2022 Pax Christi Award winner Michele Armbrust receives a congratulatory embrace from Bishop James P. Powers during the second day of the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s conference at Heartwood Resort in Trego. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Editor’s note: The SDCCW Convention coverage will be published in two parts, with the first installment covering Bishop James P. Power’s presence and the presentation of the Pax Christi Award.

The 72nd convention of the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women brought almost 100 women together for the annual event.

With the theme “A Renewal of Faith-Purpose-Prayer,” it was a time for gathering and celebration with elements both traditionally part of the event as well as new introductions. The convention’s format was extended to two full days this year, with onsite accommodations at Trego’s Heartwood Resort and Conference Center.

Another addition was the inclusion of female high school students, nominated by their parish’s religious education directors, who were acknowledged for their exemplary Catholic lifestyles with Golden Rose Awards.

Bishop James P. Powers joined the convention both days. In his introductory comments, the bishop offered his prayers that “the beautiful surroundings and God’s gift of nature will you help you enter into the joy and work of these days.”

Bishop Powers’ words included an affirmation of the importance of prayer, the need “to make the time to center ourselves in the love of God and just be, allowing the first and power of the Holy Spirit to permeate our very being…

“Besides growing in our relationship with God, we also grow in our understanding of God’s will in our lives,” he advised. “How often we find that God has something more planned for us if we only give him a chance.”

In his homily for the convention’s second day – which was the most-attended day – Bishop Powers noted the appropriateness of it being the joint solemnity feast of the apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul.

Sharing the quote, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called,” the bishop said, “How important that understanding is.”

“How many times in our lives are we called to something that we are afraid to?” he asked, wondering how many times we have deprived ourselves of God’s gifts through the belief that we can’t do this or that, what God seems to be asking.

“Humility is a wonderful gift,” Bishop Powers continued, “We also need to know and understand and believe in our hearts and heads that God has put each of here for a special purpose. There’s nobody else that can perform those works that God created us for – even though it is not always easy, not always fun.”

He then made reference to the Gospel reading from Matthew 16 in which Jesus asks his disciples who the people say he is, and then asks them the same question.

Bishop Powers stated, “I don’t think there’s a more important question that Jesus asks, each and every one of us, in all of the Gospels.” Responding as Peter did “makes all the difference for how we live our lives,” he added.

The bishop ended with a recognition of the gathering in celebration with “those who have gone before us, as we too, proclaim to all the world, ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”

The installation of officers takes place during the Mass after the homily with a ceremony that includes lighting of colored candles and injunctions read by the bishop with the women giving their consent.

‘Called back to being evangelists’

The bishop also shared comments with convention participants after the luncheon. During that address, Bishop Powers touched on three points.

He iterated calls he been making, particularly since the beginning of the diocesan stage for the Synod on Synodality, for moving from “maintenance to mission.” With the call to a renewed sense of evangelization, something the bishop acknowledged can be an uncomfortable word for Catholics, he noted the call to “go back to the times of Peter and Paul,” before the age of Christendom.

“We’ve been called back to being evangelists,” he said. “The best way is simply by the life we live, professing our love for our Lord, for our church and not being afraid in the marketplace and our communities to be known as Catholics, as loving and wanting to serve God.”

Bishop Powers called for continued support for all vocations, with a particular focus on stirring the flame in those who might be called to the diocesan priesthood.

Supporting vocations, he said, “begins at home.”

They don’t come directly from the bishop, he added, and mentioned how the lack of parental support was the No. 1 reason why men who feel called to the priesthood drop out of seminary.

Moving on to speak about the pro-life movement, with special attention on the recent news of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Bishop Powers challenged the women to take a “front role” in that work that has yet to be done, particularly given the negative groundswell and fallout from that decision.

He applauded the efforts of the U.S. bishops’ program “Walking with Moms” and asked them to look into what their parishes are doing and to see how local CCW groups might support and assist those initiatives. He also noted the need for walking with older women who find themselves with unplanned pregnancies, as life can be already established and it may be harder to make changes.

“We need to be a source of hope,” he summarized.

The bishop’s third topic was the nationwide Eucharistic Revival. Attributing the lack of belief in large part to a lack of catechesis, he said that even one person who calls him- or herself “Catholic” but doesn’t believe in the real presence of Jesus means there is work to be done.

Without that belief, he said, “What’s left? That’s the foundation of our faith. If we do believe in it, it’s got to make a difference in our lives.”

Bishop Powers acknowledged the challenge it can be, especially in family relationships where people have left the practice or belief in the faith.

“I know it feels easier not to rock the boat,” he said and affirmed God forgives the omissions we confess, “but show me in the Gospels, show me in history, where the easy way out” is the encouraged path.

He added that he understands he cannot fully appreciate the challenges navigating that, but also commented, “If it’s not worth ruffling waters, then why do I myself want to come back?”

“It’s not easy… It never has been, never will be,” he affirmed, “but belief in the Eucharist as Jesus’ body and blood as he instituted in the Gospel needs to be renewed.”

He also called for coherent living out that belief in action, understanding that through baptism, “We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and through the Eucharist we become the tabernacle. His blood flows through our veins. Do we believe it? If we believe it, do we live it?”

We need, Bishop Powers said, “to show that reverence, praise, honor and glory to our God and not be afraid to do it publicly.”