BeLoved retreat finds theme in St. Francis prayer, helps women grow in self-awareness

Sister Virginia Joy Cotter
Sister Virginia Joy Cotter
Photo by Kathleen Loesel
Sister Virginia Joy Cotter of the Sisters of Life talks to the women of Franciscan at the Beloved event.


More than 300 women participated in the retreat BeLoved hosted by Franciscan University’s Women’s Ministry on Saturday in Finnegan Fieldhouse.

The theme of the retreat was inspired by St. Francis’ prayer, “Lord, who are you, and who do you say I am?”

The evening kicked off with a vigil Mass celebrated by the Rev. Joe Freedy of the diocese of Pittsburgh. During his homily, Freedy addressed how this prayer of St. Francis can help women to have a proper self-image.

“When you forget who you are, you become fearful,” said Freedy. “Hate is the fruit of fear. The devil wants us to be in fear so that we can grasp on to him and be lead around by the nose.”

Freedy also addressed how women, as well as men, feel that they must to put up a front in order to impress others.

“Whenever you ask people how they are doing, they always reply, ‘Good, busy!’” said Freedy.

He continued by saying that this false front inhibits us from sharing our true feelings and knowing others. When people have this kind of attitude, Freedy said, they are running away from their own hearts.

He said that God has a much better plan.

“Christ wants to move us from facing reality with fear to facing reality with confidence,” Freedy said. “God reaches for us so that He can help us soar as eagles.”

Freedy shared a prayer that he said has helped him to overcome his own fear and insecurities. He encouraged the women to pray, “Jesus, help me allow you to love me.” Freedy said that, literally and figuratively, people should live out their whole lives with outstretched arms, exhibiting an attitude of openness and surrender to the will of God.

Additionally, Sister Virginia Joy Cotter of the Sisters of Life presented a talk on discovering the person of God.

“God never ceases to draw us to himself,” said Cotter. “It is He who preserves us. God preserves our hearts!”

Cotter said that everyone desires beauty and unity with loved ones. She said that it is impossible to experience truly this unity without knowing God fully.

“We know what it means to long for something,” Cotter said. “We want to be a part of beauty, to consume it. When we experience restlessness or loneliness, this is the call of the divine.”

Photo by Kathleen Loesel
Fransican students and religious sisters enjoy a talk at the Beloved event.

Cotter said that women desire more love and deeper relationships because women are “created for the more.”

Speaker and writer Katie Hartfiel gave the concluding talk in which she shared how women can have a better sense of self-awareness. She identified three things that women must reject so that they may become fully who they were created to be by God.

Speaking about women’s need to reject rejection, Hartfiel said, “Rejection is the root of all our layers that inhibit us from being who we were made to be.”

Hartfiel continued by saying women must reject the desire to be in control.

“We only discover who we are when we let go,” she said.

Third, women must reject fear.

“The only thing that can paralyze God’s work in us is fear,” she said.

The retreat concluded with a time of praise and worship and Eucharistic adoration led by Freedy.

“I really loved what Fr. Joe had to say,” said Courtney Hurlburt, a sophomore from Sandusky, Ohio. “All the speakers were great, and I appreciated all the time we got to spend with the Lord. We all needed this event.”