Austin DCCW celebrates 65th anniversary

By Peggy Moraczewski
Correspondent

The Austin Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (Austin DCCW) gathered in April at the Doubletree Hotel in Austin to celebrate 65 years of volunteering and accomplishments. Their annual convention offered nourishment of friendships and shared joy in the common bond of their Catholic faith. This year’s convention theme was “Exploring the Dynamics of the Catholic Woman.”
While the agenda contained predictable items, such as voting on proposed resolutions, and financial reporting, it also included inspirational speakers and Mass concelebrated by Bishop Joe Vásquez and Father Melvin Dornak, the diocesan spiritual adviser for the Austin DCCW. In all, 18 priests were present at the conference; many serve as spiritual advisers for one of the eight DCCW Councils in the diocese.
Keynote speaker Mary Sue Ribardo, president of St. Joseph’s Women’s Guild in Bryan, tackled topics that challenge the moral values in the U.S. She expressed deep concerns about the secularization of our country and encouraged everyone to share the Catholic faith, letting Christ’s light shine through us. 
“We need to be passionate about spreading the message of Christ,” she said.
During the convention banquet, the Clerical Endowment Fund (CEF) presented its annual check to Bishop Vásquez. This year $133,963 was collected and will be used to fund the education of the diocesan seminarians. The bishop expressed his appreciation for the example of leadership exhibited by the Austin DCCW and thanked God for the gifts bestowed on each of them.
Father Brian McMaster, vocations director for the Diocese of Austin, addressed the conference. Injecting humor into his presentation, he asked, “What makes a young man want to become a priest or a young woman, a nun? Is it because they look good in black? No, it’s because they want to give everything back to the Lord. That’s what’s going on in their heart when considering religious life.”
It was during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that both Dominican Sister Elizabeth Ann O’Reilly and Seminarian Sean DeWitt said God’s plan for their vocation became clear to them.
Sister O’Reilly shared that, although dating a very nice young man in college, she felt unsettled, and went to the adoration chapel on her college campus in Steubenville, Ohio. She said it was there that the Lord answered her prayer of what he wanted from her. The Lord said, “Your heart is made for me and then the whole world will be your family.”
During a similar moment of doubt, Seminarian Sean DeWitt spoke of his first Christmas away from his family while studying in Rome. The joy he experienced during Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica was somewhat dulled by the pang of loneliness he felt on Christmas day, when he briefly considered jumping on a flight home, but instead went to the adoration chapel. It was there he experienced, “Some of the deepest moments with Jesus I have ever had in my life; a definitive shift from prior to seminary to, I figured it out and there is no looking back,” he said. 
Currently, the Diocese of Austin has 38 seminarians. By the end of next fall, that number is expected to climb into the upper 40s. 
DeWitt, a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Austin, told the Austin DCCW members, “Every priest needs a mother to pray for them and you provide that for us as spiritual mothers.” 
Encouraging everyone to pray for vocations to religious life, Father McMaster distributed a brochure about the St. Therese Vocation Society. “There are no dues or meetings, only the promise of your prayers,” the brochure says. Everyone is welcome to register and begin offering their prayers for vocations. For more information, visit www.austinvocations.com.
Father McMaster also requested that everyone consider extending an invitation to any young person who might consider a religious vocation. 
“Seeds planted in me when I was young, eventually grew, because of love,” he said. 
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who are scheduled to begin building a new priory on their 60 acres in Georgetown, were the recipient of the collection at the Austin DCCW Mass, totaling more than $3,000. 
Within the Austin Diocese, the sisters teach at St. Dominic Savio High School and Holy Family Catholic School in Austin and Santa Cruz Catholic School in Buda. The community was founded in 1997 and has already grown to more than 100 sisters, with the average age being 29. For more information, visit www.sistersofmary.org.
Karen Pinard spoke about accepting her call to work in prison ministry. She said she was unsure of the call to prison ministry at first. 
“Like Peter, I kept denying what I was being called to, until, one day, a deacon told me many people are called in life, but they don’t listen to God,” Pinard said. She agreed to try it once and has worked in Prison Ministry at the Federal Prison outside of Bastrop for the last four years. She encouraged others to give some thought to ministries.
The Austin DCCW members seem to have that passion for ministries of all types –– 255,000 volunteer hours were accumulated in 2013. Members in attendance ranged in age from 37 to 93 years old. They traveled from all corners of the diocese to meet and share ideas and concerns as they strive to follow their mission statement, “Let it begin with me.” Judith Longhamer said, “I could not attend previously because I was raising kids, etc. I first attended the annual Austin DCCW Convention three years ago and will never miss again.”
Another attendee who uses a wheel chair and lives in assisted living was so determined to attend the convention she researched the bus schedule and commuted both ways each day.
This year the women of the Austin DCCW Southern Council hosted the two-day annual convention. The Austin DCCW 2015 Convention will be in Killeen. The Rural Life Committee of the DCCW hosts the annual Rural Life Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop Vásquez on July 17 at 6 p.m. at St. Joseph Parish in Killeen. 
For more information about the DCCW visit www.adccw.com.

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