“But really what was most beautiful was the sense of 400 women taking a deep breath because they knew that for one day they didn't have to fight. They didn't have to walk the line between Catholic and feminist. They weren't going to be called right-wing bigots or liberal morons. I'm sure they were many differences of opinion in that room, but we all had the same basic sense that we are desperately loved by God and called to promote the equal dignity of women and men.” - Meg Hunter-Kilmer

For about two or three years now, I have called myself a feminist - somewhat openly on social media, not as openly in my daily conversations. I will occasionally share articles I read on my Facebook feed, though I’d rather discuss issues through private messages or in a private online forum.

Why am I a bit quiet about being a feminist? I’m proud to be a feminist, but my non-confrontational nature and loathing of faceless Facebook arguments stops me from sharing my feminism too loudly. I often feel like I am too quiet anyway, so if I did speak, would anyone care enough to actually hear what I have to say?

On Saturday, March 2nd, I stepped into a room with 400 other women who call themselves Catholic feminists and, much like how Meg described, I took a deep breath and relaxed because I didn’t have to be on guard. Here, I didn’t have to defend myself. Here, I didn’t have to bite my tongue because I overheard or read something that labeled all feminists as faithless, pro-choice misandrists. Here, I could breathe freely.

It felt like going to a family gathering. I didn’t have a chance to speak to more than a small fraction of the women present, but it felt like I knew everyone there. Everyone was familiar. I looked around at all of the pregnant mothers, the mothers openly and beautifully breastfeeding during talks, the newly married wives, the single women, the older women, the younger women - and I felt like I belonged. There was a strong, vibrant sense of community, joy, and life.

There was a strong, vibrant sense of community, joy, and life.

There was no “subversive agenda.” There were no cries for the downfall of men or rants about the #patriarchy as we burned our bras. There were no women running around, proclaiming that their husbands and boyfriends needed to realize that women are the superior gender. I know, sadly, that there are many people who think we feminists are like that. I wish that anyone who does could have seen what I saw at the FemCatholic Conference.

For it was full of women speaking to women and men about the beauty of being a woman. Women speaking about the incredible ways in which our bodies were created and how we are uplifted by our biology, not chained or oppressed by it. Women sharing their personal experiences of being Catholic, of being single, of being married, of being wives, mothers, teachers, and missionaries. Women celebrating the beauty of Catholic teaching and how it celebrates womanhood. Women going beyond the surface of phrases like “the feminine genius” to discover their truth and beauty. Women who were so varied in their different backgrounds and life experiences, and yet still united in their passion for womankind and all humanity.

Women who were so varied in their different backgrounds and life experiences, and yet still united in their passion for womankind and all humanity.

I shared briefly and quietly that, since the 2016 elections and the countless stories of sexual abuse that have come out since August, I am not entirely sure where I am in my faith. I grew up with a fire for my faith as a child, but I am still navigating how to translate that faith into adulthood. How can I love what the Church teaches while at the same time being dismayed and discouraged by the people that I see in the Church who don’t seem to live what they say they believe? I was met with nods of understanding and support by women who knew exactly what I meant. Women whose hearts are also troubled and are going through their own journeys of faith.

I left feeling inspired and renewed. I left knowing that I had to take my beliefs and convictions and start living them more openly. I don’t know how I will do that yet, but with the strength of so many women around me, I know that I will find my way forward and discover how I can share my gifts with the world.

“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” - Saint John Paul II

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Amanda Ethier

Amanda Ethier is a newlywed and recovering wedding planning addict who copes by planning new adventures for herself and her husband. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago and works as a meeting planning assistant for a medical association. Cute coffee shops, good books, and Catholic feminism are her passions.

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