Colleen Carol Campbell never expected to find purpose through a relationship with the saints.
“Christmas break and boredom can make a college student do desperate things and one December, it made me crack open a biography of Teresa of Avila — and once I did, I was hooked.”
Campbell, a former presidential speechwriter, print and broadcast journalist and author, was one of seven keynote speakers at the sixth annual Phoenix Catholic Women’s Conference Feb. 20. Her talk, “The Wisdom of the Women Saints,” discussed her journey to find meaning in life and how she stumbled upon it in the lives of the saints.
The conference was held at Xavier College Preparatory and was sponsored by the Phoenix Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. Over 600 women of all ages and backgrounds attended.
Roberta Bazaldua, second vice president of the PDCCW and chairwoman of the Women’s Conference, stated it’s important for women to attend the conference because it allows women to address their own spiritual needs.
“We’re so busy, there’s just so many things going on in our lives and we usually put everybody else first. As women, that’s just who we are,” Bazaldua said. “We’ll nurture everyone else, we’ll take care of their needs, not fully understanding that we need to be nurtured and we need to have our needs met as well. The conferences allow for that.”
The PDCCW meets with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted every year, about eight months prior to the conference, to ask for his guidance regarding a theme. Bazaldua mentioned this year was a “no-brainer” with the Year of Mercy being called.
All of the talks given at the 2016 conference reflected the theme of God’s mercy. Campbell spoke about the pattern of God’s mercy in her life, beginning with the day she read about St. Teresa of Avila.
“Maybe it was the opening chapter of a love story — one very similar to the one that Teresa had lived, in which the Divine Protagonist pursues His beloved with reckless ardor, until He ultimately wins her heart,” Campbell said.
Campbell also explained how women have opportunities to practice acts of mercy in their daily lives. “Think about that irritating co-worker, that never ending pile of laundry, that needy parent, the defiant child. Each gives us a chance to practice charity and patience over selfishness.”
Lita Arroyo, coordinator of high school evangelization at St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert and keynote speaker at the conference, also described the necessity of showing mercy daily. “I think people are afraid to be merciful,” Arroyo said. “I think we tend to think of mercy as just giving money to people that are asking for something on the freeway off-ramp.”
Arroyo said selfishness with time is also a great obstacle to overcome. “We just don’t have a lot, we think we don’t have any to give — but we do.”
Tobi Ballentine, parishioner at St. Timothy in Mesa, left the conference fulfilled. “It’s been very revealing and that causes a lot of contemplation,” Ballentine said.
Alissa Porteous, a young mother and parishioner at St. Mary Magdalene, said attending the conference provided an outlet for young women to get involved in the life of the Church.
“As a young Mom, I feel like us younger women in the diocese need to get involved, we need to show our face,” Porteous said. “It’s been a beautiful day, the gift of Our Lord in the Eucharist is transformational for everybody.”
The conferences concluded with Mass celebrated by Bishop Olmsted. Bishop Olmsted reiterated the depths of God’s mercy in his homily, saying, “Jesus’ love surrounds us on every side: in the doubts, in darkness, in suffering. He’s with us on the whole journey back to eternal life, so let us trust Him.”