MACCW celebrates 90th anniversary

Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic Herald

Wednesday, 12 May 2010 12:18

The Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women gather each year for annual conventions, including this one at Mother of Good Counsel, Milwaukee in 1995. MACCW will celebrate its 90th anniversary as an organization Wednesday, May 19. (Catholic Herald file photo by James Pearson)In March 1920, the bishops of the United States, recognizing the value of the service laywomen were providing to the church and its members, established the National Council of Catholic Women as a lay department of the Welfare Conference in Washington, D.C. The bishops hoped to strengthen the women’s efforts by giving them a common voice, an instrument for united action, to ensure proper Catholic representation in national committees and movements, and to stimulate the work of existing Catholic organizations to greater service.

On Dec. 8 of that year, Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer and three delegates organized the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, only the second federation formed under the umbrella of the national organization.

The MACCW council comprises parish and inter-parish societies and serves the poor, elderly and forgotten. Additionally, the organization advocates at state and national levels on concerns such as pro-life issues, social justice, breast cancer awareness and other health issues. Group members support each other in various circumstances of their lives, and join in prayer and worship to build the Catholic faith.

Members will gather Wednesday, May 19, at St. Joseph Center for its annual convention and to commemorate its 90th anniversary. Janine Geske, professor of law at Marquette University, will speak on the convention’s theme, “Women of Faith, Calling you by Name.”

Mass will be celebrated by Bishop William P. Callahan, and MACCW chaplain Fr. Dominic Roscioli of Kenosha. As chaplain and moderator, Fr. Roscioli said it’s exciting to associate with a group of multi-generational women dedicated to prayer and service.

“The women range in age from their 40s to their 90s and feel a wonderful sense of urgency to become women alive in Jesus Christ,” he said. “They are hoping to encourage younger people to be involved and realize that in these times it is difficult, because a lot of younger people are chasing around after their kids. When I was growing up, there were the Catholic women’s societies and it was a different way of thinking, and a different lifestyle – but these are women who have weathered many storms in the church; and I think they are feeling a lot of hope, fun and a sense of prayer looking to bring what was started in the past to a vibrant future. I think they can attract new members – be strong and be a voice for Catholic women everywhere.”

The National Council of Catholic Women consists of more than 4,000 affiliated Catholic women’s organizations throughout the United States, representing hundreds of thousands of Catholic women, according to province director Rita Macewicz. Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women 90th annual


Mass celebrated by Bishop William P. Callahan and chaplain Fr. Dominic Roscioli

Speaker: Janine Geske

Wednesday, May 19

St. Joseph Center

1501 S. Layton Blvd.


(414) 281-8694

Cost: $25

Send reservations

to Carol July

5645 S. 29th St.

Milwaukee, WI 53221

Convention includes:

Breakfast, Mass, entertainment and buffet lunch

“We think of the organization in four rings,” explained Macewicz, a member of St. Jude Parish, Beloit. “The outer ring consists of the local councils of Catholic women, the second ring makes up subdivisions such as the districts or vicariates. From there, are the five dioceses in Wisconsin, and then in the center is the national board. I am the liaison between all of them.”

After MACCW president Marlene Henkes, a member of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Milwaukee, earned her master’s degree in nursing, she looked for an outlet to use her talents and education, and wanted to surround herself with others who displayed proactive Christian conduct. Becoming part of the Council of Catholic Women nurtured her desire to help others.

“Our 20-member board meets four times a year,” she said. “In addition, we have an annual day of reflection at Holy Hill in October, which last year drew 135 participants.”

Co-historian Marjorie Zarnik, member of District 16 MACCW, began attending the national conventions in 1957 and remembers donating money and baby clothing to Catholic Charities and Milwaukee Birthright.

The 91-year old served as former vice president, president, on the district and state board, as well chair of several committees during her 53 years as a member of MACCW.

“I joined the group to learn new ideas, to conduct a meeting correctly, to meet intelligent, leadership type women, to be familiar with the officers and chairmen for information and advice, and to learn more about the archdiocese from the dedicated priest moderators,” said Zarnik. “In the early years, I was often the only delegate from my parish, St. Charles Borromeo, to attend the MACCW and district meetings, and back then, only a few members attended the conventions.”

Katherine Niggemann of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Milwaukee, was drawn to the MACCW in the 1950s by the opportunities for charitable works and spiritual activities that promoted the Christian women’s values of raising children in a Catholic home and sending them to Catholic schools.

“When I became a member, I was eager to help this group become recognized as a leading organization in the archdiocese,” she said. “Through the annual retreats and conventions, women of the archdiocese were able to extend their personal help to strengthen the outreach from this group to their own church and community.”

In addition to service work, several members such as Beverly Subel of St. Leonard Parish, Muskego, joined in 2000 to network their parish Christian Mothers organization with the MACCW.

“I noticed the closeness of the MACCW members and their concern for each other,” she said. “By attending the MACCW meetings, their conventions and district days of reflection, I found a group of women who think much the same way as I do and can find ways to enhance my faith with the programs they support.”

Former president and vice president, Audrey Shanahan, member of Mary Queen of Heaven Parish, West Allis, joined MACCW while a member of the parish Christian women’s organization.

“There would be a report at each meeting about the events of MACCW, and after attending the spring dinner at St. Matthias Parish in 2000, I joined the group,” she said. “I served as vice president for a year and then president for two years. I met some very wonderful women who I consider my friends, and I am very proud of MACCW.”

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