Diocese grateful as Commission on Women marks 25 years

Photo Caption: Linda Howley-Skuby of Bloomington, president of the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society, offers Father David Whiteside a token of appreciation after his presentation Oct. 1.

By: By Jennifer Willems

They may not wear uniforms, but the women who serve in countless ways in parishes throughout central Illinois were called an “army” by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and it’s one he’s happy to have.

“Every parish has a group of holy Catholic women that makes things go. These women represent that army of the Peoria diocese,” Bishop Jenky told The Catholic Post at the end of a day of recollection sponsored by the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society. “I am immensely grateful — and so is every priest and every guy in the diocese.”

The commission has provided that loving service for 25 years and their gathering on Oct. 1 gave them an opportunity to celebrate what has been done and prepare prayerfully for the work that lies ahead. Offering them food for thought was Father David Whiteside, pastor of St. Patrick’s in Havana and Immaculate Conception in Manito.

His two-part presentation on the parable of the Prodigal Son drew 128 women to the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. The day of recollection also took them to St. Mary’s Cathedral for eucharistic adoration, the rosary, the sacrament of reconciliation and a concluding Mass concelebrated by Bishop Jenky and Father Whiteside.

Facilitating the day was Linda Howley-Skuby of St. Mary’s in Bloomington, who is the commission’s president. Assisting her were Sandi Calvin, also of St. Mary’s in Bloomington, vice president; Susan Redman of St. Patrick’s Church of Merna in Bloomington, treasurer; and Susan Real of St. Mary’s in Henry, secretary.

GOD HAS A PLAN
Noting that there are millions of Catholics around the world that have fallen away from their faith, Father Whiteside said every person is called by God to reach out to these prodigal brothers and sisters — no one is exempt.

“You might encounter them in your families, in your friendships, at work, in places of leisure or at the grocery store,” he said. “We encounter them everywhere.”

When they meet someone who has fallen away from the church they must be like the father from the parable in Luke’s Gospel, reaching out to them in compassion and love but gently telling them the truth at the same time.

“We invite them to renewal,” Father Whiteside explained. “We let them know that God wants a relationship with them.”

The most important thing we can tell them is that God has a plan for them, he said, which may be hard for them to hear.

“They don’t feel that way. They feel they’re outside of God’s plan,” Father Whiteside said, acknowledging that helping people to find their way back may take some time and requires a lot of patience.

PLANTING SEEDS
To fortify themselves they must have a deep, interior prayer life, he told them. “We need to abide in Jesus. We need to allow him to live in us.”

Father Whiteside encouraged them to go to daily Mass because “we need the nourishment of Jesus in the eucharist” and to spend as much time as possible in eucharistic adoration. Devotion to Mary is also key and he challenged them to pray the rosary every day in October at the very least.

“If you do that there are many, many blessings that will come into your life and into your soul and into your family,” he said, asking them to pray slowly rather than in a fast, mechanical way.

Father Whiteside also recommended spiritual reading and provided a list of books for the women to look into.

He reminded them that the laity have an indispensable role in fulfilling the mission of the church and urged them to be “a tool in the hand of God.”

“You are in places I will never be,” Father Whiteside said. “You may be the only person to bring them back.”

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