SCCCW celebrates good works at annual convention

COLUMBIA — “Live as children of light,” a phrase from Ephesians 5:8, was the rallying cry for the 77th Annual Convention of the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women. The event was held March 23-25.

The 189 attendees worshiped and celebrated together, listened to guest speakers and took time to honor individuals and groups who made special contributions to the council in 2006-07.

For their 2007 convention project, the women raised more than $6,000 to help Our Lady of Mercy School in Beaumont, Texas, a parochial school that has been experiencing financial difficulty.

The convention was dedicated to Sumter resident Ernestine Harris, a 43-year member of the council and past SCCCW president. Harris was honored for her many years of work at all levels of council, as well as her work to help develop the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Black Ministry, now known as the Office of Ethnic Ministry.

On March 23, the group was welcomed to Columbia by representatives from Richland County Council and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble.

On March 24, members elected Joan Lucius of St. Peter Church, Columbia, as SCCCW treasurer.

They also listened to a presentation by Daisy Ferrette, chairwoman of the council’s archives committee, and thanked her for extensive work she has done in recent years to relocate and organize the archives.

Two guest speakers offered workshops on March 24: Sister Julia Hutchinson, superintendent of schools for the diocese, and Carolyn Wagner of St. Joseph Church, Columbia.

Sister Julia discussed the school choice movement, which has been endorsed by Bishop Robert J. Baker and attracted a large number of Catholics to a support rally in February.

She explained the school choice option and asked the women to consider it a social justice issue. She emphasized that money coming into Catholic schools from any school choice legislation would not compromise the integrity of Catholic education.

“We will never sacrifice the mission for money,” she said. “We’re not selling the ship. If they won’t let us teach the Catholic faith the way it is taught now, they can keep their money.”

Some were concerned about what the proposed legislation would do to public schools in certain areas of the state. Sister Julia said school choice would make public schools more accountable to parents and taxpayers.

Wagner offered a presentation on work she did as a nurse in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. She showed slides of a trip to the city with the St. Joseph children’s choir just two months before the storm, then contrasted that experience with the misery and need after the storm hit.

Wagner said she learned lessons about human courage and faith.

“I learned that God truly protects us through everything,” she said.

A group of Somali Bantu women sold woven pine straw baskets at a table outside the main meeting room. The women, who have settled in the capitol city, sell baskets as part of a business project. It was started through help from women at St. Martin de Porres Church.

Bishop Baker celebrated Mass at St. Peter Church, and later the annual Awards Banquet was held at Embassy Suites. He also presented Sophie Sagrera with the Our Lady of Good Counsel Medal.

Sagrera, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church for more than 40 years, was honored as the South Carolina Catholic Woman of the Year. She also won the Woman of the Year award from the Midlands Deanery.

Sagrera has served on the parish council, is a member of the women’s society and is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. She serves on a committee which sponsors a Somali Bantu family locally. Through their efforts, a Bantu child has been able to attend kindergarten at St. Martin de Porres School.

The guest speaker at the awards banquet was Father Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican priest who was ordained as a Catholic priest in December 2006. He spoke on “How to Keep Your Kids Catholic.”

The true danger, he said, comes from parents who either don’t practice the faith at all or seem to regard it as an annoying duty.

He also said lifelong Catholics come from “an atmosphere in the home of repentance and forgiveness.” He encouraged Catholic adults to help their children discover the beauty and history of the church.

“For our kids and grandkids to stay Catholic, they need to see that for us our faith is an adventure,” he said.

“Today many people have a delusion of religion as a comfort zone, a doctrine which makes us feel secure. If that’s all our religion is, it’s not much. We have to put some effort into getting them out to see where the true Catholic life is being lived.”

On March 25, the council awarded its Women Religious Award to Sister Dorothy Brogan, of the Congregation of Bon Secours, for her work providing spiritual care to patients in the St. Francis Hospital health care system in Greenville.

The Father William Pentis Multicultural Outreach Award went to three different council affiliates: Holy Trinity Women’s Guild in Orangeburg; St. Martin de Porres Rosary Altar Society in Columbia; and affiliates from St. Mary Church in Greenville.