What a great party can teach you about women in the Church

July 15, 2015 | 18 comments

This weekend I hosted a conference for Catholic women along with Hallie Lord in Charleston, South Carolina. We call it the Edel GatheringAnd the whole thing left the hotel staff baffled.

All weekend, they tried to figure out what was going on.

When Hallie ran into one of the housekeepers, she greeted Hallie by asking, “Are you here for the ladies with babies conference?”

We later relayed that funny moment to a bellman, and he was confused, asking, “Wait. Isn’t this a pregnancy convention?”

In their defense, it was an unusual scene:

Hallie, my co-organizer, was nine months pregnant — and due on the first day of the conference. 


There was a crazy shoe contest in which the winner came in wearing shoes that had lights, candy, tequila bottles, a piñata, and bowls filled with actual chips and guacamole.



(And to celebrate winning, she did a tequila shot from one of the bottles on her boot, and lost her sombrero in the process.)

There was my live radio broadcast in which I made a shoe that involved Jesus punching a shark.


There was Periscope live video footage of a ghost spotted in the hotel.

There were attendees from all over the world, including a doctor who flew in from Guam — with her baby!


There were powerful talks.


We did two radio specials for my show, and the attendees we interviewed managed to tell stories that were as poignant was they were hilarious.




There was an attendee named Danielle who ran out and got a tattoo after the Friday event, then had a roomful of women shouting tearful words of encouragement when she got up to explain what the word she had inked onto her arm meant to her.



And there was, of course, Kelly Mantoan, a homeschooling mother of five who prefers the Latin Mass, ruling the karaoke stage with Flo Rida:

It seemed too confusing to try to explain to staff and other hotel guests that this was a party for Catholic women, since the event went against stereotypes about what religious women are like.



Photos above by Ginny Sheller

At this event, there was a an undercurrent of explosive hope and joy that ran through every moment. I saw women toasting and laughing and rocking the karaoke mic who had suffered tremendous personal tragedies. I saw attendees who had been dealt a really tough hand in life leaning on their sisters in Christ, and basking in the love and camaraderie that filled the room.

As I watched all this play out, I thought that maybe there was an easier way to explain to the baffled hotel staff what was happening here.

Maybe we should have just said: “This is a party for women who know that, no matter what we might go through, life ultimately has a happy ending.”



  1. Emily

    That’s exactly what it was, Jen! We know that the happy ending is coming. 🙂 And it may involve tequila and babies. 🙂

  2. Ron

    Thanks for allowing me to be the musical host for your Saturday night celebration. My wife and I met some very wonderful and inspirational ladies that night. Thanks!

  3. Mary

    Oh my gosh- that last line was perfect.
    So jealous… in a good way 🙂 I’ll make it there one year.
    Thank you for your ministry to women.

  4. Angela

    It looks like you all had such an awesome time. Hopefully I’ll be able to join y’all for the next one!

  5. Sandy

    Oh, I’m so jealous of everyone who got to go! So jealous that I think I need to go to confession!

  6. SG

    I just would like to say, I’m thankful for this! PLEASE COME TO PHOENIX, AZ!!! WE sure could use a dose of Edel!!

  7. Lisa Schmidt

    What an awesome photo of you and Hallie! Thank you for *everything,* Jen. Thank you for having the vision and perseverance to see this through. Thank you for creating something rather special, so needed, and very uniquely Catholic.

  8. Mary

    It was a life changing weekend. The BEST party I have ever attended. Thank you so much. To you and Hallie for being the best hostesses and giving so freely of yourselves to help others heal. #lovealwayswins

  9. Jacquie

    Thank you and Hallie so much for the gift of this weekend. You sacrificed so much for it and it was wonderful. It was like a room full of all the most wonderful women! As my husband put so well, “Sometimes it’s nice to just be in the bubble.” 🙂

  10. Tracy Bua Smith

    Thank you for a wonderful Edel weekend Jennifer and all the work you and Hallie put into it! I wish I had more time to chat with you, but after I snapped a photo with you, I ran off distracted or assuming that you were busy keeping the weekend flowing. I enjoyed chatting with your Aunts and meeting your Mom on the dance floor! I hope our paths cross again if you come to the sweet Carolinas again! 🙂

  11. Leticia Adams

    That tattoo has to be the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen! Gotta love a party that has people getting inked up!

  12. Ronni

    It was all so great; I’m so glad I was able to go! I’m still working on my own re-cap post, but either way, it was all wonderful. Sigh. Can we do it again soon? 🙂

  13. Lauren

    This is hilarious! I love the smashing stereotypes and evangelizing the general public all the while having FUN!

  14. Erin

    You nailed it, Jen! What a blessing Edel was for me. No words.

  15. Jamie

    Danielle is a dear friend from Notre Dame days and one of several influences that led me into full Communion with the Church!

  16. Judith

    Reminds me of the first women’s retreat weekend I ever attended. As a person whose formative years (high school and college) coincided with 70’s feminism, I received a whole new meaning for the expression “Sisterhood is powerful!” Also, “I am woman, hear me roar” — you young ladies were roaring and your sisterhood empowers you. God bless you all.

  17. Gloria

    I hope you still tried to explain to the staff that yes, you were Catholic, even though they were confused. It’s important that people see that you can be Catholic and happy, because spreading our faith and exposing non-Catholics to the truth is vitally important. Our Lord told us to “go and teach all nations”. It’s not enough to be happy-you have to let people know exactly WHERE that happiness is coming from….

  18. priest's wife @byzcathwife

    what a great party! I was home- hosting a party for 50 homeschooling, Catholic moms who had painted saint peg dolls- the neighbors were also baffled- all those vans and babies- but they had a good time!

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