Women connect, encourage one another at convention in Champaign

Bobbi Hynes of St. Mary, Bloomington, shares a concern about those who are leaving the church as part the morning session at the 2018 biennial convention of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. Speaker Joann Hillebrand said the National Council of Catholic Women was formed nearly 100 years ago to "unite the efforts of women in the church, in family and in society." (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

CHAMPAIGN — All organizations struggle from time to time. The same is true of the National Council of Catholic Women, said former president Joann Hillebrand of Oakbrook.

“There are times where you’re barely existing, where you’re having difficulty getting people to come to your meetings, having parishes affiliate. Stick with it. Eventually you’ll be strong again,” she told the women who gathered in the parish center of St. Matthew Church on Oct. 27 for the 2018 biennial convention of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.

Her talk about the 98-year history of the NCCW, plans for the centennial celebration in August 2020, and the need to keep telling people about “council” set the tone for the day, which also included an installation of officers, Mass and the story of an alleged miracle that could lead to the beatification of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen of El Paso. (See the related story.)

Love is the reason we serve in the church. It’s really our love that motivates us to reach out and care for anyone in need.” Kim Padan, PDCCW president

There were also flowers and a round of applause for longtime PDCCW member and former officer Nympha White of Grand Ridge, who received the National Council of Catholic Women’s highest honor, the Our Lady of Good Counsel Award, at the NCCW convention in September.

The theme for the day was taken from a quote by Venerable Sheen: “For a woman, love is its own reason.”

“Many of you are involved in your Altar and Rosary Society. Maybe you prepare food for funeral lunches. Perhaps you sing in the choir. You might be a lector, a eucharistic minister. You plant flowers, you sweep, you dust. You do many, many things,” said Kim Padan, PDCCW president, as she welcomed the women to the convention.

“Ultimately, I believe women do these things out of love — love for Christ, love for his mama Mary, love for his church. Love is the reason we serve in the church,” she said. “It’s really our love that motivates us to reach out and care for anyone in need.”

That’s what council does and what women can do as council, as “Catholic sisters joined through our faith,” Padan said.


A member of St. Paul in Danville, Padan was installed for a second two-year as PDCCW president by Hillebrand. The former NCCW president stood in for Msgr. Dale Wellman, a senior priest of the diocese and the group’s longtime spiritual adviser, who couldn’t attend due to a family emergency.

Joann Hillebrand looks on as Kim Padan, president; Mary Ann Hughes, vice president and secretary; and Melissa Appel, treasurer, share a smile while being installed for two-year terms at the PDCCW convention Oct. 27. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Padan was given the patroness of Priscilla, a leader and teacher in the early church and “a woman totally involved in team ministry for the sake of the Gospel.”

Melissa Appel, a member of St. Jude Parish in Peoria, succeeded Jane Harris, also of St. Jude Parish, as treasurer. She was given the patroness of St. Teresa of Avila, “who was a model of integrity and was trusted by the leaders of the church in her time.”

Mary Ann Hughes of St. Mary in Westville was installed as the vice president and secretary of the PDDCW, so she was entrusted to the care of two holy women — Ruth, “a constant source of strength” for Naomi, and St. Paula, who was a companion to St. Jerome and helped him to interpret and translate the Bible.

Among Padan’s goals and highlights for the next two years is increasing the number of vicariates represented on the PDDCW board, promoting through social media the works of mercy being undertaken by affiliate parishes, and connecting with more people and parishes across the diocese.

“Together we can fulfill the mission of the National Council of Catholic Women,” she said.


Hillebrand said the NCCW was formed on March 4, 1920, when 200 Catholic women responded to the call of the U.S. bishops.

Alberta Fandel, who chairs Marriage and Family Life for the PDCCW, discusses resources with Bette Holmes of St. Matthew, Champaign. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“Its mission was to unite the efforts of women in the church, in family and in society, and to enable them to speak with a broader voice, so the scope of our service was now nationwide,” she said.

Even with the continued support of the bishops and much work to do, the NCCW has seen its numbers decline as have local councils. Hillebrand encouraged the women, but also challenged them to ask themselves why this is happening, what they can do about it, and what keeps them coming back.

Some, like Jackie Shadden of St. Mary in Westville, said she came to the convention to feel a sense of connection with other faith-filled women and the Diocese of Peoria. Others, like Bobbi Hynes of St. Mary in Bloomington, are concerned about those who are leaving the church.

“One of the reasons I came was to find what we can do to assist women who want to remain Catholic to really find the strength, courage and tenacity to do that, and to bring forth programs and ideas to call us together,” Hynes said.

“When we’re together in a room like this, we realize how many people have the same mindset we have,” Hillebrand said. “I think it’s very affirming and reassuring that we have thousands and thousands of women throughout this United States that feel like we do.”

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