By Annette Alleva
The North Star Catholic
On the glorious spring morning of June 12, about 30 women, members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA), Court St. Pius X #1866, gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe to celebrate 60 years of service. They were joined by family members, friends, supporters, and clergy members in an intimate and joyous liturgy, which coincided with the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Integral to the celebration was the ceremonial installment of officers.
CDA Chaplain Father Robert Whitney concelebrated the Mass with Father Daniel Hebert, former CDA Chaplain, and Father Luz Flores, Pastoral Director of Holy Spirit Center. The Daughters assisted in various ministerial roles and as members of the small choir.
Father Whitney remarking on the particular feast day, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an image with which many Catholics are familiar, is deeply and profoundly biblical, he said. Father Whitney noted that the evangelist Luke, from whom the day’s gospel was derived, “was very attentive to the beatings of Mary’s heart.” From her encounter with Simeon during Jesus’ infancy, later finding him in the temple in his adolescence, to standing at the foot of her son’s cross, all “were something Mary kept and pondered in her heart,” as cited in the writings of Luke’s gospel, Father Whitney said.
“Women stay,” Father Whitney spoke of those who remained until the bitter end at Christ’s crucifixion while the apostles ran away in fear. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, Mary wholeheartedly “cooperated through charity in the work of our redemption.”
For Catholic Daughters, Father Whitney continued, the question is, “How is it that I can listen to Mary’s heartbeat…and have my own heartbeat in sync with hers and truly serve the church as she did?” He urged the Daughters to look to Mary to discern how to help their brothers and sisters, work miracles among those they serve, and bring Jesus to the public square. Look to Mary, Father Whitney advised all, so that our work can be fruitful, not just on earth but also in heaven.
Following the homily, the five elected Daughters, dressed in attire denoting their respective offices, were called forward for installation. After their pledging fidelity and service at the highest level to their order, country, Church, and God. Father Whitney advised the elect to have a clear understanding of their great responsibilities. As leaders, you “must demonstrate initiative, courage, objectivity, and determination, but most of all, you must accept the responsibility and challenge of making the Catholic Daughters of this Court…a powerful, active force performing God’s work in the Court,” he said.
The newly installed officers pledged to assume the responsibilities of their respective offices in this court. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they promised to provide examples of unity and charity by the personal exercise of love for the other Daughters and service to the community.
To symbolize their commitment, each placed a rose—for dedication—at the foot of a statue of Mary. A candle, denoting the light of Christ, was lit by each. A pledge was then signed, affirming the oaths taken.
The newly installed officers were: Rosemary Cunningham, Treasurer; Edna Resari, Financial Secretary; Victoria Steger, Secretary; Angela Moran, Vice Regent; Debra Vea, Regent. As each woman stepped forward to place her rose and sign her pledge, Father Whitney noted the duties and responsibilities of each office. He then presented a blessed gavel to Regent Debra Vea.
An act of consecration was made by the members of the court, who promised to offer their hearts, feet, eyes, tongues, minds, and whole life to Jesus working through them. All members pledged to be “one in unity and love” and their allegiance to their country, Church, the Catholic Daughters and the newly elected officers. They promised to assist them in any way they can to carry out the mission and work of the Daughters.
Following the blessing and dismissal of the Mass, those in attendance were invited to lunch in the Lunney Center. A meeting and program followed, which also included drawing the names of raffle winners.
Father Dan Hebert, the former court chaplain, greeted the lunch attendees with a remark about Mary and her Immaculate Heart, stating, “She was a woman who trusted, and she always said ‘yes.’” He added, “Congratulations, let this grow for another 60 years.”
Mistress of Ceremonies, Regent Debra Vea, opened the meeting and presented many in attendance with pins recognizing 60, 50 and other milestone years of service to the Daughters. An acknowledgment was made of past regents and charter members from the group’s inception in 1961. Among them was Linda Fleener, who was the ceremonial coordinator for the day’s event.
Fleener, reflecting on the events of the day said, “It was kind of nostalgic. Members were there from the original group and it was nice to share.” She noted how blessed the group was to have both the new and former chaplains as presiders for the liturgy.
“It was nice to celebrate eucharistically,” Fleener said, remarking that with the uncertainties of COVID restrictions, much of the planning had been tentative and involved alternative plans.
As Fleener looked back on the Daughters’ first 60 years, she said, “It is so different now. Many women are working and it is difficult for them all to be engaged. A lot of them can’t make the meetings.” She noted that while COVID presented many challenges, innovations in meeting virtually have allowed those challenged to attend in person a deeper engagement with the group than before. Members from Haines and Soldotna have been able to participate in ways they couldn’t before.
Looking forward to the next 60 years, Fleener spoke of ways to increase membership and that “new members are really special.” She encouraged women to explore how they might serve with the Daughters, even in a limited capacity. She noted her involvement was gradual as when she joined, she had three young children and took on increasing responsibilities as they grew older.
She said the Daughters are poised to assist anyone who wishes to become involved, in whatever capacity and to whatever degree they desire. For information, please contact Debra Vea (907) 952-0181.