I’ve never felt as isolated and alone as I did when I had two babies under the age of two. Seriously. No one told me there’d be all those unending days without nights and nights without days. I craved sleep, a shower, a schedule, a how-to manual, something, ANYTHING that would help me figure out which way was up. Or down. Or out.  

Heck — in those early years, I would have been happy if just one person came over on a semi-regular basis to discuss any topic using grown-up words while my husband was away at work. I loved my little people immensely, but as a bona fide extrovert, I needed to talk to people who didn’t intentionally fling mashed bananas at my face and scream bloody murder whenever the phone rang. With no close family or friends nearby, however, people over two feet tall rarely darkened our door save the rare occasion they were wearing a pizza delivery uniform. 

Although I knew I needed to find people, going somewhere — anywhere — felt like an impossible undertaking most days. Attending the moms’ group, the playdate, or the meet-up meant the little people and I had to be presentable, likable, and relatable. All at the same time. It seemed like an awful lot of ‘ables’ for someone who often felt like she was drowning in a sea of inability.

Fast-forward a few years, and while I was still waist-high in Toddlerville, we’d all (mostly) survived, and I thought I could imagine light at the end of my tunnel. In hindsight, perhaps I was hallucinating from lack of sleep and proper nutrition. Whatever the case, while helping my husband organize the Real Catholic Men conference, a well-meaning woman planted a tiny yet very specific seed in my heart over the phone. “I’m calling to purchase a ticket for my son,” she said, “but what I really want to know is when will there be a women’s conference?” I responded with a nervous laugh that was likely equal parts dismissive and borderline maniacal as I replied, “Yes! Wouldn’t it be fantastic? I can’t wait until someone decides to put one of those things together!”

Clearly that “someone’”wasn’t me.

And then the Holy Spirit took over.

Before I knew it, one small “yes” led to another, and I — underqualified, stubborn, ill-equipped, overzealous, and slightly crazy me — was planning the first general Catholic women’s conference in the Pacific Northwest.

Over six years and almost five conferences later, Catholic Women Rejoice continues as a humble, grassroots effort to bring Catholic women together to celebrate the genuine joys of our faith. I envisioned an oasis where Catholic women could let their hair down a bit, enjoy a meal and each other’s company, and be uplifted and encouraged as daughters of the King.

In the past, we’ve welcomed inspiring speakers, including Sister Ann Shields, Teresa Tomeo, Jennifer Fulwiler, Danielle Bean, Sister Miriam James Heidland, Lisa Hendey, Kelly Wahlquist, Simcha Fisher and Julie Onderko.

This year, we’re thrilled to be back in the Archdiocese of Portland at St. Anthony Church in Tigard on Saturday, Aug. 20. Our featured keynote speakers are Hallie Lord and Mary Lenaburg, and Blessed is She founder Jenna Guizar. Author Rebecca Frech will lead us for our break-out sessions.

As this is our fifth anniversary event, we’re planning lots of extras, including time for adoration and benediction the evening before the conference, an opening Mass on Saturday with Archbishop Alexander Sample, wonderful giveaways, breakout sessions, exciting new vendors and more.

Since Catholic Women Rejoice was started by a young mom, there has been some speculation as to whether any woman, regardless of her vocation or season in life, will feel welcome. By intentional design, our speakers talk about things that are common to us as Catholic women. It truly doesn’t matter if you are young, seasoned, married, single, religious, returning, cradle, convert, confident, or questioning — all Catholic women of goodwill are welcome to attend and bring a friend or five to join the fun.

If you don’t know a soul who is attending, hey – you’ve read this article almost to completion, so now you practically know me better than my next-door neighbor. And I would truly love to meet you. And so would the other women joining us. I promise I won’t even care if you have smashed banana on your face.

For more information and registration details, please visit our website: www.catholicwomenrejoice.com.

Group pricing is available. We are still looking for scholarship sponsors, advertisers, underwriters, giveaway donations, volunteers, prayer partners, and you! Please email:  catholicwomenrejoice@gmail.com and let us know how you can help.

I really look forward to seeing you Aug. 20 at St. Anthony in Tigard where we will rejoice and be free.

The writer is a wife and mother of five living in the wilds of suburban Portland.