Two years ago, as I was leaving for my first women’s retreat ever-the Barrett Ministry of All Women conference at La Casa de Maria-my husband quipped, “You know, when women are in retreat, I feel safe.”

Later, sitting in a room with nearly 200 women, sharing ideas, experiences, and dreams in small groups, I wondered if there hadn’t been a shard of truth buried inside his joke. A fully empowered woman, centered and sure of her worth, is a mighty thing. Consider the mountains moved by the likes of Sojourner Truth-whose real name was Isabelle, by the way-Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Joan of Arc. Ponder for a moment the audacity of suffragettes, marching about the frozen streets of Boston in their laced-up boots and full-length dresses.

The speaker at the 2006 conference was Charlene Spretnak, who, in her book Missing Mary, talks about Vatican Two’s mothballing of the Queen of Heaven, which rid the church of a gigantic, cosmological, mystical, and feminizing force. Now there’s a movement to bring Mary back.

The Ministry of All Women conference isn’t just for ministers, though many are known to attend. You don’t even have to be religious to benefit from the pearls that will be tossed about like confetti. In fact, a woman’s ministry is her life’s work, whatever that may be. Most women’s vocations are service-oriented. But if you don’t understand your voice, how do you understand your vocation?

The annual retreat, which takes place this weekend (May 30-June 1), is designed to challenge women to use their unique spiritual insights and voices to transform the religious, political, economic, educational, and social institutions, said La Casa’s Associate Director Juliet Spohn Twomey. The keynote speaker will be Jennifer Leigh Selig, PhD, teacher and chair of the depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. It will feature rituals, presentations, circle dialogues, and art to explore the following question: “If women’s ministry in the world is where our love is, how are we tending that love? And how do we sow more of it?”


The Ministry of All Women conference is Friday, May 30, to Sunday, June 1, at La Casa de Maria, located at 800 El Bosque Rd. For info, call 969-5031 or visit


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