Helping others, finding support through the Columbiettes

Members of the Columbiettes meet at St. John the Beloved in Summerville May 15. (Miscellany/Doug Deas)

Members of the Columbiettes meet at St. John the Beloved in Summerville May 15. (Miscellany/Doug Deas)SUMMERVILLE—The Columbiettes have a very clear goal — or rather, lots of goals with one higher purpose of helping others.

“We want to take care of the women and the babies and the unborn,” said Florence Mucci. “We try to do local things because so many of the national things are well taken care of already.”

Mucci served as president of the S.C. State Council until a new slate of officers was elected May 15 at the annual convention. A transplant from New York, she said she is excited to turn the reins over to the local members.

Betty Richitelli, who has been a driving force behind the founding of the Columbiettes here, was elected as the new president.

The organization began in 1939 in New York, but struggled against competing interests in the South. Mucci helped create the first successful auxiliary in Beaufort.

They were followed by Summerville, Columbia, Taylors and Camden, and received recognition as a state council in 2008. Mucci said they also have auxiliaries forming in Seneca and North Charleston.

The Columbiettes have grown from about 35 members in 2003 to 225.

“I love the camaraderie,” Mucci said. “I like that we are a group of Catholic women joining for women and children.”

She said it is a lot of hard work, but the efforts are well worth it.

Each auxiliary is run independently with its own board and own fundraisers, she explained. They meet once a month and focus their energy on helping others in the church and community.

In Beaufort, they donate to the Thumbs Up program, which helps care for migrant workers and their children. Some of the Franciscan Sisters who run the program are Columbiettes.  

The auxiliary in Taylors contributes to Safe Harbor, a group that helps abused women get back on their feet and find employment.

“They just do marvellous things in each auxiliary,” Mucci said.

She added that it isn’t all sweat and vinegar and said the women are good friends and have a wonderful time together.  

They attend days of reflection, retreats and socials. About 50 women participated in the state convention, and said both the Mass and memorial service were lovely.

One thing the group brainstormed about at the meeting was ways to raise money for charity since they are no longer supposed to hold raffles. Mucci said it is hard enough to help those in need.

The women discussed petitioning their representatives to ask that the rule on raffles be reversed.

The Catholic women work side-by-side with the Knights of Columbus councils with which they are affiliated.

New officers include Richitelli; Paula Griffard, vice president; Lorraine Catoe, secretary; Julie Hingos, financial secretary; Marie Colucci, treasurer; Carmela Pastore, sentinel; and Msgr. Edward D. Lofton, chaplain.