It’s long past time for women to stop letting themselves be defined by the things of this world.
God is who bestows their true identity and beckons them and all people onto a Eucharistic journey.
“We are daughters of the King of Kings,” nationally-renowned author, commentator, radio host and Catholic evangelizer Teresa Tomeo (teresatomeo.com) told about 350 women of the Jefferson City diocese.
“All of us are created and called to serve God at this specific time in history, right now,” she said. “God put us here — whatever we’re doing in our lives — because he has a plan.”
That plan finds full expression in the gift of Jesus Christ, offered up in sacrifice and given to all who receive him in the Holy Eucharist.
“Getting back to the basics of being defined by the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ — that’s everything,” Mrs. Tomeo insisted. “That is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. And that’s where we get the definition of who we are. Not from the world.”
Mrs. Tomeo presided over a Ladies Night Out followed by a daylong women’s retreat in the Cathedral of St. Joseph Oct. 6-7.
The diocesan Office of Women’s Ministry organized both events.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight took part in both, giving thanks before the Italian meal in Cana Hall at the Ladies Night Out and leading the Rosary the next day during the retreat.
“It was inspiring to see the powerful faith of women from across our diocese,” he said. “I am grateful for the engaging presence and uplifting message of Teresa Tomeo.”
Mrs. Tomeo is the host of a syndicated daily radio show, “Catholic Connections” on the EWTN Global Catholic Network.
She has written a dozen books, including Everything’s Coming Up Rosie: 10 Things My Feisty Italian-American Mom Taught Me About Living a Godly Life.
She speaks and writes extensively on issues pertaining to Catholicism, especially in the media and how they relate to women.
Throughout the events in Jefferson City, she urged her audience to identify and let go of whatever comes between them and God.
“What are you holding so tightly that you will not let God in?” she asked.
Years of hard-earned experience have validated the childhood lessons her mother instilled in her about “putting it at the foot of the cross.”
“It has to start there,” Mrs. Tomeo stated. “One of the most important things that we can do in our lives — and we have to do it not just once, you have to do it every single day — is to surrender.”
She shared her story of pursuing success at all cost, including her faith, her health and her marriage, in pursuit of success as a major-market TV news reporter.
She praised God for lifting her out of that environment, very much against her will, while restoring her marriage, equipping her to evangelize and entrusting her with a new mission in Catholic media.
“I can tell you, my sisters, I have never been happier, I have never been more fulfilled,” she stated.
“God has such a great plan for each and every one of us!” she said. “It’s designed perfectly. He has designed us and defines us.”
Pointing to the Scripture quote emblazoned around the perimeter of the Cathedral — “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42) — she talked about the need to love and serve God within his Church and to be sent out on mission.
“Yes, we need to have a personal relationship with Christ,” she said. “But we can’t have a private relationship with him, because that’s the opposite of the Gospel. The first two letters of ‘Gospel’ are the word ‘Go.’”
The Church exists to evangelize.
“That’s its whole mission,” Mrs. Tomeo noted. “We’re called to help fulfill the Great Commission ‘to make disciples of all nations.’ We’re supposed to go out.”
It’s a difficult but necessary assignment.
“It’s really very simple: You give up yourself and you get a whole new life,” she said.
Mrs. Tomeo shared her favorite Bible verse, John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
“In other words, ‘Without me, you can do nothing,’” she said. “We can try and do that for a while and think we’re all that and a bag of chips, which is what I did for many years.
“But at the end of the day, it’s going to be empty, it’s going to be meaningless,” she said. “Because unless you fulfill God’s call on your life, you are never going to be truly happy.”
Where does answering that call to surrender begin? With surrendering to Jesus and recommitting to Jesus and his Church every day.
“Spend time in Adoration,” Mrs. Tomeo advised. “Study Scripture and Church teaching. Immerse yourself in the Church’s readings for each day.”
She also recommended learning about the numerous Eucharistic miracles that have been scrupulously investigated and documented throughout the history of the Church.
“See that Jesus continues to speak to us over the centuries, that this IS his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity,” she said.
She urged her sisters in Christ to shut out the noise that surrounds them every day through endless media and social media.
“How can you hear God’s voice if you have all this garbage, all this junk coming into your world, into your house, into your head, into your heart?” she asked.
Silence aids in prayerful openness to whatever God has in mind.
“It all starts at the foot of the cross,” Mrs. Tomeo insisted. “Maybe God has something better in mind for you. Maybe what you want is not bad or wrong, but is not what will fulfill you the most. Even though you don’t understand it at the time.”
“What I needed”
Mrs. Tomeo thoroughly enjoyed her visit to this diocese.
“It was definitely an amazing event!” she stated. “It was wonderful and truly a blessing to meet so many faith-filled ladies.”
Energy from the audience spilled over into submitted evaluations and online comments.
“Thanks for an awesome God filled weekend,” one participant posted online.
“It was exactly what I needed,” another participant posted. “Thank you for making this available to us. I am already looking forward to the next one!”
“A wonderful evening,” another wrote.
“It was so wonderful and inspiring,” stated yet another.
“All the speakers were delightful, genuine and meaningful.”
“I loved the Friday night food and fellowship.”
“I enjoyed the opening and closing hymns.”
“It was wonderful, I am now a big fan of Teresa Tomeo.”
Barbara Prasad, coordinator of women’s ministry for the Jefferson City diocese, said the events featuring Mrs. Tomeo were months in the making.
“We pray that everyone in attendance takes away something good and fruitful that they are in need of on their journey of growth and faith,” she said.
She thanked all the volunteers who made the events possible, including the Cathedral of St. Joseph Events Committee volunteers and docents, the See City Core Team volunteers, and additional volunteers from throughout the diocese, ministry leaders who staffed the informational booths, and Chancery staff.
She applauded the members of the Men of Signum Crucis Catholic spirituality group in Jefferson City who took care the hospitality needs at both events.
Mrs. Tomeo lauded the efforts of Mrs. Prasad and her staff in promoting and organizing the events.
“It was a joy for me and my team to work with them,” Mrs. Tomeo stated. “It was obvious that they were very engaged in the planning and wanted the ladies to really make the most of the retreat.”
She said she felt honored to meet and speak with so many faithful women who came together to reflect on their relationship with Christ and grow even closer to him in the Eucharist.
“Many of them traveled for hours to take part,” she noted. “I hope I helped in some way as they continue on their faith journey.”