I whispered in Anthony’s ear, ‘Take Mary’s hand.’ I saw the Blessed Mother hold up her hand as my son peacefully passed from this life to the next. Today, I’m not bitter, angry or sad. Instead, I serve God with joy,” she said.
The hearts of many of the 250 women, who attended the conference last Saturday, broke for Lupini, as she told her story — a mother’s worst nightmare that might have shattered the faith of many mothers, but brought her to rely on the grace of God. Guided by the theme, “Today’s Catholic Woman: Feminine, Faithful, Fearless,” the conference also welcomed two other speakers: Kate Bryan, a writer and communications director of the American Principles Project in Washington, D.C., and Sister of Christian Charity Ann Marie Paul, director of the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women in Passaic. Here, women of all walks of life — from teens to seniors — had the opportunity to network, ask the speakers questions and pray, during Eucharistic Adoration that concluded the conference — the biggest so far — which was held in St. Paul’s auditorium.
Many of the women clutched tissues as Lupini continued her story, which included another tragic turn. Her third child, Gabriel, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at 14, after many sleepless nights when he heard voices in his head. He took his own life in their home while the rest of the family was attending Mass at their parish church, she said with her voice quivering with emotion.
“I was hysterical, I cried to the heavens,” said Lupini, who also told the audience that the devil had taunted her, calling her a “terrible mother.” “In Confession, Jesus shone the light of truth before the merciful gaze of God. The more I went to Jesus, the more he healed me and the closer we became. Only Jesus can heal,” she said.
Lupini’s powerful talk closed a series of three talks at the conference, which was sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Family Life, led by director, Eni Honsberger. Father Paul Manning, St. Paul’s executive director and diocesan vicar for evangelization, opened the event with a greeting that encouraged the women to “claim the strength and peace that comes from faith,” when facing life’s challenges. Keaton Douglas, a parishioner of St. Thomas, Sandyston, served as host of the conference. Bishop Serratelli was not able to attend but greeted the women in a short video that was shown at the event.
“I’m thrilled to know that you will be spending the day taking about motherhood in all of its beautiful aspects — not simply the physical aspects but the more spiritual as well. I’m happy that you are taking out time, devoting some energy, attention and prayer to this great vocation,” the Bishop said in the video.
In her passionate and humorous talk, Sister Ann Marie reflected on “spiritual motherhood” — a term she once disliked because she considered it “a consolation prize for women, who were not biological mothers.” But over time, she saw it as “a response to God’s call to be open to receiving, birthing and nursing the grace that brings life,” she said.
“The world needs spiritual motherhood, now more than ever,” said Sister Ann Marie, who urged the women to follow the example of the Blessed Mother, “find the courage to respond to God’s will for them,” pass down their life and faith stories to the younger generations and contemplate Jesus in the Eucharist, “which will lead us to be the spiritual mothers that we need to be.”
The conference kicked off its three presentations with Bryan, who issued a call to women to meet God’s call with the “fearlessness and grace” as shown by Mary as the Mother of God. Last year, Bryan demonstrated that faith-filled courage by writing a column that appeared in the Washington Post under the daring headline, “I’m a 32-year-old virgin and I’m living the feminist dream.” In it, she revels that she feels freedom in not having to worry about an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Being single also has given Bryan the time to live her life to the fullest — living abroad, earning a master’s degree, embarking on mission trips, tying new activities and spending time with friends and family, she said.
“Seize every opportunity. Focus on where God is calling you at this time in your life,” said Bryan, who noted that she has been dating and hopes for marriage and family one day. “We women have the power to shape the moral dimension of the culture. We are a vital part of the Church and society. God created us to be witnesses to the rest of the world and light a fire. Go out and be that fire for God,” she said.
Father Manning led Eucharistic Adoration, accompanied by two members of St. Paul’s Music Ministry: Marisel Rodriguez, who sang, and Dan Ferrari, director of diocesan Young Adult Ministry, who played guitar. Earlier in the conference, they performed Ferrari’s song “Every Day, I.”
Afterward, Dee Wayland of Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Parish, Cedar Knolls, a recent retiree from the real estate iness, said that the “diverse group of women of faith” at the conference had greatly encouraged her. “Sister Ann Marie gave us the tools to communicate our faith in everyday life and to see people as Jesus, which is helping with my Lenten prayer to become less judgmental,” Wayland said.