HILTON HEAD — This year the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women responded to the voices of Catholic women in parishes from Colleton County and points south. It formed a Lowcountry Deanery, and Phyllis Atkins, a parishioner at St. Francis by the Sea, has taken the helm as its first president.
Atkins, a resident of Bluffton, said that her first taste of the influence that deanery representatives have came at the annual convention held in North Charleston earlier this year.
“The convention really turned my tide,” she said. “The leaders and their effectiveness really made an impression on me. I was new to the situation at the time, but this affirmed the idea in my mind that I’d done the right thing.”
Atkins, who was installed as president in June, said that the unification of the deaneries in the diocese was another impressive thing.
“This is so much more than joining an organization,” she said. “We are a united front, and we do have a voice.”
The voice to which Atkins referred is the drawing point that she hopes to use in convincing affiliates to form under her jurisdiction.
There are many women’s groups with a spiritual, social, and educational focus who aren’t affiliated with the deanery,” said Atkins. “My job is to sell them on the idea of uniting with other groups. I am not by any means hoping to dictate to any of these affiliates. They will be autonomous, but united as one voice.”
Atkins has no plans to formalize the meetings until the idea becomes more solidified in the participants’ minds.
“It’s not my goal to demand reports from meetings or minute-taking,” she said. “Down the road we will make structure a goal, but for now we just want to gather women together under Catholic principles.”
For Atkins, the mother of seven and grandmother of 15, giving back in this way is something that she sees as her stewardship.
“After a visit to the Vatican several years ago I knew that I needed to find a way to serve, and God has been so good to me,” she said. “I have a form of leukemia, and when I found out that I didn’t have to have chemotherapy I knew that I had no excuse for not doing this.”
The Lowcountry Deanery’s first affiliate started by Atkins — the Women of St. Francis — held its first meeting Sept. 13 with much success.
Atkins is looking forward to a two-day event sponsored by the Lowcountry Deanery and featuring Constance Wall and her daughter, Amy. Wall will share her personal experience of seeing Amy have her hearing restored with prayers to St. Katherine Drexel.
“Amy was born deaf, and Mrs. Wall learned that through the intercession of St. Katherine a deaf man named Robert Dufferson had been healed,” Atkins said. “She prayed for the same miracle for Amy, and she was healed literally overnight. How many chances will we have to talk to someone who is a living miracle?”
The Walls will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 in the St. Francis by the Sea Church family center, located at 45 Beach City Road. The cost is $25, and seating is limited. The Walls will speak again at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 in the church, and an offering will be collected. For more information call the church at (843) 681-6350.