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 | By Joey Reistroffer

Belonging: A Catholic Conference for Women

The women who journeyed to Belonging in Greenville last February found an oasis of faith and fellowship, with the Holy Spirit hovering above.

The Belonging Catholic Conference for Women is held annually and organized by Tami Kiser of Heart Ridge Ministries. It’s so popular that it sold out in 2023 with 560 participants. And it helped that Rachel Balducci was the keynote speaker. She is funny and grace-filled. As a mother, author, speaker and teacher, she also is saddled with the same issues that other women face each day.

“She is so relatable,” said Mary Clements, a conference-goer from Spartanburg. “She’s the type of person I admire.”

Balducci told the crowd that she was only comfortable in opening the little door to her heart that showed the clean, organized part of her life. She did not want Jesus to see the messy parts. When she realized that she could not do it all as a busy mother of six children plus all her other titles, she finally let Jesus all the way in.

“She turned to Jesus and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ and Jesus helped her to discern.” That resonated with Clements and her Spartanburg buddies, Sue Cetone and Theresa Miyares.

“We must open up to him and recognize our brokenness … and have peace with who we are,” Clements added.

“God had a plan,” Miyares said. “Sometimes you think you know what’s best, but God knows what’s best.” 

Now Balducci is using those gifts for the glory of God through her books and her speaking engagements.

The workshops were even more eye-opening for those who came to this oasis.

“I went to the one on communication. It was a fun class,” Clements said.

It was spearheaded by Nina Obier, an entrepreneur and an expert in personal development.

The workshop focused on improving relationships by learning how to listen.

“If you mix up the letters in listen, you can spell silent,” Clements said she learned in the class. “If you’re doing all the talking, you’re sure not doing any listening,” and “thinking about your next response instead of listening can also be a barrier.”

Other obstacles blocking solid communication include television, mobile phones, social media, disinterest and mental preoccupation.

Those also are barriers to prayer, the workshop that Cetone attended. Lisa Buss, spiritual director at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, led the class and told attendees to inject themselves straight into Scripture.

“When you start your meditation, picture Jesus,” Cetone said she learned. “Put all your senses in there. What does it smell like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? I was very moved by the workshop. The way [Buss] explained it, she just opened up God to me in prayer. That is so invaluable. It has made a big difference to me, and it does make Jesus feel more alive.”

Miyares also chose the workshop on prayer, and she said it resonated with her, too.

“Just envisioning Jesus in a whole new realm — it spoke to me,” Miyares said.

Buss advised the group to keep a prayer journal.

“After you pray, have quiet time and reflection to see what the Holy Spirit is telling you,” Miyares said. “Then write it down.”

The Holy Spirit inspired a lot of women from a lot of different backgrounds to take this journey into a deeper faith. The Spartanburg ladies said they saw younger and older women, moms with babies in carriers and even expectant mothers.

“It’s very supportive to be around other Christian, Catholic women who share the same values,” Cetone said. “They’re making a better life for their families.”

After the workshops, participants gathered for Mass, which was celebrated by Father Liam Panganiban from Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg.

“He made the entire Mass beautiful,” Clements said. “Father Liam came down off the altar and spoke to us about the real meaning of why we pray and fast for Lent. He said it changes us. It makes us humble.”

And that is what this annual conference is all about: coming together as a community, a learning experience, a sense of belonging and drawing nearer to God to be changed and humbled.

“I was on a spiritual high the whole time. I just felt at home,” Miyares said. “I didn’t want it to end.”

BELONGING 2024 will be held Feb. 24 at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. This year’s celebrant is Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, and the featured speaker is South Carolina native Sister Virginia Joy, SV. Music will be from folk artist Marie Miller. There will be a Spanish track, demonstrations, confession, adoration and the rosary plus many vendors. Register:

Joey Reistroffer is a long-time writer who teaches religious education classes at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg. Email him at