Young women of faith have been encouraged to be their authentic selves amongst the difficulties and distractions of modern-day life.
In the Marian month of May, a group of 25 women gathered for an evening of encounter as part of Catholic Youth Parramatta’s At The Well ministry. The gathering was the first in-person session in almost three years.
The young women from across Western Sydney posed questions on faith, careers, relationships, vocation and service to a diverse panel – Patrice Moriarty, Tanya Castellino and Norlie Dooma.
To begin the evening, moderator and At the Well Podcast co-host Joy Adan asked the panel how they handle times of ‘spiritual dryness’ when it is difficult to engage in prayer in their busy lives.
Patrice encouraged the women to recognise why there is a struggle with their faith, addressing what it is that they are not willing to bring to God, and designating some time to be spiritually fed, whether it be in church, in personal reflection or in nature.
Being a mother of four, Tanya said that she has experienced several instances when she hasn’t had the time to dedicate herself to prayer. She encouraged consistency in prayer, even when you’re not feeling like it, or not feeling like it’s doing anything. “Christ will always be working, whether you feel it or not,” she said.
If you are struggling, Norlie recommended that you pray through those feelings, which will, in turn, help you develop and strengthen your relationship with God. “Take that time out of your day to pray, even if you don’t have anything to pray about, that stillness and presence in front of, or with Our Lord, is prayer in itself.”
Amongst all the distractions in the world that a young woman may be experiencing, the panel were asked why they keep coming back to the church and how they stay grounded in their faith in today’s society.
Norlie suggests that women can have an enjoyable life, but in moderation, because too much would be a waste of the talent and blessings that Our Lord has given us. “You have a purpose in this life,” she said. “If you haven’t discovered it yet, sometimes it is a life-long journey that you’ve got to go through before you discover your purpose.”
Patrice tries to look for God in everyone and everywhere she goes, and encourages a sense of authenticity in your life. “Joy is one of the most beautiful parts of our faith, and it doesn’t just mean happy, it is a feeling that you have purpose and are connected.”
Tanya said, “as long as you love God, and are doing God’s will, you don’t have to worry about the struggle of not enjoying your life. God has called us to live in the world, but be of the world.”
The panel were then asked to give relationship advice for young Catholic couples.
“You need to work out if your boyfriend is ‘the One’ you are going to marry,” Tanya said. “When you’re a bit younger, it will take a bit longer to figure that out, but if you’re not ready to be married and become a mum, then now may not the right time.”
Norlie encouraged couples to have honest conversations early about where the relationship is going and whether you are ready for marriage. “You need to be ready to give your all, your whole self.”
Patrice urged the young women that God has a plan for them, and to trust in that plan, whatever way it appears. “You are enough by yourself, you don’t have to be in a relationship or married, you are God’s creation.”
“Having a boyfriend and being married is about having a partnership to take on life together. It will happen in God’s time.”
Young women interested in further exploring their faith are encouraged to listen to the At the Well Podcast.
The podcast, produced by Catholic Youth Parramatta, gives a feminine perspective on questions of faith and life, and continue the conversations sparked during the face-to-face gatherings.
To join in the conversation and the community of young women learning and sharing their faith, you can join the At The Well Facebook group.
The next At the Well gathering for young women will take place in September.