Joan Weber to direct Chicago province of women’s group

By: By Jennifer Willems

Joan Weber may not be the president of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women anymore — she installed her successor, Nympha White of Grand Ridge, at the organization’s Oct. 16 convention — but her service to women of faith in Illinois isn’t done quite yet.

For the next two years she will serve as the director of the Chicago Province of the National Council of Catholic Women. Assisting her as secretary and treasurer will be Karen J. Small, director of human resources-benefits for the Diocese of Peoria and secretary of the Women of St. Jude at St. Jude’s Parish in Peoria.

“I’m delighted she said yes,” said Weber, who is also a member of the parish and is a past president of the Women of St. Jude.

The Chicago Province includes the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. The office of director rotates through the diocesan councils, and Msgr. Dale Wellman, longtime spiritual moderator of the DCCW, asked Weber to take the post when Peoria’s turn came up for 2010-12.

She recently attended the national convention in Washington, D.C., where it was announced that next year’s convention will be held in Chicago. “We don’t have a clear picture yet of how much we will be involved in the planning for that,” Weber told The Catholic Post.

In the meantime, she is responsible for convening board meetings with diocesan moderators and presidents at least three times a year. The next one is scheduled for Nov. 29 in Bloomington, and the main topic will be Catholics at the Capitol and what the Chicago Province will do in conjunction with that to educate women, allow them to interact with their legislators, and offer spiritual support.

“I am also obligated to visit each of the diocesan councils at least once a year — that will likely be at the annual convention,” Weber said, noting that she will be available to help them with problems or concerns at any time.

One of her own concerns is increasing individual and affiliate membership in the organization.

“Why I want to encourage women to be involved is because this is the voice of Catholic women in the United States,” Weber said. “People may not be aware of our role, so we have to heighten awareness.”

Not only does the NCCW work with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but it has status as a nongovernmental organization at the United Nations, she explained.

Women cannot be silent when there are so many issues affecting families and society that need their voice, Weber said.

“I hope and pray that that awareness, interest and caring will be there so the National Council of Catholic Women continues,” she told The Post. “There’s a lot to be done.”

Weber’s own journey with the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women started with an invitation from Sondra McEnroe of Peoria, “who asked me to join every year for 10 years.”

“She said they needed a secretary but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t think that was the right thing for me,” Weber said. “She just said, ‘Come anyway.'”

Weber eventually said yes about eight years ago and agreed to be the DCCW’s legislation chair.

“Their commitment and their desire to make a difference” is what influenced her decision to join. Once she got involved, “I saw my place in it. I saw how I could enhance the group — and it wasn’t as secretary,” she said with a laugh.

In addition to the DCCW, Weber has been a member and chair of the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society. She currently serves as president of the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois, which grew out of the commission and was started at the request of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

At St. Jude’s she is a member of the Elizabeth Ministry — “they needed a grandma” — and co-chairs the Respect Life Committee with Julie Stedwill. She is also an usher and works in the parish’s Connection Center.

On the home front, Weber and her husband Oscar, who married at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria in 1965, enjoy spending time with their daughter, two sons and 11 grandchildren.

In addition, they like to fish for “pan fish”: blue gill, crappie and trout — “the ones you take home and cook right away.”

“I think I’ve caught the biggest fish of the two of us,” Weber said with
another laugh, sharing that their favorite place to fish for trout is Branson, Mo.

Born in Rockford, Weber moved to Peoria with her family when she was a toddler and grew up in St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish. A graduate of St. Mary’s School and Academy of Our Lady, she took some courses at Bradley and did office work for a time.

Those organizational skills are another thing she hopes to use to benefit the women of the Diocese of Peoria over the next two years.

Noting that women’s groups are presenting special events separately, Weber said she would like to see everyone combine their efforts to make them “even more successful.”

“It would be wonderful if we could work together,” she said.

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