Women’s conference keeps service in the forefront

COLUMBIA — Beginning with the Presentation of Colors by Fort Jackson Army Base soldiers, the 73rd South Carolina Council of Catholic Women (SCCCW) Convention illustrated in many different ways the recurring theme “Faithful Servants Making the Connection.”

On March 28, affiliates gathered for a reception on Friday and started Saturday morning with a general business meeting where the individual organizations reported their accomplishments for the year.

Like the national organization, the SCCCW focuses on six areas of service: organization, legislation, community, church, family and international concerns.

For the convention, Joan Mack, SCCCW president, made sure that each topic was discussed in the six workshops offered March 29 by her appointed chairpersons. Legislative commission chairman Barbara Lux led a workshop on “Women in Politics: “Making the Legislative Connection.”

She walked through the steps a citizen needs to do to support a bill or initiate a bill on local, state and federal levels.

In another session, “Shelter in the Time of Storm: Helping Foster Children to Succeed,” Mary Francis Oliver, who chairs Community Concerns, discussed two state initiatives, foster care improvement and Catholic school volunteerism.

“Friends of Foster Care,” the official name given to the foster care project by the Office of the South Carolina Secretary of State, suggests mentoring, student transportation and tutoring as ways to help foster children.

The 2003-2004 SCCCW officers were inducted on the evening of March 29 at St. Peter Church during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. The diocesan officers are Joan Mack, president; Eileen Lee, recording secretary; Ruthann Howard, treasurer; Elease Amos-Goodwin, corresponding secretary; and Harriet Condon, parliamentarian.

The bishop expressed gratitude for the vital role of women in the diocese and their service to God’s people. During the breakfast he used the example of Martha and Mary to demonstrate how their spirituality combines both the contemplative prayer and action seen in the members of SCCCW.

One of the highlights of the convention was Sandra Johnson, a native of Columbia, who wrote the book, “Standing on Holy Ground,” winner of the 2003 Christopher Award. The book describes the struggles and victories of two friends, one black and the other white who made sure an African-American church was rebuilt after it had been purposely burned down.

“The reason I chose Sandra to speak was that her book focused on two strong women who saw a need, stood up and did something about it in the name of justice,” said Mack.

Throughout the convention, many women were recognized for their outstanding service. Harriet McKie from St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia was the 2003 Catholic Woman of the Year for her faithful service to the church and community.

Sister of Charity of St. Augustine Mary Jacob Yelcho was given the 2003 Women Religious Award for her work at Providence Hospital and St. Martin de Porres School. Oratorian Father William Pentis, who has been the diocesan moderator of SCCCW for 20 years, was also recognized.

All members are called to support peace, participate in evangelization programs, fight crime especially through prevention, speak out against exploitation of women and children, and try to understand the church’s teaching on the death penalty.

“While there’s still much to be done, I applaud you, the members of SCCCW for the work we have accomplished over the past year. Your interest, dedication, caring and support made it all possible,” said Mack.

One observation made by the bishop and many of the participants was the organization’s unity and cohesiveness something Mack has worked hard to accomplish.

“I was very impressed with the collaborative character of all the ethnic groups represented at the convention and found the SCCCW a model for the diocese,” said Bishop Baker.