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National Council of Catholic Women turns 100

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Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory thanked the National Council of Catholic Women for their years of dedication to the church at the council’s national conference, which marked its 100th anniversary this year, postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic.

Hundreds of women representing affiliates around the nation, including the Arlington Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, attended the Aug. 25-28 conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, where "Happy birthday" balloons dotted the hotel ballroom.

Linking the women’s activities to a passage of St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, Cardinal Gregory explained during an Aug. 26 Mass that, "Paul tells his young colleague that his own faith is a heritage that he received from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. The gifts that Timothy brought to his ministry in Ephesus, he found in the women from his own life whose gift of faith had inspired him."

"We priests and bishops would also have to acknowledge the debt of gratitude for the gifts of faith that we have found in our own lives through the extraordinary witness of mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and you, our colleagues in the National Council of Catholic Women. Your devotion to the mission of Christ inspires us to be more faithful, loving and devoted to the service of the church," he said during Mass, concelebrated by Bishop William A. Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., the episcopal liaison between the NCCW and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island, Neb., and more than two dozen priests.

Cardinal Gregory’s homily acknowledged the human tendency to want to forsake the Christian faith in light of the many recent scandals, both in the church and in the nation. "Are these not our own challenges today — to remain faithful to the mission and teachings of Jesus Christ in spite of crushing upheavals?" he asked.

The liturgy’s prayers of the faithful included petitions for victims in just the last few weeks of floods and wildfires in the United States, the earthquake in Haiti, the crumbling of Afghanistan’s government and the news that morning of two terrorist bombing attacks near the Kabul airport.

The cardinal recognized those, noting, "we have seen such devastation and loss of life that most everyone has been horrified if not scandalized by the sight. Yet out of our astonishment, we have begun to respond as the people of faith that we are called to be. We are currently preparing to welcome people as new neighbors and as members of our own communities in many situations.

"We have contributed funds, collected food and clothing, sent soldiers, police, medical personnel and all manner of volunteers to these regions to assist with the response," Cardinal Gregory said. "We have done those things as members of the household of faith — as followers of Christ Jesus Himself. We are trying to be faithful to the mission of the Lord Jesus as Paul urged his collaborators including his compatriot the youthful Timothy — and surely all of us as well."

He praised the delegates and all Catholic women who, throughout the history of the church in the United States, "have been at the heart and soul of our efforts. You have, as on so many other occasions, rallied the church to undertake the works of charity and service. "

Washington’s archbishop said the women have made the face of Christ more visible through their works of compassion.

"In Chicago, Belleville, Atlanta and now here in Archdiocese of Washington where I have been blessed to serve as bishop, I have always found the membership of the NCCW to be among the first and most generous servants of the mission of Christ," the cardinal said. "From the everyday local and parochial activities to those extraordinary works of love, you have a heritage of munificence that would make St. Paul proud as it does the church in our own times. In truth, we would be hopelessly diminished without the presence of the National Council of Catholic Women in the countless works of charity and the spiritual treasures that you so generously provide for the church."

Meghan Hamberger, president of the ADCCW, helped welcome the nearly 500 attendees from across the country. "We were thrilled and honored to help host the centennial convention," she said. 

"The event was a tremendous success. Our greatest happiness was seeing the joy of conventiongoers — who hadn't been able to gather for two years — come together to renew old friendships, learn how they can serve in their parishes and dioceses, and worship together."

Bishop Burbidge celebrated the closing liturgy Aug. 28 with Bishop Oscar A. Solls from Salt Lake City.

The conference also featured an address titled "Women Persevere in Faith," by Gloria Purvis, who hosts a podcast through America Media. Other speakers included Bishop Wack and Ana Lisa Piñon, diocesan director of faith formation and evangelization.

Liz Schiavone, past NCCW Baltimore Province director and past ADCCW president, was installed as the NCCW Leadership Commission Chair at the conference.

According to the National Council of Catholic Women’s website, the organization consists of thousands of Catholic women and affiliated Catholic women’s organizations in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States. The NCCW was founded in 1920 by the United States Catholic bishops and offers it members spirituality, leadership and service opportunities, programs and resources. The group created the Water for Life Fund to support the work of Catholic Relief Services, and it has worked with groups and U.S. women religious to end human trafficking. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy between December 2015 and November 2016, NCCW members performed more than 2 million spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021