NCCW Convention, Indianapolis, Indiana September 7-11, 2016
We had so many good talks at this year’s National Council of Catholic Women Convention in Indianapolis this September; it’s difficult deciding where to begin with my report. Four of us attended and we divided up the topics and I selected the Commissions.
In NCCW we have three major commissions, Spiritual, Leadership and Service. Each Commission Chair chooses certain timely topics on which to place her focus. The Service Commission Chair, Chris Heiderscheidt, from Sleepy Eye, MN, chose Human Trafficking, Immigration and the revival of the Respite program as her focus.
The Respite program is close to my heart, since while I was at Indianapolis, due to the fact that I am not comfortable leaving my husband, Marvin, alone overnight at home, he stayed in a respite program at the VA in St. Cloud while I was gone. Program materials have been developed and this program is going to be promoted by NCCW. Respite care provides a caregiver temporary relief from the responsibilities of caring for an individual. By providing volunteers, more elderly can remain in their own homes and parish. Respite is a gift of time. NCCW has developed a manual with all the details as to how to start the program in your parish, so let me know and I will explore it with anyone who is interested.
Immigration is a hot topic in Washington these days and it is also a concern for us Catholics. Basically there are three principles of Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration. First, people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. We are a nation of immigrants. Secondly, our country has the right to regulate its’ borders and to control immigration. Individuals must make economic, political, and social decisions, not out of selfishness or self interest, but with regard for the common good. The third principle, a country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy. A statement on immigration written by the USCCB states that immigration policy that allows people to live here and contribute to society for years, but refuses to offer them the opportunity to achieve legal status does not serve the common good.
We had a couple of excellent speakers on human trafficking and Linda is going to tell us their story. There are some ways that perhaps we can help prevent persons from being taken by force, fraud or coercion. One way is to place posters on the back of bathroom doors in rest areas or truck stops; these may help someone. We have those posters available to be copied and distributed.
A service project that was shared was called “Tickle the Tootsies”- Stocking Stuffer. They stuffed some socks with personal care items to be made available to homeless shelters through Catholic Charities. This would be a true act of Mercy.
Under the Spirituality commission NCCW has developed a collection of Prayer Services for Vocations and also a Retreat on Mercy. I have copies of both of these. The retreat could be held at any time and it is a 2 to 3 hour plan or it could be extended to half a day. It reflects on women living the Corporal Works of Mercy.
We also were encouraged to consider the Vocation Purse Club project, which would help those religious orders with their applicants’ education debts. Many potential postulants are not accepted because they have college debts and the order cannot afford to take over the debt.
A service project that interested me was “Just One Gift”. This project is sponsored by Cross Catholic Outreach and it would provide a Christmas gift for a child in a 3rd world country who perhaps has never had a Christmas present. I have an example box and a sign-up sheet. If we could do 300 of these boxes, Outreach would come to our diocese and pick them up. I am thinking we would not have time this Christmas, but we could perhaps have them ready for pick up in plenty of time for 2017. We could involve our Catholic school children and/or youth groups. The kids could go shopping at a dollar store to fill a box. If you have the internet you can read all about it under www.box of joy.org. If you have no computer and are interested please call me 612-804-5629 or write me, 25008 Mary St. Paynesville, MN 56362 and I can get you all the information you need.
Being that I am the new public relations chair for DCCW, I was particularly interested in the materials developed on Media: “What is the Message?” I purchased that book and in the months to come I will share some of the articles written on how the mass media impacts our lives. Do we as Catholic Christians look at the media through the eyes of our Faith? The Leadership Commission had a good session and shared materials and programs that they conduct throughout the country to help support, empower and educate us. Again watch for articles on our web site; stclouddccw.org, the newsletter “Our Catholic Voice” or on Facebook.
