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OACCW convention draws 160 women to Hartington

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"Living Our Faith" was the theme for the 89th annual Omaha Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (OACCW) convention, and it also reflects the variety of service work OACCW members perform, said Father Jeffrey Lorig, the event's keynote speaker.

Held Sept. 16 in Hartington, the convention drew more than 160 women.

Noting their important work in parishes, Father Lorig, pastor of St. Ludger Parish in Creighton and St. Ignatius Parish in Brunswick, said it is inspiring to meet women who do everything from watering plants and cleaning the church to serving as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion (EMHC).

"They are amazing stewards," Father Lorig said.

That stewardship is part of the mission of the OACCW, which supports, empowers and educates Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service by responding with Gospel values to the needs of the church and society.

And the OACCW recognizes the focus on service each year, honoring one woman with the Mullen Award, established in 1962 and named for the council's third president, Mary Mullen.

This year's winner, Mary Goff, has long been active in her parish and community, said Ann Hobson, a former OACCW president who led a committee of five members in selecting the winner.

Goff, president of the OACCW's Rural North East Deanery region for 14 years, is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Lyons, where she is an organist and director of the choir and chime choir, lectors at daily Mass, helps in the kitchen after funerals, has served as co-chairman for parish fundraisers, cleans the church linens and twice has been Altar Society president.

In addition, Goff has served on the hospital board at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point for 17 years, volunteers at a nursing home in Lyons and is a 21-year member of P.E.O., a national philanthropic organization for women.

"She has led - and continues to lead - a life of service," Hobson said.

Goff said she was surprised and humbled to receive the award, made extra special, she said, because Archbishop George J. Lucas blessed the medal before presenting it to her after Mass.

"It's really an honor," she said.

Beginning with a morning rosary led by the group's spiritual director, Father James Kramper, pastor of St. Peter de Alcántara Parish in Ewing, St. John the Baptist Parish in Deloit Township of Holt County, and St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, the convention also included Mass celebrated by Archbishop Lucas, raffle drawings and two other speakers, Jim Cunningham, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, and Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

"It was a wonderful, faith-filled day," said Marcia Engelhaupt, continuing her two-year term as OACCW president along with officers Theresa Pavlik, first vice-president; Mary Lux, second vice-president; Barb Vaughn, treasurer; and Mary Lee Konz, secretary.

On display were 50 posters reflecting on the convention theme and submitted by students from religious education classes and schools from the 12 parishes in the Rural North Central Deanery, which hosted this year's event. Kenlee Goeden, a fifth-grader at Holy Trinity School in Hartington, who drew the winning poster, received a $25 cash prize from Archbishop Lucas.

As the keynote speaker, Father Lorig said he reflected on the theme by urging those in attendance to examine their relationship with Christ and open the door of their hearts to him as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his apostolic letter to begin the Year of Faith.

"Living the faith means conversion," Father Lorig said.

And just like any relationship, it must be nurtured through time, commitment and discipline, he said. Father Lorig encouraged people to practice "Lectio Divina," or "divine reading," an ancient practice of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating on Scripture, which Pope Benedict said would bring about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God.

Father Lorig said the convention builds fellowship among members who attend from throughout the archdiocese, many of whom perform similar forms of service.

"It's good for them to see they are not alone in their work," Father Lorig said.

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