Pax Christi Award winners and finalists are (left to right) finalists Dianne Mulheron and Mary Shafer, award-winner Evelyn Lompa, Bishop James Powers, finalists Delores Sova and Jane Walkey, and CCW spiritual advisor Fr. Gerard Willger. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Special to the Catholic Herald

The Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women held its annual convention at St. Patrick Parish in Hudson on Friday, May 5. Eighty women from across the diocese attended.
With the theme “I Stand at the door and knock,” the convention opened with Mass concelebrated by Bishop James P. Powers, Fr. John Gerritts and Fr. Gerard Willger.  Elementary students from St. Patrick School participated in the Mass and provided a mother-daughter choir to lead the worship music.

“Good morning, child of God.” Bishop James Powers opened his homily with these words, quoting Gus Lloyd, host of Sirius Radio’s “The Catholic Channel” morning show. Bishop Powers continued speaking of how we are all God’s children through our baptism. “What kind of a world would we live in if, every morning, we reminded ourselves of who we are: A child of God?”
The Bishop addressed the students as well as the CCW women present, “We have to listen to what it is God is calling us to and then we have to act.”  He invited the women to celebrate their work of the past year and to use the convention as a way to gain insight as to what God is calling them to do.

“How important prayer is! To be in touch with God; to listen to what He’s calling us to, no matter how young or old,” the Bishop affirmed.

Interacting with the second grade students, he reflected on the Bread of Life discourse (John 6), which was the morning’s Gospel reading. He spoke of the Eucharist as Jesus’ wanting to satisfy the hunger for God. Bishop Powers said Jesus nourishes us through all the sacraments, but especially through Reconciliation and primordially in the Eucharist. He continued, “We get so busy we forget to encounter and listen to God, just to be with Him. Most of us are not comfortable in silence. Too many get to a point in life where we think we don’t need God.” He concluded that, renewing daily the understanding that each of us is a Child of God, our only response to Him can be that of St. Peter in the Gospel, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’

A highlight of the annual convention is the announcement of the Pax Christi Award winner.  Various women from the local councils are nominated for the award, which recognizes women within parishes and honors their example of living faith. Dea Que-Hoffman, Pax Christi Committee chair, announced the winner: Evelyn Lompa of St. John in Sheldon. The other four finalists, who were each presented with a gift, were: Mary Shafer of St. Patrick, Hudson; Delores Sova of Holy Rosary, Medford; Dianne Mulheron of St. Joseph, Barron; and Jane Walkey of St. John the Evangelist, Birchwood.

The morning speaker was Janette Howe of the Seven Sisters Apostolate based in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Apostolate consists of helping to organize and support groups of women – seven sisters – who commit for one year to a weekly holy hour for their parish priest, retired priest or bishop. Howe spoke on seven aspects of the priesthood, concluding with an invitation to reinforce a sense of dignity and respect for priests and bishops; to help remind them, when necessary, of who they represent and of the irreplaceable role they have as the sole channel for Christ’s Eucharistic presence on Earth.  Throughout her presentation, she repeated, in unison with all present, “Let us embrace the gift of the privilege of praying for priests.”

This invitation has been heeded in particular by the Superior Diocesan CCW through the efforts of the president, Barbara Gagliardi, and her commissioners for leadership, service and spirituality. A widespread effort to promote the Seven Sisters Apostolate and organize groups had been set in motion in the fall of 2016.  At the time, six apostolates were active for priests of the Diocese of Superior.  At the convention, it was announced that 31 more apostolates have been organized for priests in the diocese, both active and retired and including a group who will be praying for Bishop Powers.

Various presentations were made during the served lunch, including an update from the province director, Lucille Brandner, and Gail Grassel, who presented the SDCCW annual scholarship winners. The two recipients, each awarded $500, were Melissa Klimowski and Jennifer Fischer, both pursuing nursing degrees.

The keynote address was given by Dr. Ann Marie Klein, an Assistant Professor in the Catholic Studies Department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Her talk was titled, “Welcoming Christ into our Heart and Home” and based itself largely on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) published in March 2016.

Klein began, saying, “Christ sets the bar of self-giving very high,” as recently celebrated by the Church through the mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. She invited those present to “consecrate to Christ your portion of the world.” Using the word G-I-F-T, she presented ideas calling to see and treat others as an end to him/herself, engaging each other as reflections of God’s image and teaching virtues by word and example, especially within the home. Klein highlighted the need for sincere examinations of conscience, and discussed how the sacrament of Reconciliation sets the stage for the forgiveness and mercy ever-needed in close relationships.

“We are called to love the total person, past, present and future,” she said.

SDCCW President Barbara Gagliardi, parishioner of St. Patrick in Hudson, concluded the convention, thanking all those present for the sacrifice of their time and effort to participate. Gagliardi announced next year’s convention will be held jointly with the CCW of the Diocese of Duluth at St. Scholastica on May 22, 2018.