The annual convention of the Harrisburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (HDCCW) returned to an in-person gathering on April 23, celebrating the various ways in which the members of the CCW are God’s hands on earth.
The Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, founded in 1924, works to inspire the parish councils of Catholic Women throughout the Diocese. Council programs support the spiritual life of members and the physical needs of the Church locally and globally, with such programs as activities for spiritual growth, and support for vocations, pregnancy centers, women, migrant workers, and children in third world countries.
This year’s event marks the 96th convention of the HDCCW, and drew 96 registered attendees to the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg for a celebration of their good works.
Addressing the theme of “God’s Hands on Earth,” keynote speaker Emily Jaminet told the women that the only way they can look with compassion on the world “is through what goes on in our very own hearts, because our hearts are the very vessel with which we receive the love of Jesus.”
Jaminet is the executive director of the Sacred Heart Enthronement Network, a Catholic radio host, author and contributor to www.CatholicMom.com.
In her presentation, she offered five ways to become the hands and feet of Christ on earth.
The first is to have “a superabundance of hope,” Jaminet said.
“I’m not speaking of the hope the world speaks of [but rather] the theological virtue in which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life for our happiness,” she said. “Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a new sense of hope for the season in which we live.”
The second is to have an encounter with the heart of Jesus.
“Once you understand the significance of Our Lord’s heart in your life, that encounter will forever change you,” Jaminet said. “…. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that the Lord wants to renew your heart. Jesus wants to fill our hearts with His love. We live in that love, and then we go forth and share it.”
She encouraged the women to have heart-to-heart moments with Jesus, just as they have with their close friends. “Our loneliness will only be filled by listening to Christ and leaning on Him, and that comes from being in prayer and silence to develop a relationship with Him,” she said.
The third step toward being the hands and feet of Christ is to build a legacy of love, Jaminet said.
“We want to pass on the love of Christ to our children and our grandchildren, and to those around us. That’s a powerful legacy, more significant than what is in our own bank accounts,” said Jaminet, offering first-hand accounts of ways in which her own family passed on the faith from generation to generation.
The fourth step is to be rooted in prayer.
“Everything you’re doing is so good when you’re doing the work of the Lord, but it has to come as a response to that inner peace and calling from the Lord,” she said. “We have important roles, but if what we’re doing is not rooted in prayer, we’re going to miss the key directions from the Holy Spirit…. Prayer is our fuel for every day.’
The final step Jaminet offered is to practice the Works of Mercy.
“I can’t talk about being the hands and feet of Christ without talking about what that looks like – and that is the Works of Mercy,” she said. Pointing to Jesus’ words to St. Faustina on exercising mercy toward one’s neighbor by deed, by word and by prayer, Jaminet called those three works “Jesus’ formula for our busy-ness in life.”
“I hope and pray that your faith can be renewed, that you can see yourself as the ambassador of Christ, being the hands and feet of our Lord, that you desire to have a heart full of compassion because of that intimate connection with Christ,” Jaminet told the convention attendees.
Witnessing to Christ
The convention highlighted many of the various works of the Council of Catholic Women, and offered ways for women to continue to support them. Outreach efforts included donations of items for infants and toddlers in support of pregnancy centers, and efforts to support their scholarship fund for graduating high school senior girls, a prayer shawl ministry and migrant ministry.
Bishop Ronald Gainer served as the homilist and principal celebrant for Mass, concelebrated by Father Ted Keating, spiritual moderator of the HDCCW.
In his homily, the bishop told the women that their vocation is to witness to the truth that has changed their lives.
“Our vocation is to have the people around us recognize us as companions of Jesus, friends of the Lord who cannot keep this beautiful truth to ourselves, but who feel the absolute necessity of giving witness, incarnating the Easter faith by how we behave and what we say,” he said.
“I thank you for all of the good works, the great fruits of the CCW throughout our Diocese, your leadership in those good works, and every way that you are witnessing to Christ. You are showing others that you are indeed companions of Jesus, members of his mystical body, the Church,” Bishop Gainer said. “We know a truth that we dare not keep to ourselves.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, four women were installed as new officers of the Diocesan Council: Jeanne Warren, president; Terri Gelles, vice president; Linda Hartzell, secretary; and Linda Melencheck, treasurer.
The HDCCW presented its second annual Our Lady of Good Counsel Award to Jeanne Warren of Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Middletown. This award recognizes a woman in the Diocese who has made a significant contribution at any level of Council.
The inaugural Golden Rose Award, presented to a young woman who has made a significant contribution to their parish and community in service and leadership, was given to Monica Fazzolari, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Harrisburg and student at Bishop McDevitt High School.
The convention also included workshops, vendors, lunch and door prizes. Break-out workshop presenters and topics included a Rosary-making session by Marie Bernadette Plum; “Being Instruments of God’s Mercy” by Eva Gontis; “Feeding the Hungry” by Amy Hill; and a look at the life and work of Father Ciszek, “With God in Russia,” by John DeJak.
Out-going president Alycia Laureti said the convention theme, “Be God’s Hands on Earth,” is a fitting one for the Easter season.
“Being the hands and feet of Jesus means that we step out in faith and with God’s grace go out into the world, equipped, empowered and entrusted to participate in his ministry to the world,” she told convention attendees. “As women, we are especially called to be the hands of Jesus wherever we go.”
“Many of our councils embraced new initiatives, designing the CCW for future generations. As your Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, we have accepted that mission along with all of you. The HDCCW Board has been working hard to bring you programs and ideas to stay engaged. I am proud of the work they have done, and excited that there is more to come,” she said.
“I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to the Council of Catholic Women. The Council is successful because of each and every one of you,” Laureti added. “It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as your diocesan president.”
Membership in the Council of Catholic Women is open to all Catholic women in parishes throughout the Diocese. Learn more about the programs and activities of the Harrisburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women at www.hdccw.webs.com.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness