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December 7, 2015 | Volume 91 Number 3


photo: Speaker Rachel Sherburne

Speaker Rachel Sherburne

Women urged to be authentic as sharers of God’s love

With the theme of “Women on the Way,” speakers at the diocese’s third annual Catholic Women’s Conference proclaimed the dignity of women, stressed the need for women to be authentic and emphasized that they must share God’s love and hope with others.

The conference, held Nov. 21 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, had simultaneous events in English and Spanish. Pat Gohn and Rachel Sherburne addressed approximately 400 women at the English session while Gloria Coronado and Dulce Jimenes lectured to about 200 at the Spanish session.

Ms. Gohn is the author of the book “Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious” which focuses on the dignity, gifts and mission of women. Her podcast, found at, celebrates women’s faith and life. She also has written for online and print media and has regular columns in Catholic Digest and Catechist magazines.

Ms. Sherburne, previously an Air Force officer and missionary, speaks internationally and is a writer, seminar leader and coach whose life mission is to help others discover hope.

Ms. Coronado and her husband founded the Virgin of Guadalupe Catholic Media Ministry which has conferences and formation activities, promotes family values and traditions and uses Catholic Radio in San Antonio to promote its teachings.

Ms. Jimenes, a professor and translator of religious material, is currently the director of Spanish programs for Sadlier Publishing Company. She has presented numerous workshops in Spanish on the integration of Spanish-speaking culture to catechesis and on practical ways to teach bilingual children.

In her presentation, Ms. Gohn emphasized that each person is “priceless” in God’s eyes.

Ms. Gohn, who grew up on Long Island, said that while on a family vacation in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia as a youth, she was “awestruck” by the “intoxicating beauty” of the scenery and knew that God was with her. Later, while on a retreat as a teenager, she said she gave her “heart to Jesus and never looked back.”

She emphasized that God designed each person, male and female, to be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece with “God’s genius within us.”

Ms. Gohn said that to know one’s blessed dignity, individuals must know who they are and whose they are. She explained that the who is found in the fact that God made each person in his image, and the whose begins at baptism when God “claims the person” and begins a relationship with her.

Ms. Sherburne stressed an individual must be authentic; that is, instead of trying to be someone she is not, she should be her unique, real self.

“You are amazing. Every single one of you is a gift, a masterpiece, a daughter of the most-high God,” she said. “He delights in you. You are his eternal bride. So be authentically you. There is nothing better.”

She urged the women not to judge themselves by worldly standards, explaining that although individuals tend to concentrate on one’s physical appearance, God looks at the person’s heart.

As Ms. Gohn said, “We live from the inside out.”

Ms. Sherburne said that at age 28, she thought her life was “on track” because she had been a successful Air Force officer and missionary, and she had a “very handsome, successful fiance” who adored her. Two years later her life “fell apart” when her husband was unfaithful and moved out. She was devastated and heartbroken.

Even though her dream life was shattered into a million pieces, she said she eventually understood those pieces were a beautiful mosaic that God wanted “to weave together that would be far more awe-inspiring and beautiful” than anything she could ever construct herself. She realized her vocation was to help others, and she became a life coach.

Ms. Sherburne encouraged the women at the conference to explore who they are: to remember their passions and dreams, to recognize their talents and to embrace their vocations fully.

“Everyone will magnify God differently because everyone has different gifts,” she said. “Live them out and they will serve God, give God glory and honor and serve the people around you. If you are sharing your gifts, it is joyful and amazing.”

“Don’t dip your toe into your vocation but really own it,”she continued. “Be God’s light all over the world. Your vocation is beautiful and must be authentically lived.”

Ms. Gohn said God gave women the beautiful gifts of receptivity, generosity, sensitivity and maternity. Her second presentation of the day concentrated on the latter, calling maternity a woman’s superpower and the “most excellent mission” women have in the world.

God joins forces with mothers, entrusting them with human persons, she said, adding that the most important event in human history — the incarnation of God himself — was accomplished by a woman’s yes.

“We have an incredible dignity because God chose a woman to bring Jesus forth,”she said.

She explained that maternity is not limited to bearing a child but also encompasses the unique gift of spiritual motherhood to which all women are called. They are called to nurture the emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual life in others.

“Women are put together in ways that are incredible,” she said. “We dwell in a divinely designed body and soul. The bodies reflect maternal powers, maternal gifts, maternal goodness and a maternal beauty.”

Similarly, Ms. Coronado emphasized that it is important for women to foster their faith as well as nourish the faith of others. She said each woman should have a relationship with Christ through prayer and the sacraments and then live that faith; they should put that faith into “comforting actions,” so they may share God’s love and hope with others in their family, community and society.

Likewise, in his homily at the conference Mass, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo encouraged the women to show others “the kind of love that Christ showed us.”

Noting that God wants everyone to know his love, Ms. Gohn said each woman’s mission is to become a holy influence who brings light and love to the world.

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