| By Shelley Metcalf

Catholic women discuss renewing their faith at annual convention

The Austin Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (ADCCW) met for their 72nd convention May 16-17 in Round Rock. The theme for this year’s convention was “Renewing Our Faith.”

Bishop Joe Vásquez celebrated Mass with the group and talked about the faithfulness and sacrifice that true love requires.

“True love is about being faithful even in the midst of challenges, illnesses and difficulties. We are called to be faithful,” he said.

During the evening banquet, the ADCCW presented a check to Bishop Vásquez for more than $185,000.

The money was raised through the Clerical Endowment Fund (CEF) and goes to support education of those who are studying for the priesthood.

“Thank you, dear ladies, for what you do for those of us in the Diocese of Austin,” he said. “The church owes a great deal of thanks to you. Think of all of those seminarians who have been formed thanks to you. Think of all those priests who now serve in our parishes, thanks to you!”

According the ADCCW website, the money from the CEF comes from Mass card enrollments, bequests from estates, special donations and an annual drive in each parish. Since 1950 the CEF has contributed more than $4,350,000 to the education of seminarians.

Also during the banquet, the group honored 40 priests who are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, including Msgr. Victor Goertz (70 years) and Msgr. Lonnie Urban (55 years). The group also honored the 14 priests and three individuals for whom burses were named over the last year. The council also recognized Michelle Braden from St. Joseph Parish in Bryan with the Our Lady of Good Counsel award for her service to her parish and community.

During the conference, Father Paul-Michael Piega and Cheryl Maxwell focused on the theme “Renewing Our Faith.”

In an interactive and dynamic presentation, Father Piega, the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Hutto, told the more than 120 participants we are living in an age of apostolic mission.

“How do we renew our faith at a time when we are being constantly attacked?” he asked. “It all begins with relationships, and it truly begins with us and our relationship with God.”

Despite the identity crises that our culture seems to be experiencing, he said, we must always know, proclaim and remember that we are children of God.

“All of us are called to be holy,” Father Piega said. Through relationships with spouses, children and loved ones, we are called to holiness.

In the liturgy of the Mass, “we experience Heaven on earth,” Father Piega said. “Christ comes down to be with us.”

Through our participation in the Mass, we are participating in God’s saving work, he said.

In her presentation the next day, Maxwell began with discussing how much was lost with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After these past two years, what an incredible blessing it is for us to be gathered together here in faith,” she said.

The last two years have taken a toll on the faith of many. She said whenever she feels down, she looks at history, particularly to Scripture.

“Look at the disciples after Christ’s crucifixion,” she said. “They were lost, devastated and fearful. They hid in community in the upper room … the Holy Spirit descended upon them and renewed them. They became strong and zealous, and they began to understand their mission.”

Renewing one’s faith is not something that just happens, Maxwell said.

“We have to put in a little bit of effort and work with the Holy Spirit, so that no matter where we are in our faith journey, we always have the opportunity to grow in faith whether there is a pandemic or not,” she said. “We must always maintain the desire to be renewed in our faith.”

She said prayer, sacramental living and community are needed to renew one’s faith.

“Try a different style of prayer if what you are doing feels a little stale,” she said. “Do something to shake it up a little bit.”

She encouraged all to get back to Mass and to make God a priority.

Sacramental living is being in relationship with others around you making sure they understand how sacred and holy they are to you, Maxwell said.

“We are so blessed to be Catholic and to have the sacraments and encounter Christ face to face in the sacraments,” she said. “The source of our sacramental living comes from our participation in the sacraments.”

What happens within your home, transfers outside to your neighborhood, transfers outside to your city, transfers outside to your country, transfers outside to the world, she said.

“We are all connected, and it starts with us in our home,” Maxwell said.

As disciples of Christ, we hold one another accountable. Through our communities of faith, we have the opportunity to learn service, doctrine and Scripture, she said.

“The last two years have tested us. Whenever we go through times of difficulty, when we feel crushed, under pressure or immense darkness, we are in a place of incredible transformation. God is with us, and he is renewing our faith as we move out of this pandemic,” she said.