Empower Women/Strengthen Families Resounded Throughout LCUSA’s National Assembly

The opening day of the assembly, Friday Sept. 20, began with a core group of members gathered early in the morning to pray the rosary. Following breakfast, the Rev. Richard Gielow, CM, national spiritual advisor for LCUSA, presided at Mass. Fr. Gielow tied the assembly’s theme, Empower Women/Strengthen Families, to recent remarks by Pope Francis: “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church.” Bishop Patrick McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose was present at the Mass.

In her welcome, Sr. Marjory Ann Baez, Visitatrix of the Western Province of the Daughters of Charity, stated that “St. Vincent and St. Louise would be proud of the goals of this assembly.” Keynote speaker Sr. Margaret Keaveney, DC, reminded members that the face of poverty in Vincent’s time, the face of women and children, is the same today. Women make up two thirds of the world’s workforce, yet their wages are less than 20 percent of total earned income. Sr. Margaret urged that women never forget they are daughters of God, made in his image and likeness.

Sheila Gilbert, president of the National Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP), spoke about Frederic Ozanam, born 200 years ago, and founder of the SVDP in 1833. Ms. Gilbert stated that “disintegration of the family is one of the root causes of poverty.” Debbie Chadwick, LCUSA AIC-USA Twinning Chair, tied the thoughts of the earlier speakers to the LCUSA twinning project with AIC-Madagascar. The remainder of the day was devoted to presentation of LCUSA’s new strategic plan, and members in attendance sharing their comments and suggestions regarding the plan. (See related articles about Madagascar and the strategic plan.)

Group recitation of the rosary again opened the proceedings on the second day, Saturday Sept. 21, followed by a prayer service honoring Sr. Elizabeth Hurley, a Daughter of Charity with a long history of service in the Western Province. Dr. Carolyn Woo, President/CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) delivered the keynote address. Quoting St. James, she reminded the group that “Faith without works is dead.” She also emphasized that it is not enough to simply serve the poor. They must be served well. Dr. Woo provided many facts and descriptions about CRS projects in 90-100 countries throughout the world. Perhaps the most memorable part of her presentation was the example of how systemic change is possible, taken from her own family history. Dr. Woo’s grandmother lived in China and had her feet bound in the traditional way, “a form of torture.” Two generations later, her granddaughter is the head of an organization serving more than 100 million people on five continents.

Attendees were able to attend two workshops among five possibilities, and took the opportunity to consider and discuss more topics related to the assembly theme, including tools to bring systemic change training to local associations, servant leadership, Jesus empowering women, compassion fatigue and human trafficking.

The planning committee for the Sept. 11-14, 2014 assembly in Milwaukee presented a spirited invitation to visit their city next year. Jude Schubert, a member of the committee, was attending her first assembly. Her reactions: “Wow! Inspiring! I’ve already contacted five people telling them they have to come next year!”

The Rev. Thomas A. Daly, Auxiliary Bishop of San Jose presided at the closing Mass in the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph.

Thank you to 2013 co-chairs Joan Kachel and Marge Fiala and all the Ladies from Morgan Hill and throughout the Western Region for a warm welcome and a job well done.

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