By Elizabeth Starr
For The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Internationally known Catholic speaker Sarah Swafford visited the University of Iowa campus on April 9 and met with 158 students and community members at the Newman Catholic Student Center to give her talk Relationships: It’s Complicated.
Swafford discussed several issues that young people face in relationships, including social media, being used and using others, struggles with self-worth, the overwhelming need to be perfect and striving for holiness. The event transitioned into guided adoration, which featured songs performed by the Newman Singers, followed by a book signing and a meet-and-greet with Swafford.
“How do you rise above the ‘feeling in the moment’ for your sake and the sake of your beloved?” Swafford asked, referring to her definition of emotional virtue.
Jocie Zenner and Austin Strom, both U of I juniors, have been dating for two and a half years. Each has seen Swafford speak. This was the first time they attended one of her talks together. Strom said it is easy to speculate what is said in another room and therefore beneficial to have men and women attend the same talk. “It was powerful to physically hear the girls acknowledge what was going on,” Strom said.
During her talk, Swafford recognized the hurt that both men and women experience. Much of what she said applied to each gender. “Knowing that they are hearing the same thing is powerful,” Zenner said.
Olivia Maharry, another U of I junior, said this was the first time she had heard Swafford speak.
“Everyone is so pumped about her,” Maharry said, “so I figured there must be a reason [to come]. Now I’m a part of her fan club.”
Both Maharry and her roommate, Mikaela Thiel, said Swafford was easy to listen to but she talked about “stuff that hits home.”
About 90 percent of attendees were students, according to Laurie Harris, the event coordinator, and Father Jeff Belger, priest director at the Newman Center.
Harris said she was thrilled with the attendance. She first heard Swafford speak at the Student Leadership Summit (SLS) conference hosted by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in January 2018. “I heard her speak and knew it was a great message for students,” Harris said. “She related so well with students, and everything she said was focused on giving glory to God.”
The University of Iowa was Swafford’s last talk before she goes on maternity leave. Her son is due sometime between Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday.
Swafford’s father, Jerry Henry, who was traveling with her, said that her life experience inspired her ministry. He said she has experienced many of the issues she talks about, which allows her to connect so well to others. “I learn things from her myself,” Henry said.
Swafford is the founder of Emotional Virtues Ministries. She is the author of “Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama Free Relationships” and travels internationally speaking about how young people can live out authentic relationships and strive for holiness. She lives in Atchison, Kan., with her husband, Andy, and her four, soon-to-be five children.
The event was sponsored by the Nicholas and Helen Rossi Center for Faith and Culture at the Newman Catholic Student Center.
For more information about Sarah Swafford and her ministries, visit www.emotionalvirtue.com
(Elizabeth Starr is a student at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communications. Her home parish is Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf.)