Julie Moorhead-Miller Past President Saint Cloud Diocesan Council of Catholic Women
NCCW ANNUAL CONVENTION 2016
I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend the NCCW Annual Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I will focus on three of the speakers. Thursday morning during the opening general session, Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA spoke. She is a member of the Dominican Order and the first woman to hold this position in the organization’s history. As a member of the American Association of Clinical Psychologists, she is engaged in global peace initiatives directed toward building bridges of understanding and collaboration among women leaders. Sister Donna referred to the bad news that we daily see and hear. Her suggestion was to read scripture for encouragement. “What more is God calling me to do and how might God be calling you?” In the Good Samaritan gospel, the message is to care of others. That message also applies to our lives today, to go and do likewise. Catholic women have the opportunity to help others and to listen to their stories. Can we be the face of God to others both physically/ bodily to help those as the Good Samaritan did and also provide financial support? In the Gospel we read how others passed by, but the Samaritan (least of society) took compassion to be there, stayed overnight, and settled the debts. A person acting as a Good Samaritan places the needs of the stranger over their own needs.
She addressed the fact that Catholic Charities has gotten many hate phone calls, emails, and individuals who won’t contribute money anymore. She stated that Catholic Charities helped refugees for 140 years, in all countries. Now we are helping people from Syria, providing food, shelter, and medical help even if it is unpopular to do so.
She explained that you, yourself, have received God’s mercy in the midst of your own sinfulness. When we come to self-awareness, we move to share with others as doing corporal works of mercy. She asked that besides compassion, that we work for inclusion to those who are marginalized. Next, the video was shown about a gal named Kindra (who appeared rather masculine) who accepted help from Catholic Charities. Kindra had been sexually abused when a child and grew to distrust male adults. She chose to not dress in a feminine style so as to not attract male attention. She made some bad choices in her life and financially struggled to raise her son. She was desperate and thought there was no hope. Sister Donna said that, going back to her early years as a psychologist, she would have judged this woman named Kindra, wondered how she had gotten into such a sad situation and why she didn’t just clean up her act. Now after years of practice Sister Markham said she has grown in her wisdom and understanding, working to be less judgmental. This can be our goal, too, to share God’s mercy with others and be the beating heart of the gospel.
Friday morning Maria Morera Johnson, of Cuban decent, gave her talk titled “Befriending the Saints – an exercise in Mercy”. She said that we are ‘Instruments of Mercy’ because we talk with and listen to people. In fact, making eye contact in the first months of life is very important for babies. We Catholics are to follow scripture, quoting Psalms: ‘Make your face to shine upon others’. The story she told was about when she went with her children to a fast food restaurant. There was a beggar sitting nearby holding a sign ‘no job’. Her children asked, ‘why doesn’t he just get up and go inside to apply to work there?’ She said, ‘No, don’t look at him; I’ll explain when we get home.’ Back home she felt guilty, had a family meeting, and decided they would work with the St. Vincent De Paul society to donate their time and money.
During her life when busy teaching and raising her family, she felt she had drifted away from the church. When asked to do a writing assignment, she began researching saints of the Catholic Church. Mrs. Johnson talked about saints that she had read about and saints who had a special meaning to her. A couple of saints that seemed to speak to her in her daily life are St. Philip Neri and St. Rose of Lima. Her husband was diagnosed with ALS and they have had some challenging times because of this devastating illness. He wanted to retire and move to water property, but they were aware of their financial limitations. Since real estate was too expensive in Florida, they looked elsewhere. They took a leap of faith, moved from Georgia to Alabama, and in retirement plan to build a dream house on the Gulf of Mexico.
Maria Johnson shared that she was fortunate to travel to Cuba during the visit of Pope Francis last fall and reconnect with her distant family and relatives. Her recent book (My Badass Book of Saints) was available for purchase. Maria Johnson closed by saying that a person should follow their dreams and with God’s help they may come true.
