SCCCW convention focuses on promoting faith and values

HILTON HEAD — The 79th annual Convention of the S.C. Council of Catholic Women offered participants from the Diocese of Charleston three days of spiritual reflection, celebration and fellowship.

The event, held at the Hilton Ocean Front Resort, featured guest speakers, workshops, entertainment, and daily opportunities for prayer and worship.

The convention was hosted by councils from the Lowcountry Deanery, which included members from Hilton Head, Beaufort, Bluffton and Walterboro. Many of the weekend’s activities used the ocean setting as a theme for spiritual renewal and reflection.

All 179 women gathered on the beach in front of their hotel on two mornings to pray the rosary together. They also took part in a prayer service, “Gifts from the Sea,” organized by Phyllis Atkins, a member of St. Francis by the Sea Church and convention chairman.

On March 28, guest speaker Jane Carter offered a “Best Foot Forward” workshop that encouraged attendees to focus on their individual strengths and the special gifts Catholic women’s groups have to offer, and then discover ways to share them with others.

Carter said women’s guilds and councils are not simply social organizations, but offer important sources of inspiration, fellowship and support for women in the church. She encouraged women to promote their causes through activities, and to make sure others know that faith in God and belief in the teachings of the church is the foundation of their lives.

“We’re not just women who hold bake sales and luncheons — we do that to raise money for women in prison and to help other women in need,” Carter said. “We’re not just women who sit together at Mass. We sit together and pray for victims of abortion, for the homeless and for vocations. Share the good stuff that you do. When you share that, your image is positive, exciting and faith-filled. Women will want to become [part] of your council because your spirituality is at the center of everything you do.”

A special Mass was held at St. Francis by the Sea Church on March 28 to install newly elected officers from each deanery. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone was the celebrant. It  was his first parish visit following his installation on March 25.

Bishop Guglielmone delivered a homily that focused on the importance of self-sacrifice, both during the season of Lent and throughout the year. He said Lent offers people a chance to reflect on the concept of death, not only as the end of life but also as a beginning.

“Death to self means giving up our own desires; realizing ‘I’m not the center of the universe,’ ” he said. “Each of us is called to die to self. It’s an invitation for us to look at Jesus as the model. Jesus did not desire to go into the horrible situation he faced. We know how difficult it must have been, but ultimately that death he faced leads to triumph.”

He said sacrifice is not an easy thing for anyone when the secular world focuses more on self-gratification.

“We don’t live in a society that accepts this whole concept of self-denial,” he said. “People don’t seem to want to look beyond the here and now, but that’s what God asks of us. He asks us to die to self not to put us in a situation of harm or misery, but to lead us to possibilities we can only imagine.”

Bishop Guglielmone also attended the awards banquet held that night.

Franciscan Sister Mary Schifferle from St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville was honored as the 2009 Religious Woman of the Year.

The Woman of the Year award went to Maria Leal, a mother of 11 and long-time member of St. Anthony Church in Walterboro. Oratorian Father William Pentis, moderator for the SCCCW, and Bishop Guglielmone presented Leal with the Our Lady of Good Counsel Medal.

Other nominees for the award were Carol Brooks, Midlands Deanery; Judy McColl, Piedmont Deanery; Clare Richter, Coastal Deanery; and Harriet Parrota, Pee Dee Deanery.

Sister Canice Adams, of the Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, was the keynote speaker at the banquet. She illuminated the important role women play in the life of the church.

Sister Canice urged attendees to think about the many roles they play in their families, parishes and in the diocese itself. She then asked individual women to describe important things they do to promote Catholic faith and values. The responses ranged from singing in the choir to teaching CCD and RCIA, raising funds, taking care of needy children and working to abolish the death penalty.

“If you make a difference to one person, that is important,” Sister Canice said. “Be positive. You as women are leaders. Everything that comes out of your mouths needs to be positive. Young people coming along today need hope … we Catholics have to stick together. From now on only spread the good that you know. People will see your example and think ‘Maybe there’s something to being a Catholic.’ ”

Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, who served as administrator for the diocese until Bishop Guglielmone’s installation, was also honored at the banquet.

On March 29, the Father William Pentis Multicultural Outreach Award was presented to the Ladies Guild of Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island. Their activities included providing transportation for members of the Hispanic community, holding ethnic feast day celebrations, programs for widowers, and running a food pantry for the needy.

The members raised $6,600 for the Daughters of St. Paul in Charleston as their 2009 SCCCW Convention Project. The money will help the order renovate their downtown building and support other services the sisters provide.