Diocesan women challenged to lead Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Jane Lepeska Grinde, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Jul. 13, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

FORT ATKINSON -- In an afternoon “shareshop” on leadership at the Madison Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (MDCCW) convention held recently at St. Joseph Parish Hall here, members of MDCCW board shared their enthusiasm for the work of CCWs at the parish and vicariate levels.


Calling each segment an infomercial, Co-President Sue Koch introduced each one, beginning with technology presented by MDCCW Treasurer Kathy Loy, Fennimore, and Jan Block, Grant Vicariate president from Lancaster.

“If you don’t have a computer, go to the library,” they suggested. The two showed the websites for the National CCW (, MDCCW (, and Catholic Herald (

Karen Gramann, McFarland, a professional designer, volunteers her services for the MDCCW website. “She has done a great job redesigning it,” said Block.

Coreen Marklein, a past president and current legislation chair from Baraboo, put MDCCW on FaceBook and maintains it.

Ministry not a job

Infomercial number two featured immediate past president Rosa Ropers, Waunakee, who now chairs the Leadership Commission. She spoke from a handout subtitled, “It takes one person to create a new organization with vision and passion.”

She focused on the missing leaders for the vicariates that don’t have presidents, especially Jefferson, which co-hosted the convention and already has a secretary and treasurer. “Consider your actions a ministry, not a job,” she said.

She took the letters in the word “leadership” to present her challenge to the women. Starting with “leader,” she said, “Leaders don’t just show up. They need to be mentored. I learned from others to be president.”

She encouraged those who are already leaders “to grow other leaders; no one wants to be president forever. Step in and help your leaders. A leader learns by listening to know what needs to be improved on. We all need to listen a little bit more.”

Easily the second letter in leadership stands for enthusiasm. “You must show some enthusiasm for what you are doing, especially enthusiasm for new things that take you out of your comfort zone. Remember, how we hated cell phones when they first came out?”

Next, Ropers talked about achievement and attitude. “You will achieve best results in your council when everyone feels secure and valued and you work together with a positive attitude.”

Development of membership is key to successful leadership, she said. “Personally invite women to your meeting and make changes to appeal to younger members. Welcome newcomers. You have to make them feel welcome. Follow up with a thank you note. Help them feel connected. Every woman in your church is a potential member.”

Essential and encouraged

Ropers continued with two more “E” words. “Not only connected, but each member must be made to feel essential and encouraged. All the little jobs matter. Get new members involved as soon as possible. Grow your membership with invitation, hospitality, love, and invitation.”

The long-time member of MDCCW is familiar with the resources available to help parish and vicariate councils. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” NCCW and MDCCW have many resources and links available on their websites.

“Successful councils make sure all the women in the parish know what they are doing so they want to be a part of it. Use the bulletin to keep parishioners informed of your successes.

“When you bring new members into your council, keep the old ones, too. Accept all members and their ideas. Support them. Prepare them for a little criticism. Change is hard, and there will be critics. Don’t smother new people. Stand back and let them grow.”

Vocations Purse Club

The third infomercial used humor to call attention to the need to help candidates to the Religious life pay off their debts.

MDCCW President-elect Bernadette Schaefer, Lancaster, dressed in a nun’s habit, interviewed potential candidate played by MDCCW secretary Linda Ripp, Martinsville. Despite being an ideal candidate, debt can prohibit a woman from being accepted. “God clears the path for those who hear his call,” said Schaefer.

Over 1,000 women are turned away from vocation because of their debt. In collaboration with the National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations (NFCRV), NCCW promotes the Vocations Purse Club to help women entering

Religious Life pay off educational debt or provide required funding to enter. A brochure on the project is available on both the NCCW and MDCCW websites. MDCCW will forward checks for this cause.

Women considering a vocation apply for funding through their chosen order to the NFCRV on an application marked “Support provided by the National Council of Catholic Women.”

Proceeds from the MDCCW raffle went to the Vocations Purse Club along with Clarity Clinic of Southwest Wisconsin, which provides free information and resources on reproductive health.


The final infomercial featured the “M&Ms of Council.” Carol Brennan, past president, presented while several other members from the Columbia North Vicariate held up signs.

Taken from the NCCW mission, the first M is for Mission. “The National Council of Catholic Women acts through its membership to support, empower, and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership, and service. NCCW programs respond with Gospel values to the needs of the Church and society in the modern world.”

Within the mission, Brennan talked about the importance of offering programs that provide for the “spiritual growth of our sisters in faith” and promote learning and service.


Brennan said, “We can’t do anything without members. We need you, all of you. Members come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Mentor your members. Be a resource for them.”

Key to success is being able to recognize that everyone has something she does well or enjoys doing. “Maximize your members,” she said. “In turn, members need to have the courage to say ‘yes’ when God calls.


“Meetings are the dreaded word,” joked Brennan. “Be organized and provide a mix of spiritual, business, and fun.” She reminded the audience that leaders must be open to new ideas and change, accept input from others, and recognize that attitudes — whether negative or positive — are contagious.

Councils have many projects from which to choose. “We all want to do something meaningful to help others. We don’t need to save the whole world to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Brennan, the president-elect for the Milwaukee Province, which includes all five dioceses in Wisconsin.


What is your message? Brennan suggested five:

1. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. You may not feel qualified. Leave that up to God.

2. We are women of prayer, but we are more than that.

3. We are women of faith and action.

4. We are stronger together.

5. Let us be on our way to serve the Lord!

The shareshop ended with all the women shouting the MDCCW cheer, written by President-Elect Bernadette Shaefer and performed at the beginning of the convention.

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