The conference officially started at 9:30, but the doors opened at 8:30 for coffee, networking, and shopping – not necessarily in that order. I decided to get there right at 8:30 in order to beat the crowd, but apparently “the crowd” had the same idea. There were over a thousand women at the conference, and it seemed as though most of them were already there when I arrived.

The conference I was attending was the second annual WINE Conference, but it had nothing to do with alcohol. WINE stands for Women in the New Evangelization, and the group consisted of Catholic women from across the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis – plus a few others who had traveled from much farther away. I had lunch with a woman from North Dakota, and there was a group of women from Georgia who braved our Minnesota weather to be at the conference.

I was energized and inspired all day as I took part in the activities and listened to the speakers, and especially so with Laura Sobiech. If her name isn’t immediately familiar to you, I’m sure it will be when I tell you that she is the mother of Zach Sobiech, the young man who wrote the song “Clouds” not long before he died at age 18 of osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer. A YouTube video of the song went viral, and a choir of 5,000 people came together at the Mall of America after Zach died, singing the song as a tribute to him.

I was familiar with both the song and the story before I heard Laura speak at the conference, but I didn’t know how strongly their faith played a part in their lives – Zach, in dealing with the disease, the treatments, and the grim prognosis; and Laura, during the years following Zach’s diagnosis, and in the years since his death.

There was a purse-sized packet of tissues in the gift bag that was given out to all participants at the beginning of the conference. As soon as Laura Sobiech’s session started – with a video of Zach and his story – I reached into the gift bag to get the tissues, so I’d have them close at hand.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to need these,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.

“You were right about that,” she said a few minutes later, reaching into her own bag. By the time the presentation was over, I was thinking I might need more tissues.

Although the video and the presentation were indeed emotional, the message was ultimately upbeat, inspiring, and very, very powerful. It – as well as the entire conference – filled me with feelings of awe and admiration of the strength and fortitude of others. With hope and optimism about the future we all face. And with the peace and pleasure of being a woman of faith, and the joy of sharing that faith with a thousand others.

It was a day well-spent. And I’m already looking forward to next year.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 18, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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