Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office, was the keynote speaker at the seventh Feminine Genius Brunch Nov. 12 in White Plains. More than 200 women gathered in the Sonesta ballroom to hear the Sister of Life’s reflections on happiness and the desires of the feminine heart.
She said Feminine Genius is an existing Church concept that was strongly promoted by Pope St. John Paul II. “It is the unique capacity women have to uphold the primacy of love in human life. Written into a woman’s very body, even if she never physically carries a child, is literally room for another. With that capacity to carry life comes an innate sensitivity to the goodness of the human person,” Sister Virginia Joy said.
Women have a unique capacity for love that is receptive, sensitive, aimed toward others, generous, self-giving, maternal and which nurtures others into life, she said.
According to Sister Virginia Joy, Pope St. John Paul II said it is absolutely necessary for women to tap into this central part of their character to foster its growth and fashion a society marked by love.
Sister Virginia Joy used Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer’s concept of four levels of happiness to describe the progression from tangible-but-fleeting self-centered pleasures to lasting happiness achieved through surrender to God. “We acknowledge our human limitations and the need for someone greater than ourselves. We move from self-reliance to total dependence, from trusting ourselves to entrusting ourselves to God,” she said.
The ultimate level of happiness is an invitation to live in the hand of God, who has a plan for each person, she said. “We can recognize that the desires of our heart are driving the pursuit of happiness; we want to surrender them to the Lord. This is not a one-time thing. We need to do it every day, every moment,” she said.
Sister Virginia Joy said relationships, beauty and love are the desires of the feminine heart. “The more we live for others, the more we depend on God and entrust the desires of our heart to him, the happier and more fulfilled we will be. The unique gift of our femininity, particular to each of us, is going to unfold, making the world more lovely, more warm, more human,” she concluded.
Sister Virginia Joy evoked laughter, gasps and tears as she illustrated her message with poignant examples of interactions among the Sisters of Life, the mothers with whom they share their convents and the people they encounter through their Hope and Healing ministry.
At the brunch, Aine Schenk invited participants to enroll in Walking with Purpose. She said it is a Catholic ministry that brings women into a deeper relationship with Christ through Bible study and the teachings of the Catholic Church. There are 45 parish-based Walking with Purpose groups serving 1,720 women in the New York-Connecticut area, she said.
She established the Walking with Purpose program at St. Joseph’s parish in Bronxville in 2017.
“Studying the Bible nourishes and strengthens my relationship with Christ. It gives me peace and replaces my anxiety with an abiding trust in Jesus. I’ve also made wonderful new friends,” Ms. Schenk said.
Nayara Vicente from Blessed Sacrament parish in New Rochelle said Sister Virginia Joy’s message spoke to her heart. “It’s written in our identity and how we are created. It’s what we are all searching for,” she said.
Maria Azevedo of St. Francis St. Clare parish in the Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx said being at the brunch with others who share the same values was “very unifying.”
“I feel moved and hopeful,” she said.
Victoria Drake and her mother, Cara Amato, from St. Mary’s parish in Washingtonville, were at the brunch for a second time. Ms. Drake won a handmade rosary, one of five given as a door prize.
She told Catholic New York she won a rosary at her first Feminine Genius brunch days after she discovered she was pregnant with her second son. “I had miscarried two babies and I was scared of losing the child. It was a very emotional pregnancy. Winning today felt like a full circle moment here,” she said. Ms. Drake beamed as she said her sons Joseph and Michael are thriving.