ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — At a national gathering marking the 100th anniversary of the National Council of Catholic Women, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory thanked the women for their years of dedication to the Catholic Church.
In his homily at the Aug. 26 Mass during the group’s national conference, Cardinal Gregory pointed out that just as St. Timothy was led in his faith by Lois and Eunice, his grandmother and mother, so many in the church today “are lucky we have you.”
The conference, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, drew hundreds of women representing affiliates around the nation.
Concelebrants of the Mass included Bishop William A. Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, the episcopal liaison between the NCCW and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island, Nebraska; and more than two dozen priests.
Linking the women’s activities to a passage of St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Cardinal Gregory explained: “Paul tells his young colleague that his own faith is a heritage that he received from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. The gifts that Timothy brought to his ministry in Ephesus, he found in the women from his own life whose gift of faith had inspired him.”
“We priests and bishops would also have to acknowledge the debt of gratitude for the gifts of faith that we have found in our own lives through the extraordinary witness of mothers, sisters, grandmothers and you our colleagues in the National Council of Catholic Women. Your devotion to the mission of Christ inspires us to be more faithful, loving, and devoted to the service of the church,” he said.
The Aug. 25-28 conference also featured an address on the topic “Women Persevere in Faith,” by Gloria Purvis, who hosts a podcast through America Media. Other conference speakers included Bishop Wack and Ana Lisa Piñon, director of Faith Formation and Evangelization for the Diocese of Arlington.
Cardinal Gregory’s homily acknowledged the human tendency to want to forsake the Christian faith in light of the many recent scandals, both in the church and in the nation. “Are these not our own challenges today — to remain faithful to the mission and teachings of Jesus Christ in spite of crushing upheavals?” he asked.
The liturgy’s prayers of the faithful included petitions for victims in recent weeks of floods and wildfires in the United States, the earthquake in Haiti, the crumbling of Afghanistan’s government and the news that morning of two terrorist bombing attacks near the Kabul airport.
The cardinal recognized these situations, noting, “we have seen such devastation and loss of life that most everyone has been horrified if not scandalized by the sight. Yet out of our astonishment, we have begun to respond as the people of faith that we are called to be. We are currently preparing to welcome people as new neighbors and as members of our own communities in many situations.
He praised the delegates and all Catholic women who, throughout the history of the church in the United States, “have been at the heart and soul of our efforts. You have, as on so many other occasions, rallied the church to undertake the works of charity and service.”
“In Chicago, Belleville, Atlanta and now here in Archdiocese of Washington where I have been blessed to serve as bishop, I have always found the membership of the NCCW to be among the first and most generous servants of the mission of Christ,” the cardinal said.
“We would be hopelessly diminished without the presence of the National Council of Catholic Women in the countless works of charity and the spiritual treasures that you so generously provide for the church,” he added.
According to the group’s website, the NCCW consists of thousands of Catholic women and affiliated Catholic women’s organizations in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States.
It was founded in 1920 by the U.S. Catholic bishops and offers it members spirituality, leadership and service opportunities, programs and resources.
The group created the Water for Life Fund to support the work of Catholic Relief Services, and it has worked with groups and U.S. women religious to end human trafficking. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy between December 2015 and November 2016, NCCW members performed more than 2 million spiritual and corporal works of mercy.