By KATHLEEN SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — As the March Madness basketball playoffs were battled out, a spiritual championship took place at the Embassy Suites here, March 19-21.
The South Carolina Council of Catholic Women (SCCCW) held their 69th convention, where the Catholic Woman of the Year and Catholic Woman Religious of the Year were honored for their great achievements. The competition was fierce, but two winners emerged out of a field of tough competitors. Cecilia Velte from the Charleston Deanery was chosen as 1999 Catholic Woman of the Year and Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch was 1999 Catholic Woman Religious of the Year.
A member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Charleston, Velte’s accomplishments are numerous and extend over a long period of time. Some of her activities include: scheduling eucharistic ministers at all liturgies, leading the rosary, working for the outreach center, participating in pro-life activities locally and nationally, and mentoring those suffering with substance abuse.
Her pastor, Father Joseph Hanley, describes her as “an outstanding representative of Catholic life and a most fitting symbol of the Catholic women of the diocese.”
The other nominees were: Estelle Chaney from the Columbia Deanery, Ann Marie Keller from Florence and Anne Marable from the Greenville Deanery.
The recipient of the 1999 Catholic Woman Religious had an equally impressive resume. Sister Hosch, founder of the Poverella Ministry, has trained a 150-member team to assist in a ministry designed to make needy families more self-sufficient. Already the ministry has helped 25 families make the move off of welfare. Her latest project is coordinating an ecumenical outreach for the poor in Greenville.
In her acceptance speech, Sister Hosch said, “I accept this award for all the women religious who do so much for the diocese.”
The other women religious nominated for this prestigious award were: Ursuline Sister Andrea Callahan from Columbia and Our Lady of Mercy Sister Jean Marie O’Shea from the Charleston Deanery.
“Congratulations to the recipients. May you continue your good works and may you bring more new members into your organization,” said Bishop David B. Thompson during the banquet. He also urged all the baptized to take advantage of the great opportunities and great grace available during the millennium. “I wonder what the Blessed Mother’s plans for 2000 will be. Perhaps she will intervene for us like she did at the wedding feast in Cana,” said the Bishop.
The recognition of hard-working women was not the only item on the convention’s full agenda. New officers for each deanery were installed during Mass celebrated by Bishop Thompson, following a full day of workshops on subjects ranging from pro-life issues to organ donation. The individual deaneries gave their annual report and the organization made plans for the upcoming year. After the general business meeting, the workshops began with sessions broken into three parts: “Life in the Beginning,” “Living the Word in Family and Community” and “Living and Dying According to the Voice of Faith.”
Thelma Pettigrew, parishioner of St. Patrick Church in Charleston and member of the SCCCW since 1959, said, “All of the workshops touched my heart, but I was particularly moved by the last session.” Pettigrew was one of the first 12 Black members of the Charleston Deanery and has seen firsthand the transformations made possible by SCCCW.
In the session “Life in the Beginning,” speakers from Family Honor, South Carolina Citizens for Life and Birthright were joined by Mothers Outreach to Mothers (MOM). Peggy Sookikian, MOM organizer, explained that her program was “not a handout but a hand up.
“MOM, which targets the needy, is a way to help people access available assistance,” said Sookikian. MOM, with the help of DSS, locates a mother in need. A trained MOM volunteer then intervenes for these mothers and their children ensuring that they get the education and information they need, especially in areas of prenatal and postnatal care. Sookikian sees the organization as a means to “knock down walls” for those at risk not just “making tunnels.”
Another powerful presentation was given during the “Living and Dying According to the Voice of Faith” by Dr. Lawrence McManus, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Gift of Life Trust Fund. Dr. McManus, an orthopedic doctor, said to the women, “Offering an organ is like being a Good Samaritan because you are assisting those in need.” There are 65,000 people in need of an organ transplant in the United States, 621 in South Carolina alone. As a survivor of a liver transplant seven-and-a-half years ago, McManus spoke passionately about how he was given a second chance for life and how his donor made it possible. He and his wife started the foundation with their initial $20,000, writing the legislation and promoting it. The foundation has grown tremendously and now encompasses five states: North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
Sister Susan Schorsten gave the banquet address. She is currently the assistant to the vicar general and liaison for religious. In her address, she encouraged women to use their God given talents. “As women we are gifted with our own intuitive sense,” she said. Sister Schorsten also recommended taking along the Scripture as a faithful companion in one’s faith journey. She added that, the Bible contains stories with many female heroines whom women can read about and identify with in their own struggles and accomplishments.