“Celebrating the Feminine Genius” was the theme for the annual Arlington Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (ADCCW) convention held at St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria last Saturday.
This year, the ADCCW put the finishing touches on the Women Doctors of the Church program that has been in the works for the past several years. Using the three women doctors of the Church, Sts. Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, as models helps women integrate their faith into their daily lives and understand their “feminine genius.”
Although the program has already begun in many parishes, the publication of the study guide will help more women use this tool effectively. The council presented Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde with the completed study guide for the program.
The council has two new DVDs available featuring doctors from Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax. “A Contraceptive Conversion Story” presented by Dr. Marie Anderson and “Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel of Life” features Liz Schiavone, ADCCW president, and Dr. John Bruchalski, founder of Divine Mercy Care. There are now four DVDs and one video produced by ADCCW. The programs have been spread beyond the Arlington Diocese to help promote a culture of life.
According to Schiavone, the council is hoping to begin a new program called “Reaching Out” that will offer support for young mothers. If a girl has a child at an early age, this often means her education is cut short. “Reaching Out” will help these girls finish high school or receive a two-year degree, whether they keep the child or give it up for adoption. The proposal has received support from Laura Bush, Schiavone said.
In the keynote address, Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC), explained his work at the VCC to promote Catholic values at the Virginia General Assembly.
“The bedrock principle is a respect for human life and dignity,” Caruso said. This includes issues like abortion and embryonic stem-cell research as well as caring for immigrants or the poor and imprisoned.
“Just as we would put money into a poor box or volunteer, we can also make a huge difference by participating in legislative advocacy,” he said.
Caruso explained that it is best to meet with representatives in person to talk about issues, but he realizes that isn’t often possible. The VCC offers an e-mail network that will keep people up-to-date on the issues important to Catholics with a link to e-mail representatives.
Since Catholic social teaching is so broad, Caruso finds he can agree with most legislators about something. Some politicians favor the pro-life issues, others work to promote social justice. Even if they don’t vote in line with the Church every time, they are at least open to hearing Caruso speak.
“They respect the consistency of our agenda,” he said.
Prompted by questions from the women, Caruso explained several issues that were recently discussed at the General Assembly such as transportation and state funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
Fran Greene from Holy Spirit Parish in Annandale wasn’t aware that the VCC existed before Caruso’s talk. She also found the question and answer time very helpful in explaining Church teaching on certain matters.
“He brought the issues to life and made it real,” said Nilda Godwin from St. Lawrence Parish.
Bishop Loverde celebrated Mass with ADCCW participants and led them in a meditation about the story of the Prodigal Son.
“Jesus’ image of God is that of a father embracing,” said Bishop Loverde. “God is eagerly waiting for us to come home.”
The St. Lawrence Council of Catholic Women, who hosted this year’s conference, put in a lot of extra work to make the day a success. The council has 20-30 women who actively participate although every woman in the parish is a member, said Addie Arthur, member.
According to Lucretia Burnly, St. Lawrence council president, one of their main projects is the bereavement group that serves food for more than 30 funerals each year.
The women’s council from St. Mary Parish in Fredericksburg focuses on raising money for charity, said Sue Kozicki, a member. Each year, they donate nearly $15,000. The money is split among several worthy organizations including the parish, Holy Cross Academy, Birthright, the campus ministry at the University of Mary Washington and the Little Sisters of the Poor. It is raised through two annual events, a bazaar and art sale.
The conference ended by honoring 13 women as the “Most Outstanding Woman of the Parish” award. The awardees included: Sharon Liddicoatt from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville, Eugenia Braun from St. Michael Parish in Annandale, Mary Meyers from St. Lawrence Parish in Alexandria, Lillian Rainey from Our Lady of Good Counsel in Vienna, Peggy Ragan from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Warrenton, Maureen Vloet from St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax, Luz Haggerty from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Winchester, Dr. Onalee McGraw from St. John the Baptist Parish in Front Royal, Pat Johnsen from Holy Spirit Parish in Annandale, Rebecca Maurer from St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Fairfax, Kathy Williamson from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria and Maria Cassidy from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
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