Catholic women urged to work for peace and justice
By Loretta Shea Kline
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY - Representatives of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women came back from a national meeting earlier this month filled with hope that their prayers and good works can make a difference in the world.
Elizabeth Dietrich, president of the Kansas City-St.Joseph DCCW poses with Benji Gray, Springfield -Cape Girardeau DCCW president.
Four members of the Diocesan council - Elizabeth Dietrich, Lillian Herr, Cecilia Gainey and Frances Yanez - and the group's spiritual moderator, Father Joseph Mancuso, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, attended the National Council of Catholic Women's General Assembly Oct. 1 to 4 in Dearborn, Mich. Some 550 women and 51 spiritual moderators represented dioceses across the country.
"It was the biggest assembly they ever had," said Dietrich, who is president of the Diocesan council and a member of St. Mark Parish in Independence. "It was such an intense experience."
The theme of the meeting, a biennial event, was "Journey to Jubilee - Women of Hope." After hearing a talk in which hope was described as the middle sister of the virtues Faith, Hope and Charity, Dietrich said she felt as if Catholic women working together could accomplish "most anything."
The women and spiritual moderators attended workshops on topics such as improving care for the dying and global solidarity, a concept that has been emphasized through the national council's 52-year association with Catholic Relief Services, Dietrich said. The women were exhorted to teach their children and grandchildren to care for others around the world, and to work for peace and justice for all people, she said.
While there is much work being done on a large scale by organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, the prayers, donations and advocacy efforts of local Catholic women are needed, too, Dietrich said.
"Every woman can't be a missionary," she said. "But you can be a part of this global movement to make a difference around the world."
One way the DCCW has chosen to show solidarity is through its sponsorship of Eyeglass Sunday, Oct. 18, Dietrich said. The group is asking for donations of used eyeglasses for adults and children to be donated to missions in Paraguay, South America.
Donations may be given to DCCW members at Masses, or placed in marked containers, Dietrich said. A local missionary couple, Ed and Madge Sutherlin, will deliver the glasses to the missions.
The glasses will be cleaned and the prescriptions read and labeled, so that each recipient gets the correct prescription ordered by a doctor, Dietrich said. While DCCW members as a group have been donating eyeglasses for years, this is the first Diocesan-wide collection, she said.
"Everybody has grandma's glasses in the drawer, or a pair that a child has outgrown," Dietrich said. "Our slogan is 'So Others May See.' Hopefully, it will make a difference."
The DCCW's next major project will be hosting the 1999 convention of the National Council of Catholic Women set for Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 in Kansas City. More than 2,000 Catholic women from across the country are expected to attend. The convention will be held at the Westin Crown Center and Hyatt Regency Crown Center hotels.
"It's a big, big honor that they are coming here," Dietrich said. "It is an honor, but it is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility."
Dietrich, who is serving as co-chairperson of the local planning efforts along with Catherine Daugherty, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Parish, said that she hopes every parish in the Diocese will be represented at the convention.
"Every lady of the Diocese is a member (of the local and national councils) just by being a Catholic woman," Dietrich said. "They are all invited to come pray with us."
The local council is expected to furnish 150 to 200 volunteers during the convention, and volunteers will be needed to help with the planning, Dietrich said. Quarterly meetings of the DCCW generally draw about 80 to 100 women, she said.
"We are hoping for many more than that for the national event," Dietrich said. "We are praying many will be involved."
Dietrich is also hoping that younger women will come forward to help. Most of the women active in the Kansas City-St. Joseph council are retirement age. Councils around the country have younger women as active members, and their energy is needed here, too, Dietrich said.
At the recent general assembly, offers of help in planning for the national convention came from councils in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Dietrich said. The local council will have 10 responsibilities such as organizing volunteers, tours, the closing banquet and activities for spouses, she said.
Kansas City was the site of the biennial convention in 1981, and women still come up to Dietrich at national meetings and remark that it was one of the best, she said. She wants the 1999 event to be a wonderful experience, too.
"I want it to be such a beautiful and spiritual time, like it was in '81," Dietrich said. "And I think that it will be."
Attending national events and participating in local projects offer Catholic women the opportunity to enrich their spiritual lives, form peer relationships that help sustain them in their faith and become more aware of global and Church issues, said Father Mancuso, who has served as spiritual moderator to the DCCW for five years.
"The programs that the women are involved in certainly develop a very strong relationship with the Church, and therefore with Christ," Father Mancuso said. "Helping the poor as a social justice issue in their lives is very important. They are very committed to it."
Eyeglass Sunday is just one example of the many projects the women undertake on behalf of the poor locally and around the world, Father Mancuso said.
"It's a tremendous realization of their solidarity with the poor, their willingness to help those who are suffering," he said.
Father Mancuso said the national convention - through workshops, liturgies and volunteering - offers younger women an opportunity to further their involvement with the Church.