Another speaker we heard Friday morning was Judy Hehr. She is a wild and crazy gal who shared her emotional journey. Her main message was that it’s never too late to become all God has created you to be and that He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in all his children. She said that she was preoccupied with herself, thinking the Trinity stood for ‘Me, myself, and I’. She suffered from abuse early in her life and just wanted to be loved and noticed. She quit going to church and for 5 years destroyed her life. Judy shared that she did not go a day without drugs and sold her soul to any bidder. After her mother died she felt desperate and tried to commit suicide. In her 20’s she was preoccupied with self-pity and felt life was not worth living. She checked herself into alcohol and drug treatment center to recover. When talking to a priest, her spiritual advisor said she broke all 10 commandments! Judy said, ‘Every time I wanted to end my life and make it a period, God said, “Oh, no, girlfriend, that’s only a comma, keep living your life and you will do great things”.’ Next in her life was getting married and raising children. She pushed herself in her private business, made a fortune of money, but was not a good mother. The more time she spent in her business, the more money she earned, but that meant less time with her husband and children. She found out from her siblings that her husband had been involved in an affair and that her marriage was headed to divorce. She retired from her career to focus on her family and set a new goal. Her words to her family were: Ok, we gonna get ‘God’. She threw herself into church activities, but wanted a better / deeper faith and decided to enter the seminary. She joked, “I have received two degrees – graduated from substance abuse program and from the seminary!”
Judy admitted that her mess of life was part of her message. Even when her dad gave her permission to divorce her husband, her mom always told her to ‘Offer it up’. She said, ‘Well, I daily carry my cross. “I now love my husband and we have good communication”. She joked that she feels Pope Francis with his ‘Year of Mercy’ set it up just for her! Her advice was: Keep going to mass, even if the priest is trying to preach the ‘good news’ in a bad mood. We are there for the sacrament, the Eucharist. Her words of encouragement were, “Love without thought, Give without measure.”
Thank you to the women of the St. Cloud diocese for giving me the opportunity to attend this annual convention in Indianapolis, IN.
Cheryl Weller, Saint Cloud DCCW Vice President
“THERE IS HOPE FOR ME”
At the National Convention there were a number of personal testimonies. I would like to tell you about the one “There is Hope for Me” by Katarina Rosenblatt. It was her story of surviving human trafficking.
She started out telling factors that lead children into sexual slavery-which include:
1) Abuse within the home
2) Economic disadvantages
3) Exposure to drugs and alcohol abuse
4) Seeking father figures to fill the “daddy hole”
These children are needy, anxious, lonely and vulnerable. They believe what they are told because they want to hear that they are important to someone.
Her story is about surviving more than once in a circumstance that should not happen. Most victims end up dead. With Katarina it started when she was 13; she and her mother lived in an apartment building. Katarina would spend much time in the swimming pool because she was lonely while her mother worked. An older girl befriended her and without Katarina realizing it, she was being groomed for sex trafficking. Part of the grooming was to be introduced to men. One guy was at the pool with his 2 children. The first time Katarina was set up for a meeting with a man, she rejected him. The next day at school she was approached by boys and girls who were involved in the sex traffic ring; they attempted to kill her by giving her drugs. She kept being pulled back into trafficking because she was seeking to be someone. Once they are hooked into that lifestyle, it takes great courage to get out for good. She credits her life to God. When she was 12 years old, her mother took her to a Billy Graham program. She felt pulled to go forward to the altar, where Billy Graham pointed his index finger at her saying, “Remember this: God will never leave you or forsake you.” She would remember this whenever she was caught in a bad situation.
Today she runs a program called “There is Hope for Me” which reaches out to help survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. Their part is to provide Healing, Opportunity, Purpose and Empowerment to the survivors of these crimes.
Sex trafficking is happening all over. Don’t tell yourself that it can’t happen in your town. It can. She has written a book, “Stolen”, which tells her story. It also can help you be aware of signs to look for.
Linda Scepurek, Little Falls Deanery President
Read "Our Catholic Voice" found in the reports section for more information.