By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

The national organization Women in the New Evangelization (WINE) branched forth into the Diocese of Baton Rouge with a sold-out first conference at Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant on July 27.  

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Kelly Wahlquist, founder of WINE, talked about the beauty of women in discipleship. </span id=”0″>Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 


“WINE is about relationship and rooted in Scripture,” WINE founder Kelly Wahlquist of Plymouth, Minnesota told the 550 attendees.   

She said WINE’s mission is modeled after the Blessed Mother, Jesus’ first disciple. Wahlquist noted when the wine ran out at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   

Wahlquist said, “We have a mission to make disciples. It’s proclaiming beauty, beauty made simple. But first we have to be a disciple.”  

To be a disciple, women must listen to and serve Jesus, she emphasized.  

“Know where you are going and who you need to follow,” said Wahlquist.  

Referring to the Blessed Mother, Martha and Mary and Mary Magdalene, Wahlquist said for more than 2,000 years women have faithfully served Christ and his church.  

“Pray and go out with confidence because you have the best methods possible – relationship and reconciliation,” she said.  

Syndicated Catholic talk show host and author Teresa Tomeo from Detroit, Michigan advised women to “walk softly and carry a great bag,” on their discipleship journey.  

Tomeo encouraged the audience to empty their bag of fear, self-condemnation and other negativity and fill it with faith builders, such as a love of Scripture, prayer and devotion to Mary and the saints.  

She talked about the struggles in her marriage with (now Deacon) Dominick Pastore. At one point they invested more in their careers than their marriage.  

“We ‘tried it on our own’ and almost lost everything,” said Tomeo, who converted after her husband.  

The couple participated in Routrouvaille and other Catholic marriage relationship building programs.    

Even after their conversions, old habits were hard to overcome. That’s when surrendering to God was essential for Tomeo.  

“When we surrender, we surrender to the king of the universe -surrender, surrender, surrender,” said Tomeo.  

Discipleship includes suffering, which is the time to look to the crucified Christ, Olivia Gulino, a teacher at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, noted in her talk “Wisdom of the Cross.” Gulino was associate director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Baton Rouge before accepting a position to teach at the beginning this school year.  

She urged the women to be cognizant of God in the world and understand that God loves people collectively and individually.

“God has chosen you,” said Gulino.  

Because relationships are based on love, there will be trials, sacrifices and a need for humble submission, she said. While problems within the church receive a lot of attention, Gulino challenged the women to embrace the church’s holy moments.  

In highlighting the beauty of the liturgy, she emphasized that the Eucharistic Prayer gives thanks to God for his faithfulness throughout salvation history.  Just as God is faithful, he calls people to be faithful to his covenant with him, said Gulino. She highlighted God’s testing of Abraham’s faithfulness by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac before sending an angel to stop him as he was about to do so.  

Jesus is the ultimate model of sacrifice, Gulino stressed.  

“Look to the cross,” said Gulino. “You can see anguish, but it was also finished.”  

Underscoring the importance of having courageous faith and being a bold witness, Gloria Purvis, host of EWTN’S “Morning Glory,” talked about her conversion to the Catholic faith and involvement in pro-life ministry.  

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Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant was filled to capacity with women attending the first Women in the New Evangelization conference in Baton Rouge.  


Purvis, who did not grow up in a Catholic family, said her journey into the Catholic Church began at age 12, when a food fight broke out at lunch at the Catholic elementary school she attended in Charleston, South Carolina. The children cleaned up the mess, but their religious education teacher, a religious sister, further expressed her disapproval of their conduct.  

“Sister stood up and said that it was unacceptable and we would have to go to the adoration chapel for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament,” Purvis said.  

During that hour, Purvis experienced a mystical experience with the Eucharist.  

“I remember it was real, that it was alive, and feeling like I was consumed with a fire all over my body, but it didn’t burn,” she said.  

A short time later, the same teacher announced confirmation preparation plans. Purvis asked her teacher if she could become Catholic, and the teacher said she would have to ask her parents. Purvis instead told her parents she was becoming Catholic.  

She graduated in 1990 from Cornell University, where she did not experience resistance to her faith. She married her college sweetheart and they moved to Washington, D.C. and attended St. Augustine Church. She was content with being a “pew Catholic” until she recited the words “the Lord the giver of life” during the Nicene Creed during Mass and God convinced her to act on her pro-life beliefs.  

Since then Purvis has served on a number of respect life boards. She is also the chairperson for Black Catholics United for Life and serves on the National Black Catholic Congress’ Leadership Commission on Social Justice.  

Purvis’ call to action emboldens her to proclaim the church’s teachings on the dignity of human life, sexuality and marriage in the midst of secular culture resistance.  

“We’re called to live in Jesus,” said Purvis. “We’re his children, and we have a purpose. It’s not our way, but it’s his way.”  

Wahlquist concluded the conference by offering WINE’s support through small “cluster” groups and other resources.  “You are doing some wonderful things, come into a holy alliance,” said Wahlquist.  

Conference attendees said the speakers’ messages “fired them up” in their faith journeys.  

“I was struck about how the speakers connected with our spiritual lives in their stories. They said what we needed to hear,” said Catherine Gautreau, of St. Theresa of Avila Church in Gonzales, who attended the conference with her daughters, Hope and Lessie Gautreau, St. Theresa parishioners.  

Hope said, “It was a good day for women to reflect on their role in the church.”  

Lessie agreed.  

“I liked the message of empowering women and taking an active role in the church,” she said.  

Sylvia Winder, of St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge, relished the chance to see her daughter, Tara Winder, and granddaughter, Naomi Winder, lead music at the conference. 

“It was wonderful to see women lifting each other up in prayer,” said Winder.  

For more information about WINE, visit,, @WINE_Ministry (Twitter) or email