By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
CONWAY — The South Carolina Council of Catholic Women took their show on the road Oct. 23 to the Florence Deanery for the first of four traveling workshops.
The meeting, held at St. James Church, marked the state council’s effort to stir up enthusiasm, increase participation and support its existing membership.
“We need to get a spark going,” said Joan Mack, chairman of the SCCCW organization commission. “With so few priests, now is the time for the ladies’ organizations to get stronger, not to continue at status quo. We have to get more involved in ministry.”
A panel of SCCCW officers led the workshop including: Monica Szymanski, president of the state council; Carloyn Heider, past president; Pat Langston, president of the SCCCW associates; and Dottie McCabe, SCCCW parliamentarian. Msgr. Thomas Duffy, pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City, was the meeting moderator.
The workshops focused on leadership, recruiting, parliamentary procedure, diversity, and the future of the organization.
“Normally, we get together at convention and everyone cannot attend,” Mack said. “At these workshops we will try to deal with issues that we cover at convention.”
One of the groups biggest problems is finding people who want to take on leadership roles. Heider said she has seen leaders go, and have to come back because no one will take their place.
“We need help,” she said. “Younger women don’t have the time which is a legitimate excuse.”
Mack, however, said: “You have to make time for your responsibilities to the Church. There is a complacency about it, people think somebody else will take care of it.”
Szymanski told the participants that once they reached a leadership level where they were comfortable in their organization they needed to find someone and train them as a replacement. She also expressed concern that they are not reaching all ethnic groups and young mothers.
“We need to let all Catholic women know that they are our sisters in Christ, we want to be a part of their life,” Szymanski.
She encouraged local guilds to write reports on their activities which can be used for reporting back to the state level of the organization, to identify their roles, and get recognition. The groups also need to rely on feedback, she said. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It helps you to grow. Know your organization and what its needs are. Always expect the best from the people around you. Build on the strength of experience and have patience. Your membership and your success on the affiliate level affects the national level.”
Langston, who spoke about recruiting, said that meetings should be scheduled to accommodate the majority of members and creative problem-solving, such as carpooling, can be used to get around problems. Meetings, she said, should be fun, yet structured and on topics that the group wants to hear.
Msgr. Duffy spoke about serving. He said that the ladies’ guilds are answering to a higher authority.
“God calls us,” he said. “Being a Catholic is not something we take on ourselves. God calls us and what a mission he has given us. He calls us to share his message. We have the challenge to say to every person we meet, ‘you are somebody.’ We can’t carry it out alone, only with one another. God the Father didn’t do it all by himself, he sent his Son. The Son didn’t do it all by himself, he sent the Holy Spirit. Guess what? The triune God didn’t do it alone either, he called on us. We are called to serve and be served by one another We need other people and, guess what, they need us.”
The workshop closed out with a discussion on diversity and encouraging membership amongst women of color letting all know they are welcomed.
Women from two guilds in Loris and Dillon attended the program who were not affiliated with SCCCW. Carol Kaiman, president of St. Anthony Church ladies guild in Florence said the meeting helped introduce them to these groups and learn about what others are doing.
“We are all benefiting by others’ experiences and we learn from that,” she said. “We may take pride in what we are doing but we take pride in what others are doing too. We are all sisters in Christ.”
The next workshop will be from 10:30 to 2 p.m., Nov. 6 at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Chapin. A Greenville area workshop is scheduled for January and the Charleston area meeting will be announced.