Council of Catholic Women forms leaders in Christ

By Laura Dodson, Florida Catholic correspondent – August 3, 2017

MELBOURNE | “We came, we were fed, we laughed, we learned, we prayed, we shared, we renewed friendships, we met new people, and we were reminded – Christ is our LifeSaver,” summarized Mary Matheus, president of the Orlando Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (ODCCW).

The 35th annual ODCCW Lake Yale Leadership Symposium in Eustis July 29 – 30 empowered 180 women from five dioceses to return to their parishes energized with new ideas, information and renewed passion to serve.

“The sisterhood and the bonding are so very special,” said Lena Ghaffari, chair of the diocesan leadership team from Palm Beach Diocese who led a contingent of 13 participants. “We hold a one-day leadership conference, but we’re rolling out a two-day conference. We are bringing back so much good information.”

With a theme of “Lifesavers,” workshops focused on communication, team building, membership and utilizing resources.

“We build a team by aligning with God’s purposes,” said Linda Clark, National Council of Catholic Women Leadership Development Team presenter from St. Paul Parish, Leesburg. “Communication is the heart of everything that we do and exercising Christ-like behavior prepares us for being on mission together.”

Prayer services focused on the lectio divina process and spiritual journaling to deepen the experience of listening to and responding to God’s voice spoken to the heart. Sunday sunrise found women praying for life, either on the dock praying a rosary or walking the trails.

Matheus facilitated one of the major sessions on recognizing, assisting and honoring council spiritual advisors, parish priests and seminarians.

“Ask them, ‘What can the council do for you? What can we do to help you in the parish?” Matheus suggested. “Find ways to say thank you. Create a special prayer for him, donate to his favorite charity in his name.”

Ellen Brighton from St. Joseph and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Orlando shared that the

affiliation donates $50 per month to their priests and celebrates all of the diocesan seminarians’ birthdays with a Mass intention. At Holy Redeemer Parish in Kissimmee, a special dinner is held for the seminarians and they return to seminary with gifts of cookies, crackers and fast food gift cards.

Father Miguel Gonzalez, rector of St. James Cathedral and spiritual advisor to the ODCCW presided at Mass and thanked the ladies profusely for all they do for priests and seminarians and also for their generosity to the latest initiative – the National Council of Catholic Women Purse Club – a newly formed foundation to financially assist aspirant women to pay off debts so that they are then free to enter religious life. The offertory collection brought $1000 for the Purse Club.

“This is a refresher for me,” said Jean Bazley, the incoming president of the Miami Province Florida Council of Catholic Women. “I also need to hear what the ladies in the state are sharing. If I’m going to represent them, then I need to meet them and know what they’re doing. This has been wonderful –they’re accomplishing so much!”