60 ‘Spirit-filled women’ gather here for statewide leadership development event

Peggy Jacques of St. Thomas the Apostle, Peoria Heights; Mary Thissen of St. Matthew, Champaign; Myra Krein of St. Theresa, Palatine; and Celeste Mann of St. Mary, McHenry, work on a problem-solving exercise during the NCCW Leadership Training Development program, held June 23 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Membership, finding new leaders, and interpersonal communication are just some of the concerns that recently brought more than 60 women from around Illinois to Peoria for a Leadership Training Development program designed by the National Council of Catholic Women.

Hosted by the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women at the Spalding Pastoral Center, the day was planned and sponsored by the Chicago Province of the NCCW. The province includes the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Rockford, Peoria and Springfield, and women from each were represented at the June 23 event.

“It is a wonderful day to be here in Peoria to pray, to learn, to share, to grow as only Spirit-filled women can do. Are we ready?” said Jane Carter of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a member of the team that developed the Leadership Training Development program. “Remember, we are on the journey with you because we are sisters in council. We understand you because we are you.”

Kim Padan, president of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, offers the DCCW’s thanks to Mary Glosson, director of the Chicago Province of the National Council of Catholic Women, for her service. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Carter has been involved on all levels of the Council of Catholic Women. The NCCW’s Million Works of Mercy initiative in 2017 was her idea, for example, and culminated in the organization presenting more than 2 million works to Pope Francis.

The second presenter for the day was Suzanne Erpenbach from Knoxville, Tennessee. An active participant in the Council of Catholic Women for more than 40 years, she was also a member of the team that developed the NCCW Leadership Training Development program.

Erpenbach told The Catholic Post that each LTD program is specifically designed to address the interests and needs of the hosting group. Those areas of interest are determined through a questionnaire each participant completes when registering.

Carter said presentations on 50 topics have been prepared and the pertinent topics are chosen based on responses to the questionnaire.

In addition to membership, raising up new leaders, and improving communication, Chicago Province members indicated they want to attract younger women to their councils, grow in spirituality, have fun, and serve the Lord, according to Carter.


Each person received an action response sheet and was encouraged to write down new ideas or things they wanted to try when they returned home. Given plenty of handouts with suggestions, participants also were led through a series of exercises to improve their problem-solving, communication, and team-building skills.

Before exploring the topic of membership, the women heard about the lifecycle of an organization and were asked to evaluate where their council was in the process. The good news is that organizations can recreate themselves and often do, over and over again, the presenters said.

Carter said it is vital to greet those who are attending a council meeting for the first time and to do it with a smile.

“Everyone who is not a first-time member is a member of your membership committee,” she emphasized. “It is everyone’s responsibility, including me.”

Patricia Fowler of St. Patrick in Urbana listens as presenter Jane Carter makes a point during table discussion at the National Council of Catholic Women’s Leadership Training Development program June 23 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

She added that as Jesus welcomes people, we are called to welcome others, too, making them feel important, welcome and valued.

“I know you’re thinking it’s not that simple, but it is,” she said.


Carter’s ABCs for recruiting new members included “enthusiasm, educate and entertain,” have “fun, friendship and food,” be “holy,” “invite and involve,” “keep in touch,” and “listen, listen, listen.”

“We are part of the greatest story ever told,” she said. “That story will never be complete without each of us.”

Other tips included:

l Faith is the cornerstone of the organization. What the Councils of Catholic Women need are servant-leaders.

l When facing a challenge, work to identify the right question, then set goals and develop an action plan. Troubleshoot where necessary and communicate well. Skipping any of these steps often leads to failure.

l It is possible to accomplish more as a team than any one person can accomplish alone. “If you’re not working to include everyone in the planning they will not own it. If you plan the project yourself, you will do it yourself,” Carter said.

l Communication is at the heart of everything that we do. Listen well and be aware of non-verbal forms of communication.

The day ended with a call for the women to attend to their own needs, too.

“Unless you take care of yourselves, you won’t be able to take care of others,” Erpenbach said.

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