On 25 August 2021, 107 women, 2 husbands, and Spiritual Advisors gathered in Arlington, Virginia (USA), for the 2021 WUCWO North America Region Conference with the theme, Make Me A Channel of Your Peace.
Maribeth Stewart Blogoslawski, Vice President for North America, welcomed the attendees. Afterward, there was a ceremony of remembrance when representatives of each of the member organizations of the North America Region placed a lighted votive candle before the statue of Mary after which we prayed for the deceased members of our organizations.
Following this touching Remembrance Service, we had Holy Mass with the principal celebrant being the Most Rev. James Stembler.
After a break during which the stage was re-set for the meeting, we gathered in our places and started the next segment with the presentation of the flags and anthems of the two countries comprising the North America Region. An additional flag was presented that was designed for our North America Region and while that flag was carried in and joined with the national flags on stage, the Hymn to Mary, Queen of Peace was sung.
Maribeth then read greetings sent to the conference from the Apostolic Nuncio to the USA, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who extended the Apostolic Blessing from His Holiness, Pope Francis to all present. This was followed by a lovely letter from Dr. Linda Ghisoni, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. We then enjoyed a letter of welcome from the Bishop of Arlington, the Most Reverend Michael Bransfield. Our final letter of greeting was from the Chair of the Arlington County Board, Matt de Ferranti.
We then enjoyed greetings from the following:
-The President General of WUCWO, María Lía Zervino, Servidora, presented as a video due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that prevented our Canadian and Italian women from attending in person;
-The President of the National Council of Catholic Women, Jean Kelly;
-The President of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Fran Lucas (presented as a video);
-The Canadian representative to the WUCWO Board, Marusia Kobrynsky (presented as a video);
-The Supreme Lady of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, Micaela LeBlanc; and
-The President of the Friends of NCCW for WUCWO, Patty Sommerhauser
After we heard from our first speaker who addressed the WUCWO Resolution, A HEALTHY PLANET DEPENDS ON ALL OF US. Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, presented the effects of climate change based upon the science of the issue and then provided hope as he detailed the mitigating projects that are in place with more to follow.
Following Dan’s informative talk, Father Stembler led us in the Angelus and a Luncheon Blessing. Maribeth then asked us to proceed to the luncheon salon where we celebrated WUCWO’s 110th Birthday.
We had lunch with our special placemats wearing our Happy Birthday tiaras, and "playing" with our blowers and the Happy Birthday balloons that floated above our tables. We sang Happy Birthday to WUCWO when we had birthday cake and ice cream for dessert.
Molly Whalen, State Director, Capitol Region, of Best Buddies International, described the tremendous impact we can have on the lives of those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). This wonderful organization, Best Buddies International, has programs that help those with IDD form meaningful friendships in school and with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently and develop leadership skills. In short, to feel valued by society. It was a talk that made many present resolved to determine if this organization was present in their states and well addressed WUCWO’s second resolution, LET US TAKE CARE OF THE FAMILY IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS, ESPECIALLY ITS MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS.
Our next speaker addressed the third WUCWO resolution, the LET US ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Kathy Bonner, a noted speaker on Domestic Violence, provided a presentation that gave shocking statistics and true stories on the prevalence of this issue at every level of society. She then detailed the resources available from the National Council of Catholic Women to educate women and teens on domestic violence, teaching us what to say, how to respond, and urging us to extend this information to all, including our legislators.
Our final speaker of the day was Maribeth Stewart Blogoslawski, who addressed the fourth WUCWO resolution on LET US EDUCATE TO RESPOND TO THE CALL TO HOLINESS. Like all our presenters, Maribeth accompanied her talk with PowerPoint slides that visually demonstrated the points made. She assured us that every one of us was created to be a saint and noted that our Church provides the way to do this.
We next heard a lovely video address from our WUCWO President General who complimented the dedication of our North American Region organizations on their work and commitment to WUCWO. She detailed some of the work being accomplished due to WUCWO’s closer ties with Vatican offices and noted some of the upcoming meetings such as the third conference with women from the Middle East to be held in Athens, Greece and our next General Assembly to be held in Assisi, Italy (travel restrictions due to the pandemic permitting). While the dates of these meetings may need to be adjusted due to the pandemic, work continues to prepare for them, and we look forward to the day when we can joyfully meet again in person with our sisters from around the world!
After María Lía’s lovely address, we had Table Discussion Time. Scribes were appointed for each table to note the comments of those at their table concerning a set of questions that pertained to the presentations of the day. The papers were
collected and a summary of the responses for each question has been sent to all in attendance at the Conference.
Finally, the Final Declaration of the Conference was ratified by acclamation.
The Conference closed at 5pm with Father Stembler leading the Prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace.
Visit the website for more information: http://www.wucwona.org/
Video of the conference: