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Fortis Femina: Faith and femininity at Paul VI

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“These days, it’s not always easy to find healthy examples of strong, feminine women who are also strong in their faith,” said Laura Moore, a senior at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. Moore’s desire to seek out role models for herself and other students led her to start Fortis Femina, a female-led speaker series, at Paul VI this year.


Fortis Femina, which means “strong female” in Latin, focuses on young Catholic women embracing their womanhood and encouraging each other to remain strong in their faith.


Moore is determined to bring diverse, faithful women to speak to the young women at Paul VI and encourage them to be confident in their faith and femininity.


“Our first speaker was Annie Foster, a lobbyist for religious rights. It was so inspiring to hear from her,” said Moore. The second speaker was Theresa Schultz, sister-in-law of Paul VI’s chaplain Father Stephen Schultz, who spoke about how she makes faith the center of her life and about the joys of confession.


There are three more speakers slated for the school year, including a businesswoman from Loudoun County, a speaker on chastity and a Paul VI alumna who will speak about her mission work.


Moore is very passionate about Fortis Femina and its importance in the school community. She believes if the young women of the organization get to meet with empowered women and hear their stories, they will be inspired to live lives of strength in their faith and femininity. 


Moore wanted the organization to be more than just a group of friends, so they each invited only one close friend and then brainstormed a group of various female classmates they thought would learn from the talks. Each time, they expand the circle to include more young women.


The group meets in the campus ministry room during lunch. Moore likes this format because it is a more comfortable environment that encourages dialogue and discussion; the speaker can get to know the girls and vice versa.


For Moore, the question of why she chose to start Fortis Femina has a backstory. For the previous four summers, Moore has participated in the 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program.


There, Moore listened to a speaker who inspired her decision to start her speaker series. “There was one speaker who talked about being bold and creating your legacy. It made me want to do something that actually impacted the community, something that would last.


“My hope is that girls can grow more confident in who they are by listening to other women sharing their faith.”


Fortis Femina has struck a chord with many young women, and it seems likely that it will be a staple at Paul VI for years to come.  


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019