Catholic women meet for diocesan convention at the Mound Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Jane Lepeska Grinde   
Thursday, Jun. 28, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
Msgr. Duane Moellenberndt, Madison Diocesan Council of Catholic Women spiritual advisor, installed officers at the organization’s recent  convention. They are, from left: President Bernadette Schaefer, Lancaster; President-elect Judy Lyons, Fort Atkinson; Secretary Linda Ripp, Martinsville; and Treasurer Kathy Loy, Fennimore. (Photo from Kathy Loy)

SINSINAWA -- The 64th annual convention of the Madison Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (MDCCW) started the morning of June 13 with “Sister Mary Agnes” running into the Heritage Center at the Mound here, ringing a bell as four young teen girls trailed behind her.

“Time for class, everyone. Let’s move along! Don’t dawdle! We have a busy day!”

Skit highlights councils of Catholic women

In a skit written by Bernadette Schaefer, convention co-chair and an alumna of the former Sinsinawa Academy, the audience learned about MDCCW and its umbrella organization, the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW).

Sister Mary Agnes, portrayed by retired Lancaster High School teacher and forensics coach Peg Jonas, asked the girls questions, which they eventually answered correctly.

Mixed with humor, the mini-production provided an overview of the national organization which was started by the American Catholic bishops in 1920 “to unite women’s voices and actions.”

Nearly 100 years later, it continues to do that through its mission “to support, empower, and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership, and service. NCCW programs respond with Gospel values to the needs of the Church and society in the modern world.”

Spirituality, leadership, service

NCCW works through three commissions: spirituality, leadership, and service.

Spirituality plans retreats, writes prayers and meditations, and encourages people to pray the Rosary.

Leadership works on membership, and the service commission addresses such issues as domestic violence, human trafficking, pornography, and right to life.

Partnering with other organizations, including Catholic Relief Services and Cross Catholic Outreach, NCCW participates in the Madonna Plan, serving mothers and children; Water for Life; Help-a-Child, assisting children with food, medicine, and schools; Boxes of Joy, for children in poor countries; and Refugee Women Emergency Fund, supporting women and children who are refugees. Just recently, NCCW started a penpal program for American Catholic schools and Holy Land schools.

The last question asked by Sister Mary Agnes -- “Who is the special patron of the Council of Catholic Women?” -- was answered by Mary Alice, portrayed by Paige Lolwing, “I know! I know! Our Lady of Good Counsel! Her picture is on that banner over there with baby Jesus. The women pray to her at every meeting.”

Opening the convention

The recitation of the prayer along with the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance by the women signaled the opening of the convention.

Janet Block, Lancaster, president of the host Grant Vicariate, welcomed 150 women from at least 35 parishes in the Diocese of Madison. Fifty-seven were first-time attendees.

MDCCW Co-Presidents Sue Koch, Berlin, and Ellen Martin, Westfield, introduced members of the MDCCW board, CCW leaders from other dioceses in Wisconsin, and special guest Jean Kelly, NCCW president-elect who is from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Madison Catholic Woman’s Club joins MDCCW

Martin announced that the Madison Catholic Woman’s Club is now affiliated with MDCCW. Attending from the organization were Susanna Herro, Blessed Sacrament Parish; Barbara Unger, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish; and Carol Strmiska, St. Peter Parish.

MDCCW officers

Delegates unanimously approved a by-law change to allow the secretary and treasurer to be elected for two consecutive two-year terms, with the treasurer being elected in the odd years and secretary along with the other officers in the even years.

Delegates by acclimation elected Judy Lyons, Fort Atkinson, president-elect; Linda Ripp, Martinsville, secretary; and Kathy Loy, Fennimore, treasurer. Bernadette Schaefer as president-elect automatically moved to presidency.

Msgr. Duane Moellenberndt, Sun Prairie, MDCCW spiritual advisor, installed the officers later in the day.

As they ended their two-year term, Co-Presidents Martin and Koch said they will continue to promote membership in MDCCW, which was a key focus for them. Their co-presidency was a first for MDCCW. They visited many parishes, promoting membership, and were successful in helping to recruit leadership for one of the vicariates. They intend to work with four of the nine that have no leaders at this time.

Their theme, “Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way,” was taken from the title of a book by St. John Paul II written when he was bishop of Kracow, Poland, during a time of Communist control. They wanted the members to add on to the phrase. For example, “Let us be on our way to serve the needs of the parish, to get through this problem, to pray more, to help out the elderly person next door, to spare a couple of hours a month to go to my church’s women’s club meeting, be it CCW, altar sodality, Catholic Women’s Club.”

Relationship with Jesus

“In closing,” Koch said, “we learned that the relationships and experiences we have with our diocesan sisters are not as important as the relationship we share with our Lord Jesus Christ.

“As expressed by Matthew Kelly in a recent ‘Best Lent Ever’ segment -- ‘what we believe and how we act align, (it) has an enormous effect on how we will live in the next life.’

“We thank you for the honor to serve as your diocesan co-presidents. We wish you a life filled with love for, and kindness towards, your fellow sisters and a deep abiding relationship and devotion to our heavenly Father who we will live with for all eternity.”

As is the tradition, the youngest first-time attendee received the Alice Krystofiak Award. Martin and Koch presented a Madonna statue to Avery Crooks, St. Clement Parish, Lancaster, who attended with her mother Lynn. The statue came from the collection of deceased MDCCW leader Sr. Jude Seaman.

Following the business meeting, keynote speaker Mary Pedersen, director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, spoke on the convention theme of “Joyful Disciples.” Her colleague Joanne Pohland, director of Catechetical Services, spoke in the afternoon on “How Jesus Encounters Women and Calls them Forth.”

Fr. William Vernon, pastor of St. Clement Parish, Lancaster, and Msgr. Duane Moellenbernt, pastor of Sacred Hearts Parish, Sun Prairie, concelebrated Mass in the chapel with servers from nearby St. Joseph Parish. In recognition of the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua, Father Vernon talked about the Franciscan priest who “was a great witness to the faith” and a great preacher. He lived during the time of St. Francis of Assisi. The Portuguese-born priest died in 1231 and was made a doctor of the Church in 1946. St. Anthony is known as an “intercessor of dire needs.”

Return to God’s way

In speaking on the Gospel from Mathew 5:17-19, Mon- signor Moellenberndt warned against making assumptions. “Things aren’t always as they seem. We make assumptions, only to be wrong in what we are thinking. The words of the Gospel seem harsh -- whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” but, he continued, “it is never a burden when we do things God’s way. . . . So many are living life on their own terms, rather than God’s terms. We need to return to God’s way.”

The MDCCW spiritual advisor said, “We don’t cast stones at other people, but rather look at our own lives to see how we can do a better job. We can find at least one way to improve.”

Referring to the first reading from the Book of Kings, he reminded the women that “God places himself right in the center. God is the one in control. We aren’t. Realizing that, we can be joyful disciples. If we don’t have to control things, we will remove a lot of stress from our lives. So much of our life is out of control.”

Monsignor Moellenberndt concluded with a blessing. “Each one of us is precious to God. How can we but be joyful? God bless you for who you are and for all you do for the Church.”

The Offertory collection of $752.50 was designated for projects ending human trafficking in Wisconsin.

‘He is the vine . . .’

At the conclusion of the convention, President Bernadette Schaefer thanked the outgoing co-presidents for their service who “reached out in new ways.”

She distributed business cards with her contact information and her theme: “He is the vine; we are the branches.”

On the back of the card are words from John 15:4-5: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

A future article will provide more information on her vision and theme for her presidency.

The Sauk Vicariate will host next year’s convention, with date and location to be determined.

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