MADISON -- Which is the oldest and largest national organization of Catholic women in the world?
The answer is the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA). This organization was founded in 1903 by the Knights of Columbus in Utica, N.Y. It has spread to 45 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and Saipan.
CDA is open to Catholic lay and consecrated women, 18 years or older. There is also a Junior Catholic Daughters of the Americas youth program for girls aged eight through 18.
In Madison, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court Madison #1164 is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Members will attend Mass on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick Church in Madison. A social hour and dinner will follow in the parish center hall.
Court Madison was founded in 1930 and has a long history of involvement in Church, social, and charitable activities.
Exploring ways to increase membership
However, the number of members in Court Madison has dwindled over the years from 275 members in the 1970s to the current membership of only 38 women. The local court is exploring ways to increase membership and keep this long-standing Catholic organization going into the future.
Efforts to revitalize the Madison court are being spearheaded by a young woman who joined the court two years ago. Maureen Martin Ericson is very enthusiastic about the Catholic Daughters.
"The women of the court have done so much," she said. "I believe there are many faithful young women out there who will see the value of joining."
She explained the mission of the Catholic Daughters, "The Catholic Daughters of the Americas strives to embrace the principle of faith working through love in the promotion of justice, equality, and advancement of human rights and human dignity for all.
"Our motto is 'Unity and Charity.' The CDA emblem -- the cross and the crown -- symbolizes the reward promised to the faithful."
She added, "As individuals, we feel there is little we can do to affect the world, but by joining others and working together toward common goals, there is little we cannot accomplish. Together we can turn the tide."
Based at St. Peter Parish
One of the changes proposed for Court Madison this year is that it will be affiliated with St. Peter Parish in Madison, where Ericson is a member. Msgr. Charles Schluter, pastor, has agreed to this relationship. He was familiar with the organization since his mother was a member.
Court Madison had been meeting in different parishes throughout the year. Ericson hopes having a parish base will help strengthen the organization.
To accommodate working women, the court may also hold some evening meetings rather than just daytime meetings. "Our court actually started as an evening group," said Ericson.
Ericson said members of Court Madison impressed her right away when she attended her first meeting. "Everyone was very kind, friendly, and welcoming," she said.
Support many programs
She is also impressed by what the members do. "We engage in spiritual and creative programs that provide our members with the opportunity to develop their God-given talents in a meaningful way to help all people throughout the world," said Ericson.
CDA on local and national levels has supported such activities as Catholic Relief Services, Habitat for Humanity, Morality in Media, the Apostolate of the Sea, and efforts to help battered spouses and prevent child abuse and teenage pregnancies and suicides. It provides scholarships and educational contests and promotes vocations in the Church.
Benefits of membership
Charlotte Carey, who has been a member of Court Madison for 12 years and is a former local regent, has enjoyed belonging to this organization. "As a convert to the Catholic Church, my membership in CDA has helped me to become a stronger and more informed woman in the Catholic faith with a much deeper understanding of my spiritual life," said Carey.
"I have met many wonderful women in our court as well as in our state court through attending state and national conventions, becoming good friends with many of them. I highly recommend women of all ages to consider attending our meetings and hopefully becoming a member of this excellent organization for Catholic women."For more information on:
- Court Madison, contact Maureen Ericson at 608-516-0559 or
- State organization, contact state Regent Theresa Reince at 920-746-8420 or
- National organization, go to www.catholicdaughters.org