Catholic Herald staff
For more than a century, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas have shared their mission of charity and unity with their communities. But members are aging, said one national representative, and they aren’t replacing themselves.
Attracting new members was the subject of Sherry Nilles’ address at the May 1-2 convention for the Wisconsin State Court of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.
Thirty delegates and members attended the 46th biennial gathering, which took place at Barkers Island Inn, Superior.
More than 550 of the Daughters’ 70,000 members live in Wisconsin. Delegates from eight of the state’s 10 courts, or chapters, were present.
Theresa LaFlamme, state regent and a 19-year member of the Catholic Daughters, also lives in Superior.
Throughout the year, the courts collect donations for worthy causes, pray for parish youth, host community events, volunteer, and stay up-to-date on current issues and legislation.
“Unity, charity, spirituality and service are what we do,” explained Nilles, an Iowa resident whose representative district includes Wisconsin.
Catholicism is the core of their work, she added.
“If we don’t do it for the glory of God, there’s no reason to do it,” she said.
Recruiting younger members is the organization’s No. 1 challenge, according to Nilles, who has been a member since 1976.
“We need to train someone to replace us,” she said.
Nilles believes the Daughters, formed by the Knights of Columbus in 1903, have an opportunity to help those searching for spiritual enrichment.
But life is hectic, she admits, and it isn’t always easy for younger women, many of whom are working and/or raising families, to get involved.
During her talk, Nilles outlined five points – including retention of current courts, recruitment of new members and an expansion in the organization’s 1,250 courts – for ensuring the growth of the Daughters.
The organization is also attracting potential members through the Junior Catholic Daughters for girls ages 6-18, and through campus courts for college students, she said.
Light, salt and leavening
Chris Newkirk, director of ecclesial ministries and diocesan consultation for the Diocese of Superior, also addressed attendees May 1. She opened her talk by thanking the women for their many contributions to their churches, families and communities.
“I’m humbled and grateful … to stand on the shoulders of women like you,” she said. “There’s tradition that’s being articulated today. There’s a ritual.”
The theme for the convention was “Let us be lights of hope,” and Newkirk talked about biblical symbolism – Christians as light, salt and leavening – and the role of laity in spreading the Gospel beyond the walls of a church.
“As women of faith, oftentimes we’re involved in church,” she said, but women also share their Christianity in their actions in the workplace, marketplace and public arena, and through their service and hospitality.
“Sometimes we’re light very publicly,” she added. “Sometimes we’re light very privately.”
At all times, the Catholic Daughters are a source of feminine support and solidarity, she said, and home is the core of their ministry.
Following Newkirk’s speech, delegates continued with their business meeting. Fr. Jerome Taddy, chaplain, gave the evening address, and May 2 agenda items included committee reports, Mass and the installation of new officers. The convention concluded with dinner Saturday night.
Editor’s note: Anyone interested in joining the Catholic Daughters of the Americas can call Theresa LaFlamme, state regent, at 715-398-7717.