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Columbiettes open door to parish involvement

MYRTLE BEACH—Traci Ray had been a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in North Charleston for more than a decade in 2012, but still didn’t know many people.

That all changed when she joined the Columbiettes auxiliary formed at the church that year. Since then, Ray has been involved in parish activities such as bake sales and holiday parties, worked on an annual Christmas outreach to residents of local nursing homes, and been elected treasurer.

“It’s been a good experience for me because I’ve met more people at the church. I can be involved in the community, and as treasurer I can make decisions that have real, positive effects,” Ray said. “We’re involved in all kinds of activities at the church, and I’ve made some good friends through the group.”

She joined about 100 other women at St. Andrew Church on June 7 to celebrate the Columbiettes’ commitment to faith and service at their seventh annual convention. The theme was “Footprints in the Sand,” draw from the popular image of Jesus carrying the faithful during difficult times on life’s path.

The Columbiettes, formed in 1939 in New York, are a women’s organization that works alongside the Knights of Columbus.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass to open the convention and drew on the day’s Scripture readings as he talked about the organization’s role in today’s Church.

He reflected on the first reading (Acts 28:16-20, 30-31), which offered an account of Paul being held prisoner in Rome, and said Paul’s persecution is reflected in the many ways Christians deal with persecution around the world today. He said groups like the Columbiettes offer an important witness in society, where religious freedom is often under attack and the value of human life seems to be dwindling.

“The Acts of the Apostles offers us examples of role models who were willing to give up their lives in witness to Jesus Christ,” Bishop Guglielmone said.

“You belong to an organization of lay people, and Jesus Christ has to be at the center of it. We need to go back to the teachings of Jesus to give us strength to deal with the problems of life. The last thing we can do today is to sit back and say that there is nothing we can do about the problems of this world.”

After Mass, the women honored members who have died in the past year with a memorial service.

During a luncheon held later in the parish life center, they discussed Support Our Sisters, a project auxiliaries have sponsored since January. Members send financial donations plus letters and cards to women from the diocese who are seeking to become religious sisters.

Father Jeffrey Kirby, vicar for vocations, offered them an update on the project, one of the first of its kind in the country. He said the group is currently supporting Kristin Davidson, now known as Sister Maria Thalassa, a novice in the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, a missionary order founded in Argentina and based in Washington, D.C. Davidson, a graduate of Bishop England High School, joined the order in 2012. So far the auxiliaries have raised about $4,000.

“If it wasn’t for sisters, a lot of the missionary work in the Church today wouldn’t get done,” he said. “We’re called to serve God as disciples, and you’re here supporting these young women because we all want to do what God asks us to do. Thank you for taking the leap to support the young women who are taking a big leap of faith in discerning religious life.”

Newly elected officers were installed during a ceremony in the afternoon.

Nancy Romaniello was elected state president. She has been a member of the Father Bonaventure Brown Council 9672, based at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Camden, for about five years.

“I like being a Columbiette because it’s a women’s group that is faith based,” Romaniello said. “Our mission is asking first and foremost what can we do to serve our church and our community. I’ve always been involved in community service, and this gives me a chance to tie it in directly with my faith.”

Romaniello said she hopes to work directly with Bishop Guglielmone, Father Kirby and others to find ways the Columbiettes can offer help and support at both the parish and diocesan level.

Other newly elected officers are Gloria C. Kinney, vice president; Edith Van Demark, secretary; Caroline Paulhus, financial secretary; Joyce Recchia, treasurer; Lavon Massey, advocate; and Janice Hesson, sentinel.

Statewide, there are currently 376 Columbiettes in auxiliaries in Beaufort, Camden, Columbia, Loris, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, North Myrtle Beach, Summerville and Taylors.

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