By TIM BULLARD
MYRTLE BEACH — Patricia “Pat” Schmidt of St. Joseph’s Church in Anderson was named Catholic Woman of the Year at the 72nd Annual South Carolina Council of Catholic Women (SCCCW) Convention held at the Ocean Dunes Resort last weekend.
The event was themed “Soaring to New Heights in Cultural Diversity.”
“The women in the parish are really the greatest helpers I think that any priest has,” said Oratorian Father William Pentis, state moderator from Rock Hill. “They are strengthened with the Holy Spirit to go out and evangelize and tell others of the good news of Jesus Christ, and that is what they are doing. If you notice, some of people here are limping with canes and everything else, but they are here.”
Estelle Chaney of St. Jude in Sumter was a delegate at the gathering.
“We are trying to do something new and different, going out and helping people more. We used to do that, but then we got away from that,” she said. “Now they want us to start checking on people who are sick and the ones who are shut in and can’t get out.”
St. Mary of Namur Sister Maryjane Golden is director of religious education at St. Patrick Parish in Charleston.
“Our group is very, very active,” she said. “They do all kinds of community service and almost everything that needs to be done in the church.”
Carol Donovan from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach is the incoming president for the Pee Dee Deanery.
“It’s a real uplifting experience to be here with Catholic women from all over the state who have the same ideas and thoughts and work in doing what we are trying to do in our own home parish,” she said.
The National Council of Catholic Women is comprised of 7,000 groups representing millions of Catholic women in America. It was formed in 1920 at the request of U.S. bishops after women groups’ work during World War I. It is an affiliate group of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
At the business portion of their meeting, the SCCCW passed a resolution to “provide staunch moral support and education to Catholic parents in efforts to promote homes, schools, libraries, playgrounds, commercial spaces and other environments used by our children and families to be free of media portraying violence, explicit sex, pornography and indecency.”
In the Piedmont Deanery, groups from different parishes were very active throughout the year. Women assisted Catholic Charities last Nov. 10 with a collection of chairs, tables, blankets, linens, TVs, videos, CDs, toys, canned foods, shoes and clothing for men, women and children to be distributed at the Catholic Charities Distribution Center in Una in Spartanburg County. More than 50 families came to the facility during the seven hours of distribution.
At St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, the Women’s Club donated $1,000 to St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero in New York City. The funds were used to feed firemen at the disaster site.
Women from St. Joseph Church in Anderson were “Saturday Servants” for the Community Soup Kitchen, preparing bag lunches for the needy during a month when the kitchen was closed, according to Mary Frances Oliver, outgoing president of the Piedmont Deanery. The group also raised money for a bus to ferry people to the pro-life march in Columbia.
St. Anthony of Padua Women’s Club in Greenville organized “Operation Caring,” visiting the sick and the elderly and making Christmas cards for shut-ins. They also sponsored a back to school party for the church students.
Statewide, the SCCCW has accepted the Drexel House in Charleston as its project in 2002. The Drexel House welcomes and houses men and women who perform community services during a period of discernment while they consider vocations to the priesthood, religious life or their own spiritual direction.
At the Saturday evening banquet, Kathleen Merritt, director of the diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries, was the featured speaker. Nominees for Catholic Woman of the Year were recognized at the occasion. They included Pat Schmidt of St. Joseph’s in Anderson for the Piedmont Deanery, Dottie McCabe of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston for the Charleston Deanery, Kay Hoff of St. Michael in Garden City for the Pee Dee Deanery, and Jo Eisenman of St. Joseph’s in Columbia for the Columbia-Midlands Deanery.
Woman religious nominees were Sister Colie Stokes of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, Sister Helen Chatterton of St. Peter’s in Columbia, and Sister Mary Connor of St. Mary’s in Greenville.
Joan Mack of Charleston was elected the new SCCCW president, succeeding Jessie Bowens.
Mack was deanery president of the Charleston Deanery for two terms and Deanery Woman of the Year in 1997. She was also Family Concerns Commission chair. In 1997 she was a nominee for SCCCW Catholic Woman of the Year.
Her goal for the organization is to increase membership.
She said, “In order for us to fulfill our mission, we must find ways to increase our membership. I see this as a top priority.”
Mack said the SCCCW is facing the same problem many other service organizations in the state are facing, a decline in participation, especially among young people between the ages of 25-40.
I would like to see every parish in the diocese become affiliated with the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women,” said Mack.
To that end, she said the SCCCW would send invitations to join and ask parish priests for their support in encouraging the non-affiliated women’s clubs to join.