“Together in our Faith” was the theme for a pan-Orthodox women’s conference held October 22-23, 1999, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Planned and organized by Cathleen Callen who was assisted by Fr. William Olnhausen and Fr. Joseph Tzougros, the conference brought together women from many states to share fellowship, discussion, and worship on the theme of our togetherness in Christ.
The conference began with a vespers service on Friday night at the beautiful St. Sava Serbian Church, and continued with a dinner banquet in the church hall. The featured speaker for the evening was Mother Christophora, abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Her topic was “What is Monastic Life?” in which she provided a description of monastic life, explained the life of prayer in which they engage, and why the Church needs the monastic life in the Church and especially today in America.
On Saturday the conference moved to the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center. After morning prayer, Fr. David G. Bissias, pastor of the St. Demetrios Church in Hammond, Indiana, spoke on the topic “In, or In Spite of, Our Gender: A Pastoral Reflection on Orthodoxy and Gender.” He believes that understanding ourselves as uniquely male and female is foundational for our lives as Christians, in spite of the occasional distortions in our roles, both in and outside of the Church.
After lunch, the final presentation offered was by author and lecturer Matushka Deborah Malacky Belonick, a past representative to the National Council of Churches and a delegate to four international World Council of Churches conferences. She spoke on the topic of “Mary and Martha: Beloved of the Lord.” Matushka Deborah helped us to look at the relationships of both Mary and Martha to our Lord and showed how their experience of His love was essential for a life of service. Three breakout sessions were offered to the participants, with each session offering a number of topics from which to choose. Included were such topics as “God’s Priceless Women”; “The Mystery of the Holy Trinity in Eastern Orthodoxy”; “Confession, the Lost Sacrament?”; “Creativity and Tradition: Icons in the New World”; “Deaconesses in the Church”; “The Impact of Feminism on Christianity”; and “The Theotokos: An Eye Witness Historian.”