Joy, service and love of God were keynotes as 200 women of SS. John and Paul parish in Larchmont gathered Sept. 22 to celebrate “Women of Faith, Hope and Love.” The event, held at the Larchmont Yacht Club, focused on women’s spirituality and its importance in living the Gospel and serving others at home, in the parish, in the community and beyond.
The program began with Mass celebrated by the pastor, Msgr. Thomas F. Petrillo. Concelebrating were Father Frank J. Prima, parochial vicar, and two priests visiting from Germany who are members of the Emmanuel Community, an international Catholic lay group that fosters a vibrant spiritual life rooted in adoration and evangelization. SS. John and Paul is staffed by priests of the Emmanuel Community.
The speaker was Sister Maria Teresa, C.F.R., local servant (superior) of the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in East Harlem. She spoke about her own spiritual journey and her rediscovery of her faith when she was a college student. She spoke eloquently of the calling all women share to motherhood, whether physically, by bearing life, or spiritually, by the love, compassion and nurturing they extend to others.
Three parishioners were honored at the event: Valerie Mastronardi, Maureen Morris and Ginny Quinn. Mrs. Mastronardi, a volunteer in many charitable works and a philanthropist, is vice president of the Mastronardi Foundation. Mrs. Morris has been active in many parish programs including serving as a Eucharistic minister to the homebound and an RCIA sponsor. Ms. Quinn was one of the original teachers in the Parish High School of Religion at SS. John and Paul and is active in other ministries.
At the Mass, Msgr. Petrillo told a story about a young monk who felt two forces fighting within him, one pulling him toward God and one pulling him away. An old monk told him which would win: “the one you feed the most.” Msgr. Petrillo used the story to illustrate the importance of prayer, the sacraments and involvement in parish activities.
“Once a week on Sunday isn’t feeding your faith enough,” he said. He also said he was “elated” by the women’s obvious faith and spirituality, and he added, “I encourage you to build on what we are witnessing here today.”
Sister Maria Teresa, the speaker, attended Boston College on a tennis scholarship and planned to go to law school. Everything changed when she went to Honduras.
“What happened to me was Jesus,” she said. “I encountered him in Eucharistic adoration on a mission trip when I was a sophomore in college…His love for me… changed the trajectory of my life. ” She returned to confession and began going to daily Mass. She entered religious life in 2005.
She quoted from Pope John Paul II ‘s apostolic letter “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women (“Mulieris Dignitatem,” 1988): “God entrusts the human being to women in a special way. A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God entrusts the human being to her always and in every way.”
Sister Maria Teresa added, “We have a lot of poverties in our society today, and it’s not just poverty of material things; I think there’s a poverty of motherhood, too.” She stressed the need for the compassion, sacrificial love and openness to others that motherhood calls forth. She also remarked that all women are called to be mothers.
“Motherhood is not just physical,” she said. “We can live our femininity in a fuller way by taking it to a spiritual level….Am I present to people, or am I caught up in the world’s hurry, the values the world is promoting that aren’t really Christian or feminine?”
She added, “We have the gifts that the world needs…and you have a great gift to offer in your parish, in your house, on your street, not just by contributing to the poor, but by just living in the place that God put you, living your motherhood. The world needs that so desperately.” She said that the perfect model for women is Mary, and she led the women in a “Hail Mary.” They gave her a standing ovation.
Several women liked that fact that the event brought together women from various parish groups and ministries.
Naomi Brickel, a mother of six, said, “It’s a nice opportunity to celebrate our faith.”
Felicia McGaley quoted Msgr. Petrillo: “Today is a gift from God.”