By Barb Arland-Fye
IOWA CITY — Organizers of the Davenport Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DDCCW) were delighted with turnout for the annual meeting April 15 that drew 95 members and guests to St. Patrick Church.
“We had the best-attended conference in recent history,” said Catherine Hurley, immediate past president of DDCCW. Last year, about 60 people attended the event.
This year’s theme, “We are women of faith, women of action,” reflected every aspect of the event. Sister Marie Vittetoe, CHM, shared stories about the people of Haiti and their efforts to recover from a crippling earthquake in January. She has lived and worked in Haiti and is a consultant to Hopital Sacre Coeur in Milot. She showed slides of the earthquake’s aftermath: people who’ve had a limb amputated, but still managed to smile for the cameras; a statue of Jesus standing amidst the rubble of a cathedral in Port-au-Prince. “Jesus is still suffering with the people,” she said. “They are filled with God’s love. Who else do they have to depend on?” Sr. Vittetoe also noted that Haitians need the tools to foster self-sufficiency. The DDCCW presented her with a check for $1,000 to benefit Haitians.
Bishop Martin Amos, presiding at Mass during the DDCCW meeting, focused his homily on four women of faith from Scripture: Rahab, Esther, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Concelebrating Mass with the bishop were Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish; Father Ed Fitzpatrick, director of the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City; Father Jeffry Belger, the center’s campus minister and parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City; and Father David Hitch, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Tipton. “St. Patrick,” (Dan Daly of St. Patrick Parish) made a surprise appearance after Mass dressed as the parish’s patron saint. Mass-goers sang “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” as he greeted them.
After lunch, Fr. Fitzpatrick shared stories from scholarship applicants hoping to be selected for a scholarship through the Newman Center. Because of the DDCCW’s generosity, the Newman Center now has an additional $2,500 to award for scholarships.
“I’m so grateful that you want to invest in us so we can invest in our Catholic young people,” Fr. Fitzpatrick told the DDCCW attendees. The mission of the Newman Center is to provide students with Catholic principles, promote their faith development and prepare them to be disciples for the church and the world, he said. The DDCCW also presented a $2,500 check for scholarships to a representative of St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
The DDCCW then elected a new slate of officers to a two-year term; President Hurley, a member of St. Patrick Parish, presented the gavel to her successor, Pat Power, a member of St. Mary Parish in Tipton. Other members elected were: Eleanor Droll, first vice president; Mary Fladung, second vice president; Peg Hathaway, secretary; and Carolyn Worley, treasurer.
Hathaway, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, received an additional, unexpected honor: Woman of the Year.
A longtime DDCCW member and past president, she’s been traveling to Brazil for 28 years to assist her dentist husband Al on mission trips to help children to have healthy teeth.
“I’m completely surprised and thrilled by the honor,” Hathaway said later.
Next, Edna Brunkhorst, province director representing Iowa’s four dioceses for the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW), complimented the DDCCW for its successes and reminded the group that the national organization of which it is a part is facing a tough two years ahead. The organization is struggling to gain new members in the wake of parish closings, clustering and consolidations throughout the United States. “We’re in survival mode,” she said of the 90-year-old national organization that formed in 1920 because the U.S. bishops wanted Catholic women to have a voice and an avenue to meet needs. She encouraged the 85-year-old DDCCW to promote memberships within the diocese to maintain viability.
A spiritual reflection followed. Women were asked to look at a photograph on the back cover of the meeting booklet that showed a battered Sacred Heart statue rescued from the old St. Patrick Church in Iowa City. A tornado destroyed the church on Holy Thursday in 2006. The statue of Jesus survived and has a place of honor in the new church, but its hands and part of one arm are missing.
Carol Kaalberg, the DDCCW moderator and parish life administrator for St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols, asked participants to close their eyes as she read a reflection from St. Theresa of Avila (1515-1582): “Christ has no body here on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which to look at Christ’s compassion for the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”