News-Times, The (Danbury, CT)
Date: March 27, 2008
Article ID: 8717300
Author invited to Vatican
Author: Deborah Rose Staff Writer
To visit the Vatican is a trip many folks only dream of. But for New Milford resident Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, her recent trip to the Italian city-state ruled by the Pope was an opportunity of a lifetime, one that provided further insight into a theme to which she has devoted her adult life.
Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle was one of 260 people chosen from around the world -- only one of six from the U.S. -- to participate in the Pontifical Council for the Laity's International Congress at the Vatican in February.
The event marked the 20th anniversary of the apostolic letter "Mulieris dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women," written by the late Pope John Paul II.
"I felt excited about the anniversary and that the church was recognizing the anniversary to reflect on the document and its relevance to women today," Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said during a recent interview.
The letter's milestone is especially significant to her. She has quoted segments of it in some of her books, which focus on the theme of women, children and mothers.
"It was a pilgrimage/mission for me to travel to Rome," Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said of her experience. "It was such an honor."
The soft-spoken, petite mother of five said she believes she was invited to attend the Congress in recognition of her continued work celebrating women and mothers by writing articles and books and giving presentations to various groups.
The author has had a respected relationship with the Catholic Church for more than two decades, having first traveled to Rome 20 years ago (while pregnant with her fourth child, Joseph) to hand-deliver papers from her spiritual director, Fr. John A. Hardon S.J., to then-president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity Cardinal Eduardo Pironio.
In addition, she met Mother Teresa in the mid-1980s and corresponded with her over the years, and has received letters from both Pope John Paul II and reigning Pope Benedict XVI, all in acknowledgement of and praise for her work while encouraging her to continue.
This trip was especially close to Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle's heart. It gave her an opportunity to be "part of a history-making event" and reflect on her faith, and her role as a woman, mother and writer, she said.
Plus, she was able to take two of her daughters, Chaldea, 26, and Mary-Catherine, 16, with her for some family time away from her attendance at the Congress.
"It was amazing to me to be in the same room with people from five continents, from some 48 or 49 countries, [who] were there for the same mission and reason -- to go deeper into our Catholic faith and the apostolic letter," she said of her experience at the Congress.
The purpose of the three-day event was to "review the progress made over the past 20 years in the field of the advancement of women and the recognition of their dignity... [and address]... the new cultural paradigms and the difficulties faced by Catholic women as they strive to live according to their identity and to collaborate with fruitful reciprocity with men in building up the Church and society" among other things, according to the letter of invitation Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle received from the Council on Laity.
Delegates attended several conferences led by theologians, Biblical scholars, women authors and others, some of whom presented panel discussions, and a workshop of their choice.
Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said she found the workshop she attended, which focused on technology and consumerism and their relationship to women, informative and reaffirmed her belief in the importance of "hang[ing] on to family time, not allow[ing] technology to take over and not allow[ing] the demands of our culture to" impact our children.
"Women are the target of mixed messages in our culture and the demands of perfection in the workplace and home are really tough for women," Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said.
As a delegate, Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle also attended a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Papel Palace, which turned out to be one of the highlights of her trip.
"We were all on the edges of our seats trying to get closer," Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said, noting the Pope thanked the delegates for their attendance at the Congress and offered them a special blessing.
Another highlight was hearing the encouraging words of Cardinal Rylko during the Congress' closing ceremony.
Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said Cardinal Rylko suggested the delegates "come down from the mountain and go against the current -- be a contradiction giving witness" and reminded them not to be concerned with being a minority.
"Salt is a minority but it gives flavor, yeast is a minority but makes the whole dough rise," he said.
These words touched a special chord in her heart, Mrs. Cooper O'Boyle said, noting she has used similar words in her presentations and books.
Hearing his words "resolidified my vow to do what I feel God calling me to do," she said with a quiet confidence.
"I'm so happy if God can use me," she said. "I'm not hiding my light under a bushel."
Copyright, 2008, The News-Times (Danbury, CT)