“I said I’m a young mom, I don’t have time, talent or money,” she said. “They talked me into it, and I soon discovered I did have some time and some talent, and because I joined, I now have lifetime friends who are my treasure.”
Now, Stephens and other members of the group want more women to discover the mix of faith, fellowship and fun they have discovered through SCCCW.
The council was founded in 1930 as a way to unite women across the state. Today, there are 1,300 members who belong through parish affiliates or as individuals. Their motto is “spirituality, leadership and service.”
“We are the voice of Catholic women in the state of South Carolina,” said state president Marlene Grover, who attends St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach. “Our goal is to give them the power to work for their church, their family and their communities.”
Members meet annually for a spring state convention hosted by a different deanery each year. The next one will be March 20-22 in Greenville. Some members also travel to the national convention annually, which has been held twice in South Carolina.
Grover said leadership is a big focus for the council. Using funds from a grant from the Sisters of Charity of South Carolina, she is working with longtime members Joan Mack and Barbara Birds to organize traveling leadership workshops for each deanery.
Helping others is a core part of the organization’s work. Statewide projects include contributions to a program called Caps of Love, which collects recycled bottle caps to raise funds for wheelchairs for special needs children. Members also have raised money to build a chapel at the Graham Correctional Institution for Women in Columbia, fund annual scholarships and help the needy overseas through Cross International and other Catholic charities.
Each deanery also has its own service projects. Stephens said the Coastal Deanery has donated supplies to the Lowcountry Pregnancy Center and the Carolina Youth Development Center in North Charleston and helped a program that feeds the homeless in downtown Charleston. In the Piedmont Deanery, members are collecting socks, shirts and other supplies for senior citizens in area nursing homes, and also adopt a needy family each Christmas.
“I love the work we do in this ministry,” said Ruby King, who leads the Piedmont group. “It’s a way to get women together to work for change.”
Pat Dutton, of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach, joined eight years ago and is now president of the Pee Dee deanery. She said membership offers women a chance to nurture their faith and have a real voice in issues facing the church and society.
“A lot of people thought when I moved down here to retire I’d be sitting in front of the TV,” Dutton said. ‘Now I can’t even tell you what’s on the channels because I don’t have time to watch, and that’s a good thing. SCCCW is a different way of staying active, of being part of something that’s bigger than yourself and reaching out to people in need.”
To learn more about the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women, visit www.scccw.org.