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Women's retreat focuses on mercy, examples of saints

Father Austin, pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary/St. Louis Parish in Swanton and Highgate Center, speaks at the Vermont Catholic Women’s Retreat Nov. 19 at Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish Center in Essex Junction. Photo by Cori Fugere Urban Father Austin, pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary/St. Louis Parish in Swanton and Highgate Center, speaks at the Vermont Catholic Women’s Retreat Nov. 19 at Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish Center in Essex Junction.
Can the lives of saints speak to women today when they ask questions like: Why do women compare themselves to other women? Is it okay to always be the first to forgive? You want to give your children everything you can give them, but at what point is it too much?
 
These were some of the questions Father Luke Austin presented at the fifth annual Vermont Catholic Women’s Retreat Nov. 19 at Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish Center in Essex Junction.
 
As the worldwide extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy drew to a close, the theme for the event that drew about 125 participants was “Women Saints: Our Models of Mercy.”
 
Father Austin, pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary/St. Louis Parish in Swanton and Highgate Center, not only posed questions but also suggested saints/women on the path to sainthood whose lives might help answer these and other questions women might ask themselves.
 
For questions about marriage and raising children, consider the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. If your husband is not a believer, follow the example of Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur and pray for him. For guidance on dealing mercifully with one’s children, seek the wisdom of St. Rita of Cascia.
 
These were among the examples Father Austin offered, but he emphasized that it can be helpful to contemplate “how [various] saints speak to you” when contemplating difficult questions.
 
The topic of his presentation was “Living Mercy in Today’s World and the Example of the Saints.”
 
Father Austin, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Burlington, was named by Pope Francis as a Missionary of Mercy for the diocese for the Holy Year. He received the mandate as one of 1,142 missionaries worldwide to preach about God’s mercy and to have special authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.
 
He was among the speakers at the daylong event that included a presentation by Dr. Maura Hearden Fehlner, an online professor of Catholic Theology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and St. Joseph’s College of Maine. She and her husband operate a Catholic radio station in Lake Placid, N.Y.
 
Her topic was “Heroic Mercy in the Lives of the Little Flower and her Two Mothers.” She spoke about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, her mother Zelie Martin and the Blessed Mother.
 
She encouraged her listeners to humbly recognize their need for God’s mercy, to abandon themselves to God and trust Him completely and to cooperate with God by practicing little acts of sacrificial love to think of others, especially Jesus, before themselves.
 
Sister Myriam Elizabeth Alexander, a novice extern sister at the Benedictine Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield, gave an afternoon presentation on “St. Scholastica: Model of Mercy as Divine Love.”
 
St. Scholastica, the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia, was the foundress of the women's branch of Benedictine Monasticism.
 
The women’s retreat in Essex Junction, sponsored by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Burlington, also included Mass, discussion, the Angelus, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Benediction.
 
Among the women of all ages who attended the event was Karen Fraser of St. Michael Parish in Brattleboro. She attended because she wanted to grow in her faith and meet other women who share that faith. “I love this [retreat],” she said. “It has been amazing.”
 
Last modified onMonday, 21 November 2016 08:20
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