Since the 2016 conference, I have been imagining what a “Women of the Church” community would or could look like in between events. I felt so “high” after that first conference I thought to myself, how can I sustain this sense of joy day in and day out. The women I had been introduced to both in the speakers and those who attended were women I wanted to stay connected to when the daily grind got to be too much. I have yearned for community ever since and wondered what a virtual community might look like.
I see our website as a place, a virtual place, to connect with other women in the Church from around the country. During the pandemic I have experienced some great examples of what a virtual community can be like. Namely the St. William Parish Community in downtown Louisville through their Zoom In-Home Bread Service. But also, without leaving my home I have listened to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who is a pediatrician, professor and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint water crisis. I have participated in a webinar event with Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK which works to create a society that promotes justice. I have met Heather Cox Richardson, author and history professor at Boston College. I participate in prayer vigils hosted by Catholic Mobilizing Network, praying for those people scheduled to be executed that evening. Those that host and create these vigils are all women. My list could go on.
These events would never replace a face-to-face encounter or a group gathering, but it certainly can sustain people, and build community around the things that we care about the most. These virtual spaces of websites, e-newsletters and timely posts can keep the fires burning until we meet again.
Emails from our 2019 Conference participants also inspire me, and I hope all of us, to keep working toward building a community. One attendee remembers the “transformative and uplifting” experience of the 2019 conference which prompted her to reach out to an unknown virtual “other” in the hope of another event sometime in the future. When I messaged another participant recently, she said, “I am so glad you all are moving toward another Women’s Conference opportunity. They are so life giving!”
As I bring all of these women to mind, and keep them in my prayers, and continue to list them in a special notebook, I call them my “living communion of saints”. Women who dedicate their lives to others, for the good of all and who can inspire other women to find their particular gifts and to nurture them and bring them to life. I believe our virtual community through the website has the potential to be a place for women to visit periodically, to learn, to know they are not alone and to grow this living communion of saints, until we meet again, face-to-face. In hope!