The Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and helpers pack 40,000 meals for Cross Catholic Outreach in May at St. Mary’s Visitation, Elm Grove. (Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.)

The mission of the National Council of Catholic Women is to bring the priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop to the local level, empowering Catholic women to live out their baptismal call in their own parishes and communities.

It may sound simple enough, but it’s a pretty tall order — and has made for a particularly busy spring and summer season for its local affiliate, which welcomes women from all parishes in the 10-county Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women events have spotlighted mothers of seminarians and priests, families served by pregnancy help centers, hungry people oversees and scholarships for Catholic high school students.

In March, the council hosted a tea in honor of the mothers of seminarians and priests, gathering close to 50 women from around the Archdiocese at St. Mary’s Visitation, Elm Grove.

This was the second year the Milwaukee archdiocesan council hosted a tea in honor of mothers of seminarians, and this year it decided to also invite mothers of archdiocesan priests. It was an event that celebrated the unique role of family and motherhood in helping to foster a man’s vocation, said Diane Oakland, MACCW President.

“(The focus is most often on) the seminarian, but you wouldn’t have the seminarian if it wasn’t for that mom,” said Jean Kelly, past president of the MACCW and immediate past president of the national group. The influence of these mothers on their sons, said Oakland, mirrors that of the Blessed Mother’s role in the church.

“Just as our Holy Mother Mary influenced (the Church) from the beginning, teaching and supporting and caring for it going forward after Pentecost,” she said. “That’s our mission, and our goal as well.”

Beth Schumaker, mother of Fr. Tim Schumaker, spoke at the tea and many of the mothers of the current seminarians had questions for Schumaker about what family life is like post-ordination.

“Although (the purpose of the tea) is to honor the mothers of seminarians and priests, we really encourage and welcome any woman in the archdiocese to come,” said Oakland. Next year’s event is already planned for April 13.

The next month, the council organized a Layette Luncheon at St. Alphonsus, Greendale, collecting essential items for families served by four pregnancy help centers in the 10-county Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

This was the first year that the full archdiocesan council was at the helm of the Layette Luncheon, which was previously hosted for many years by the Milwaukee archdiocesan council’s southeast and southwest deaneries.

Almost 100 attendees brought baby and toddler clothes, onesies, diapers, blankets and toys. Donations filling eight large banquet tables benefited Charis House in Fond du Lac, Life’s Connection in Waukesha and Mukwonago, the Women’s Support Center on Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, and the Alliance Family Services in Racine/Kenosha.

At the luncheon, representatives of the centers shared updates on the work being done for the families they serve.

“These items directly go to our community to help them. I could barely fit everything in my car, there was so much. It was so neat to see how the community rallies together to support us,” said Janean Doherty, a registered nurse who works as a sonographer at Life’s Connection’s two clinics.

In May, the MACCW hosted a food-packing event at St. Mary’s Visitation, where 125 volunteers packed 40,000 meals.

The three-hour food-packing event was the first of its kind for the archdiocesan council, which raised $13,000 in donations to partner with Cross Catholic Outreach, a Florida-based nonprofit that coordinates food-packing events all over the country.

It was a multigenerational experience, Oakland said, with families showing up to help pack the meals and children decorating the pallets with hand-drawn artwork. “That was a real sweet touch; we feature different people discussing how they live their faith and I thought it would be interesting to feature a college student for a change of pace.” she said.

Also in May, the Milwaukee archdiocesan council awarded three $1,500 scholarships to graduating eighth graders enrolled in Catholic high school for fall. These scholarships have been distributed by the MACCW for more than 10 years, with funding from the John and Kathleen Schneider Foundation.

In October, the archdiocesan council will host a women’s retreat at the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc. Fr. John LoCoco, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, will present on the topic “Many Women Were Also There: Pursuing God in the Footsteps of Scripture’s Holy Women.”

“We’re very excited to have Fr. LoCoco, and we’re so excited about the topic,” Oakland said. “We’re hoping this topic will reach the hearts of younger women as well.”

Membership in the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women is open to all Catholic women in the archdiocese, and its benefits include not just involvement in the group’s mission but a sense of spiritual community and support, Oakland said.

“I really feel very strongly that we are being guided in many ways,” she said. “There are so many organizations to belong to where women enjoy getting together, and the impetus behind this is that now you are with women of like faith. And that is such a blessing.”

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