April 3-9, 2003
By Howie Mansfield
Oswego Catholic Daughters look to the future with youthful exuberance
OSWEGO — Times are changing and so has the makeup of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas Courts nationally. In October, the Catholic Daughters will celebrate 100 years as the world’s largest Catholic women’s organization. The Catholic Daughters provides a warm, welcome atmosphere for friendship, prayer and service to others. Having seen its members’ age increase, the Catholic Daughters have been inviting younger women to join the organization. Today, those younger members are taking active roles in the Catholic Daughters and are determined to keep the courts going nationwide.
The Catholic Daughters Bishop Cunningham Court #581, based in Oswego, will kick off its celebration of the national organization’s 100th anniversary with a First Annual Membership Meeting at the SUNY Oswego’s Hall Newman Center on April 8 at 7 p.m. Christine Kearns, regent of the Bishop Cunningham Catholic Daughters Court, said the membership meeting is a good opportunity for women interested in joining to learn more about the group. “I have many friends who are Catholic who have never heard of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas before,” Kearns said. “This is going to be a big meeting for us. We are handing out invitations, putting information in the newspapers and church bulletins along with giving personal invitations.”
Membership to the Catholic Daughters used to be available through personal invitation only. Because of low numbers, membership strategies have changed, Kearns said, but she feels that by getting the word to so many individuals, Catholic women will come to at least see who the Catholic Daughters of Americas are.
“Our court is so small, only 43 members, and we aren’t able to participate in all the state projects,” Kearns said. “Our hope is to have more women join so we can participate at a state and national level. We are trying to stay active while bringing in new members. I want it to become stronger.” Kearns said she became a member of the Catholic Daughters as a way to grow in her faith while meeting other women with similar backgrounds and interests. “I joined when my daughter was very young. I needed to get out at night and meet some people,” she said. “When I got to the newcomer meeting, I saw what this organization is. The women were all wonderful. It was very spiritual — something I was missing. I started to go to regular meetings and I became excited about them. It had a really strong place in my heart.”
At the core of the Catholic Daughters’ mission is service to the community. The Bishop Cunningham Court has worked hard year after year to raise money for various organizations while offering loving support by visiting nursing homes and facilities. The Catholic Daughters have donated money, items, or food to the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Trinity Catholic School, the Human Concern Center, OnPoint and Unity Acres.
Terry Van Wert, treasurer for the Bishop Cunningham Court, said the Catholic Daughters regularly visit Valehaven, an assisted living facility for adults in Oswego. “We go there and play bingo with the residents. Every time we come, they just love us. All we do is play bingo with them and serve them cookies and drinks,” Van Wert said. “It’s been such a rewarding experience for me. They always ask us to come back soon.” The Catholic Daughters raise a small amount of money each year for local groups. The remainder of the funds are distributed in May, said Jane Pacheco, financial secretary for the Bishop Cunningham Court. “We were one of the smallest courts at the state convention, but we gave the highest percentage of money away,” Pacheco explained.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to get groups to give it to. It’s not like we have a lot to donate, but we give what we can.” The membership meeting will begin with a Lenten retreat, led by Father Edward McNally, chaplain at SUNY Oswego, and Sister Louise Macchia, DC, from Oswego’s Rural and Migrant Ministry. Father McNally and Sister Louise’s presentation will be followed by an address by Lucille Argeniza, New York State Catholic Daughters of the Americas Public Relations Spokesperson. Kearns said Argeniza’s talk will give a history of the Catholic Daughters as well as provide information about what can be done at a state and national level by local courts. Van Wert said Bishop James Moynihan has been very supportive of the Catholic Daughters’ work in the diocese.
“The bishop is always encouraging women to join,” Van Wert said. “He knows how important the Catholic Daughters is. If you mentioned to Bishop Moynihan that you are a Catholic Daughter, he will talk with you about your experience.” Kearns said the Bishop Cunningham Court is open to more than just people from Oswego. “Fulton has a court, but there is no court for areas like Scriba, Mexico, Minetto and Sterling,” said Kearns. “We want to reach out to women from those areas as well as from Oswego. The Catholic Daughters used to be very exclusive to a specific area, but that’s changed.” The Catholic Daughters’ Bishop Cunningham Court meets the second Tuesday of the month from September to June at the Hall Newman Center on the SUNY Oswego campus unless otherwise noted. Women must be at least 18 years old to join. For more information about the Catholic Daughters of the Americas or its membership meeting, call Kearns at (315) 342-6283.