Catholic woman of the year, Father Pentis honored at SCCCW meeting

NORTH CHARLESTON — The S.C. Council of Catholic Women held its 78th annual convention April 11-13.  
Participants at the conference spent three days worshipping and praying together, learning about social issues and different facets of life as Catholic women, and honoring those among them for their efforts to live faith-filled lives.  
This year’s theme was “Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward” (Ps 127:3).  
The 209 attendees took part in a special Mass held April 12 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in downtown Charleston, celebrated by Msgr. Thomas Hofmann.
Nina McCunniff, who represents the Lowcountry Deanery, was chosen as the South Carolina Catholic Woman of the Year and received the Our Lady of Good Counsel Medal at the annual banquet on April 12.  
McCunniff is a member of St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head and the Women of St. Francis. She is one of the founding members of St. Francis and helped to establish the parish school. She has been active on her parish council, created the church’s ministry for the sick, and has served as an instructor for RCIA and CCD.  
The council raised more than $5,200 for The Oratory in Rock Hill as their 2008 convention project. The money will be given to The Oratory in honor of Father William Pentis.  
Father Pentis has served as moderator for the SCCCW since 1985, and on April 13 was presented with a special papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI.  
“We always know that Father Pentis keeps the Gospel at the heart of his decisions,” said Monica Szymanski, who presented a framed copy of the blessing to the priest. “He is a modern day disciple and the embodiment of faith in action. We are all better people
for knowing him, and the SCCCW is a better organization for having him at the helm … He is truly the hands of Christ reaching out to make a difference, with the heart of Christ radiating its light from within to all he encounters on a daily basis.”  
Szymanski described the dedication Father Pentis has shown to the SCCCW over the years, and praised his ability to provide spiritual aid and gentle guidance for the council’s members.  
“Through the years … by his humble presence he has taught each of us how to be good listeners, how to offer support, and how to gently guide one another in the process of developing leadership roles within our church and individual communities,” she said.  
On April 12, members of the women’s council elected new officers for 2008. Lindamarie Richardson was elected president, and Leslie Barhyte Moulton was elected treasurer. Both women attend St. Mary Church in Greenville and are members of St. Mary Catholic Women’s Club. Joan Valesente, a member of Holy Family Church in Hilton Head, was voted secretary.  
The 2008 convention was dedicated to Vincenza Francese, a resident of Charleston who has been active in the SCCCW for 57 years.
The attendees took part in two workshops on April 12. Detective Tim Ramsey of the juvenile division of the North Charleston Police Department offered a presentation on “Gang Awareness,” which outlined the kind of gang problems North Charleston and other South Carolina communities have dealt with in recent years.  
Ramsey offered guidelines on how to tell if young people are getting involved in gangs, and stressed the importance of church and family in helping to keep gangs out of the community.  
Sister Ann Billard, of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy in Charleston, offered a session on “The Spirituality of Aging.” She presented the women with a list of the seven “spiritual tasks of aging”: admitting to and surrendering to the aging process, self confrontation and self reformation, letting go of the ego’s aspirations, self-transcendence, emancipated innocence, reclaiming the wonder and delight of life, and sharing the legacy.  
Through these tasks, she said, people can learn how to become what she called “transcendent elders,” or those who recognize the spiritual gifts of age and willingly share their wisdom and the love of God with others.  
“Aging is a call, a process of growing into God,” Sister Ann told the women. “It’s a process of allowing God to work through us. We can revise the aging process in a way that’s rooted in our own Catholic tradition, by living out the Paschal mystery the way Christ has modeled for us. Jesus exhorts people to become like children or they will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“Through aging,” Sister Ann said, “we are called to become the compassionate elder, and to be childlike in our delight in life.”  
Sister Ann said one of the most important tasks for people to learn as they age is how to let go of a variety of things, ranging from past hurt and grief to unnecessary material possessions.  
“Aging calls us to let go of fears, of masks, of things we cannot change,” she said. “Letting go is probably the most countercultural element of Christian culture, because the priorities of the world convince us more is better.”