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Women inspired to be the ‘prodigal daughter’

PORT ST. LUCIE  |  The Women’s Encounter “Called by Name: Made for Love” conference Sept. 9, 2023, featured inspiration, reflection and worship mixed with camaraderie in the social hall at St. Lucie Parish in Port St. Lucie. Women from throughout the diocese attended the event, which focused on a “renewal of faith, love and spirituality.”  

Rachel Sparks, the day’s emcee, welcomed everyone to the second Women’s Encounter and officially opened the event with prayer and a Hail Mary. “This is something that is near and dear to my heart, and I am very excited to be a part of this,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jennifer Settle, director of ongoing formation for the Theology of the Body Institute and a consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Orlando, shared her story of faith and redemption that led to her life as a consecrated virgin, offering testimony that one can be happy and fulfilled dedicating their life to God.

“Each one of us, as the daughter of the Father, is chosen. He calls us by our name and he heals us through our redemption,” Settle said. “My goal for today is to talk about our identity as a daughter, our identity as a sister, and our identity as a bride, but, above all else, we are first beloved daughters of the Father.”

Explaining how to be a sister, she quoted from Col 3:12-13: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another …”

In Settle’s third talk, “The Feminine Identity of Bride,” she said, “When I talk about the bride, I am actually talking about the bride of Christ to every single one of you, regardless of whether you have an earthly spouse or not.”

“As a consecrated virgin, we are called to live in the world, to be a witness in the world of the marriage that every single one of us is called to, the marriage between Christ and the church,” Settle said.

The conference included a couple of speakers from the Diocese of Palm Beach, including Sister of the Most Holy Soul of Christ Jadwiga Drapala, coordinator of women’s vocations, who gave a heartfelt talk about the personal journey that led to her religious vocation.

Growing up in Poland in a farming family, the eldest child of four, two sisters and a brother, she said, “I want to let you know that I grew up like you in a broken family. Some people assume that in order to be a sister or a consecrated virgin, you have to be very close to Mary, as holy as her.” Sister Drapala added, “We are all on the path to holiness, but we are not there yet.”

She shared what she discovered during her life: “I learned over those years, I am very grateful to my CCD catechist telling me ‘God is patient.’ He is very patient. He knows my heart better than myself,” Sister Drapala said.

Sister explained how important Eucharistic adoration and silent prayer are to her. “Eucharistic revival is to help us look again with our eyes at the presence of the one who is always present. Jesus is there looking at me, loving me, being patient with me and always ready to forgive,” Sister Drapala said. “Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus in the Eucharist, those moments of silent prayer every day help me to reconnect with who I am. This is where every day I recharge, where I know I am loved.”

Also during the day was Mass and opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of penance. A continental breakfast and lunch were included.

Deacon Dave Zanotelli ended the conference with a blessing. “Today was meant to be a day for you to simply relax, refresh and, hopefully, to be refilled,” he said. “Our loving Father wants to speak into your lives and reveal to you that he is your Father. He wants to affirm your identity, your purpose, your destiny.”

He asked the women to close their eyes and reflect on the prodigal son. “Do you think the prodigal son believed that he was worthy of the father’s blessing, and yet his father wanted everyone to celebrate this feast because this son who was dead came back to life again? He was lost, and now he was found.”

Deacon Zanotelli then said, “Allow yourself to be the prodigal daughter. Every blessing goes back to you. The Father wants everyone to celebrate the feast because you, his most precious daughter, was dead and has come to life again. You were lost and you have been found.”

Debbie Malone, a member of St. Helen in Vero Beach, said, “It’s very empowering to be with a lot of women.”

“The talk with God the Father, I think it’s very important for us to see him as a Father more in an intimate way than as someone being far away,” said Sara Cardenas, also from St. Helen.

For more information on the diocesan Office of Family Life, email For details on vocations, call 561-775-9586 or email To contact Settle, email or call 215-302-8200, Ext. 700.

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