By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
GREENVILLE “Stewardship of God’s Creation Women Sharing Time, Talent and Treasure” was the theme of the 71st convention of the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women (SCCCW), which brought 215 members from across the Palmetto State to the Embassy Suites Hotel here March 30 to April 1.
This year’s event was dedicated to Harriet Molony Condon of Charleston, who has just completed two years representing the diocese as the Atlanta Province director and on the board of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW), where she served on several commissions.
Jessie Bowens of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville presided over a busy slate of convention activities in her role as president of the SCCCW. In their business sessions on March 31, women took up resolutions dealing with racial profiling by law enforcement offices, victims of domestic violence who need assistance, and the sexual abuse of incarcerated females and female employees of the prison system.
Workshops at the gathering covered organizational, international, legislative, church and family concerns. Some of the topics were “Parliamentary procedure” by Martha Brecht; “Domestic abuse” by Rebecca Callaham, a counselor with Safe Harbor in Greenville; “Global village or global pillage” by Our Lady of Mercy Sister Mary Thomas Neal, a representative to the United National Non-Governmental Organizations Conference; “Improving family relationships” by Elizabeth Patterson; and “Women in the new millennium” by Sister Maryjane Golden.
Eucharist at the convention was celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. During the intercessions at the liturgy, the names of council women who had died in the past year were read and a flower was placed before a statue of the Blessed Mother at the end of each deanery list. Installation of the new officers was also presided over by the bishop at the Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Baker said that in this year of reconciliation, the diocese is honoring women in the church and the special gifts they bring to build up Christ’s body. “Might I rightly suggest that you all assume a sisterly relation and a motherly relation with those you serve in the church,” the bishop said. “You are in the spiritual relation of sister to all you labor with in building up the Body of Christ.”
Bishop Baker also asked for the women’s help to flesh out his theology of spiritual motherhood. “I’d like to suggest that in your own way, you grow in the spiritual life by taking on uniquely the spiritual role of the motherhood of Mary, a role you in some way participate in.”
The bishop also suggested that there is a maternal spiritual thrust to the role women play in God’s plan of salvation. “Even if you are not physically a mother of any children, you are invited by God to a special spiritual maternity, which you demonstrate in every act of mercy or charity your perform for someone in need of God’s healing and help.”
Wrapping up his remarks, Bishop Baker told the women to be proud of their role, as no one can replace it or do it any better.
That pride was on display at the convention that evening, as it was time for the group to honor its own by giving out its top awards.
Corinne Tomihiro from St. Joseph Church in Columbia, representing the Midlands Deanery, was selected as SCCCW Woman of the Year. Other honorees were Stacy Margaret McBride from the Piedmont, Wilma C. Lucas from the Pee Dee, and Doris Hamilton from the Charleston Deanery. As the litany of Tomihiro’s activities was read by Pat Langston, SCCCW historian, the audience burst into laughter, when, after citing numerous volunteer efforts for several minutes, Langston then discussed the hobbies Tomihiro enjoys in her “free time.” Tomihiro also provided some comic relief for the crowd when she said, “Thank goodness my husband can cook.”
Sister Mary Joseph Ritter from the Our Lady of Mercy Outreach on John’s Island was named the SCCCW Woman Religious of the Year. Other nominees for the award were St. Mary of Namur Sister Maryjane Golden, director of religious education at St. Patrick Church in Charleston; Franciscan Sister Isabel Haughey, pastoral associate at St. Michael Church in Garden City; and Franciscan Sister Patricia Przybyski, pastoral associate at St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach.
Condon was also recognized for her long service to the SCCCW and given a standing ovation from all in attendance. That included eight from nine children and several grandchildren in the audience. The only absence was a daughter who was ill that evening.
In her banquet address, K. LaVerne Redden, NCCW president from the Diocese of Toledo, thanked the South Carolina women for giving her the opportunity to share information and her experiences with them. “Being national president has been one of the blessings of my life,” she said.
Redden spoke of having just returned from Rome, where she was one of 500 people serving as a representative to the World Congress of Catholic Women at the Vatican. After hearing firsthand stories of struggle from Catholic women in Africa and Cuba, she shouted “God Bless America” to her Palmetto State audience.
“You have been a blessing. What a wonderful gift to the world you are,” Redden said. She discussed how the SCCCW convention provided an opportunity for people from across the state to come together to share and pray. “That hum of friendship is what this council is all about. Don’t ever lose that,” said the national president.
The seven decade history of the CCW in South Carolina was also addressed by Redden. “Over the past 70 years, it hasn’t been easy to put yourself in harms way to do for others. It’s not easy to be charitable, it’s not easy to be Christian, but it always pays.”
She concluded by talking about the church’s belief system. “We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that family is at the heart of the church. We believe the Holy Spirit is ready to help us build communities of good will. I echo the words of this convention call by asking you to be all that you are and be all that God says you are.”
In closing remarks, Bishop Baker thanked the council women for all they are doing on behalf of all the priests and women religious of the diocese.
Before ending on Sunday, convention awards were also given for scrapbooks, composite reports, and special commission concerns. In addition, honors were also bestowed through President’s Awards, the Father William Pentis Multicultural Award, and the Ruth Schachte Perpetual Silver Bowl Membership Award.
The 72nd gathering of the SCCCW will be held in Myrtle Beach.