MELBOURNE | The Diocese of Orlando Council of Catholic Women is known for shaping Catholic women through its development of spiritual, leadership and service opportunities. As many in the organization approach their golden years, ODCCW President Ginny Hagen, says members are working hard to attract younger women with the desire to grow as Catholics and serve their communities. Celebrating its 53rd Annual Convention at the Hilton in Melbourne, May 1-3, 173 members of all ages gathered to contemplate “God’s Vision for Us”.
The organization’s spiritual advisor, Father Miguel González, noted the challenges ahead. “The opportunity that we have before us, in light of the pandemic, is to learn what the people of God are hungering for and how can we be instruments to respond to that.” Impressed that this pandemic year “did not slow them down,” he said their commitment to venturing into new ways of communicating technologically and digitally is a testament to their commitment.
“These women have an incredible love of Church and a definite hunger to serve,” he said. “Based on their years of service and commitment and knowing so well the mechanics of the organization, they can be instrumental in preparing the new generation of women – to follow the same vision Bishop (John) Noonan has conveyed to us of enkindling a deeper faith, training new leaders, harmonizing ministries. Now they can take that vision and apply it to the reality of the ODCCW and how to diversify.”
Father González advised the women to ask themselves, “Do you see yourselves as the image you want to convey, not only ethnically and in age, but as mothers working and raising kids?” He said they needed to address how young women can fit in and discover how they can contribute as well as grow. “We really have to be cognizant that it’s a different world and a different generation,” he noted. The question is how to connect with the current generation and help them understand the value of being part of the ODCCW.
Fully accepting the challenge, Hagan affirmed the organization is consciously expanding culturally, demographically and digitally. Selection of speakers and Facebook Live transmissions of their talks showed growth in these areas. Father Blake Britton spoke on spirituality in “Restoring the Feminine Genius in the Modern World”. Rachel Bulman, popular blogger, author, and mother of four with twins on the way, spoke on the gift of femininity and how it is a gift of service through receptivity, self-gift, and production or fruitfulness. Bulman said Jesus’ love on the cross is “radical and extravagant”. She noted, “Authentic service needs to be a little radical.” She believes women should be practical about how they can serve and then rely on God’s grace. Honoring St. Catherine of Siena’s recent feast day, she quoted her: “Be who you are and set the world on fire.”
“Suffering must be transformed by love. When suffering is not transformed, it is transferred,” Bulman noted. “It is so important for what you do in your service, to make sure everything you’re handing on to one another is that transformed vision of God’s love for you… so when you practice your openness, gift of self, you’re giving them true self… transformed in that power of the love of God.”
Through this transformative love, members from 35 affiliates across the diocese celebrated how they enkindle the fire of their gifts as they discovered new ways to increase charitable efforts, spiritual growth, and advocacy. “They’ve done miraculous things,” Hagan said. “The pandemic brought us so many new challenges, but they’ve shown COVID a few things,” she added laughing.
Toya Martin heads the Western Deanery affiliation from St. Anthony Parish in Lakeland. Her take away was “renewal” and the “building” up of affiliations “in age and ethnicity to show we are one Catholic Church” with God’s grace. Martin believes members are up to the challenge to invite more women to join – young mothers, professionals, and singles willing to commit to growing as women of faith, empowered to be servant leaders.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, May 5, 2021