By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published August 3, 2018 | En Español
SMYRNA—The members of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (AACCW) learned more about Pope Francis’ teaching on holiness at the group’s annual leadership seminar June 16 at the Chancery of the archdiocese.
Guest speaker Kathy Kelly-Huey, director of religious education at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Newnan, highlighted the pope’s apostolic exhortation of 2018—“Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad).
“As Catholic women come together, we know our Lord in an amazing way,” said Kelly-Huey. “Each one of us has our own challenge. As we work together we have to call on each other.”
She gave each attendee a copy of the exhortation of the Holy Father, which explains the call to holiness in today’s world.
“I read it four times, and it really has changed my life,” said Kelly-Huey. “I realized I really needed to share this amazing letter written to us to as many people as possible.”
The letter calls Catholics to “Rejoice and Be Glad” and to follow the call to holiness by showing how several saints and other individuals responded to their call.
Kelly-Huey, quoting from the letter, said, “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.”
“Who do you think the Holy Father is presenting in this dialogue?” she asked. “It’s to all of us, not just the leaders, all of us.”
The exhortation asks “that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them,” she noted.
“Each of us is uniquely and divinely made,” Kelly-Huey said. “We each have a specific job. You cannot think of your mission on earth without seeing it as a path to holiness. We’re each a living word of God active in the world.”
In the exhortation, Pope Francis also mentions women “as essential means of reflecting God’s holiness in this world” and “unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness.”
Seminar includes new ideas, work to be done
AACCW members presented a skit at the seminar to brainstorm for ideas on fundraising, how to increase membership and keep members by welcoming them, keeping them informed and helping them feel needed.
“Welcome each member individually,” Deanna Holmer, AACCW leadership commission chair, said. “Make them feel appreciated. Always make sure they know they are needed, appreciated and valued. Remember, everything we do in council is to the glory of God the Father.”
Holmer also spoke on the various commissions of AACCW.
“Our mission statement is to support, empower and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service,” Holmer said. “The commissions help navigate the programs, develop the programs and to get things started.”
The council’s leadership commission covers organizational development, training, public relations and publications. Its service commission helps to engage members in working to address the needs and concerns of the church and their communities and to support family life. The spirituality commission reinforces faith and supports service to the Church and community through discipleship and spiritual growth; and encourages legislative advocacy guided by Catholic social teaching.
Father Tim Gadziala, pastor of St. Peter Church, LaGrange, serves as the group’s spiritual advisor.
“It’s interesting that no one has brought up the immigrant. Many of our women in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are immigrants, and we’re not even talking about them,” Father Gadziala told the group. He added, “We have many people of different colors, different ethnic backgrounds, and they come to our parishes.”
He also mentioned that a third of the parishes and missions in the archdiocese are not involved in AACCW. One reason is a lack of knowledge that the organization even exists or “maybe the pastor is not familiar with it,” he said.
“We have to work on that to be a good council,” Father Gadziala said. “Women need to want to belong to something that’s active, to be a part of it.”
“You have to be authentic women,” he said. “Leaders should be the servants of all. And it is important to welcome the stranger, to welcome the immigrant, and welcome the people and get them informed, get them involved and let them be needed.”
“A true leader listens”
Fern Bergeron, treasurer, AACCW Southwest District, talked to the women assembled about the importance of leadership. She said, “The qualities of leadership is that a leader has the respect and the trust of her group in order to effect change and to move forward.”
“The leader earns the trust of her followers by building up her character traits of integrity, fairness and being open-minded—open to the ideas of the people within her group,” she said.
“A true leader listens to the ideas and opinions of the followers,” Bergeron said. “A leader works with her group to set goals and missions, promote change it needed, and move her followers in a distinct direction to meet the goals they had set.”
She continued, “Leadership not only requires trust, it also requires being consistent, being fair, open and helping to inspire others to become the best that they can be.”
Bergeron said that most leaders start out as members or followers within a group or an organization.
“You come and learn about the group and what their goals are. As a member you want to grasp as much as you can, to know enough, to have the knowledge to become a leader and to become wise,” she said.
Council hierarchy explained
Bergeron explained the organizational acronyms that many newcomers call “the alphabet soup.”
At the parish level is the Council of Catholic Women (CCW) with other women groups calling themselves guilds, clubs or circles. At the archdiocesan level is the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (AACCW), which is divided into four Districts: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. AACCW is part of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) and part of the NCCW Province along with the Dioceses of Savannah, and Charleston, Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. All these organizations belong to the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO).
“Most important,” she said is that we are under the “inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the love of Jesus, and the spiritual wisdom and guidance of God our Father.”