Catholic women’s lives and work celebrated at annual convention

Pearlie Harris, center, a member of St. Mary Church, was honored as the SCCCW Woman of the Year.

Pearlie Harris, center, a member of St. Mary Church, was honored as the SCCCW Woman of the Year.GREENVILLE—Women provide special gifts to the Catholic Church through the work they do. Whether it is caring for children and the less fortunate, raising money for charities and parishes, teaching the faith, or working at any level in churches and schools, they carry out the mission of God.

That was the uplifting message sent to 164 women from the Diocese of Charleston who attended the 80th annual convention of the S.C. Council of Catholic Women March 19-21.

The convention, hosted by the SCCCW Piedmont Deanery, was based at the Embassy Suites, with other events around Greenville. The theme was “Catholic Women: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Present, Building Our Future.”

The opening session, with dinner and entertainment, was held March 19 at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, hosted the event, which included music and dancing.

On March 20, several workshops focused on different roles women hold in the church at the diocesan, national and international levels.

Kimberly Brown talked about her volunteer work at the Nazareth Children’s Home in Nyendo, Uganda, and described ways the organization can increase their international outreach.

Four members of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia who teach at St. Mary School in Greenville spoke of their vocational journey. They described how they spread the Gospel message through a life of prayer and the apostolate of teaching. The sisters shared the joys and challenges of religious life, of living in community, and the spiritual freedom that can come by turning one’s life over to the service of Christ.

Sister John Thomas Armour, who teaches language arts, religion and algebra at St. Mary, said the key to a true vocation is learning how to hear God’s voice through the distractions of daily life.

“I was chasing my own dreams, and God finally said, ‘Why don’t you try my dreams?’” she said. “Choosing religious life is about a bigger ‘yes.’ I did have to say no to some things, like having children. But I was saying yes to a spiritual motherhood of the children I serve, and yes to having a spiritual, divine husband in Christ.”

Lisa Rawlins gave a workshop about how strategic planning and organization can help women’s groups become more effective.

The diocesan director of research and planning stressed the importance of reaching out to women of all ages and backgrounds, and urged the women to base everything they do on Scripture and the teachings of the church. She also encouraged them to consider what gifts they bring to their organizations, and help others in their parishes discover their own gifts and learn how they can help further the work of the church.

The annual convention Mass, held at St. Mary Church, was celebrated by Father Richard D. Harris, diocesan vicar general, who also installed new officers for each deanery.

Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary, was the keynote speaker at the annual awards banquet held March 20. He described the spiritual journey that led to his priesthood, and talked about the crucial work women do to sustain the church and spread the Catholic faith.

He said Scripture tells many stories about women who stayed faithful to God in tough circumstances, worked behind the scenes to spread the Gospel message, and showed faith in Christ when others wavered.

He said one of the greatest examples is Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection and who brought the message of the empty tomb to the other disciples. He called her the “Apostle to the Apostles” and said she is an inspiration for the many dedicated women who serve the church today.

“There would be no Catholic Church, no celebration of sacraments, no Christian life without women,” he said. “The apostles could have done nothing without the women who sustained them. Every priest who ever heard a confession, comforted the sick or offered a Mass is the son of a woman. If the priesthood is to be renewed, it will be by the mothers of priests. If it is to be sustained, it will be sustained by you. You are here because faith has moved you, and each one of you is somehow involved in sustaining the church.”

Pearlie Harris, a member of St. Mary Church, was honored as the SCCCW Woman of the Year. Other nominees were Eleanor Simpson Weiters, Coastal Deanery; Nancy Godbold, Columbia-Midlands Deanery; Sally Lenz, Pee Dee Deanery; and Joan Mullane, Lowcountry Deanery.

Dominican Sister Carol Dulka, seated, received the Woman Religious of the Year Award from the S.C. Council of Catholic Women at their 2010 convention in Greenville.  She shares a moment with, from left, Dorothy Clerkin, Sister Maryjane Golden, SSMN, Marie Lussier, Claire Schady and Sandra Clark, all from St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville.Dominican Sister Carol Dulka, seated center in the photo at left, was named the 2010 Religious Woman of the Year.

For their 2010 convention project, the women raised $5,410 for the Diocese of Charleston’s vocations programs. They also collected $3,491 for Catholic Relief Services’ work in Haiti.

The first annual $500 SCCCW scholarship was officially unveiled during the convention. The award was one of the primary goals of outgoing president Lindamarie Richardson. It will be given annually to a deserving Catholic high school senior girl from the diocese.

On March 21, Richardson passed the gavel to newly elected president Barbara Birds, a member of St. Patrick Church in Charleston. She will serve a two-year term.