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At the Sept. 10 closing Mass of the annual convention of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW)—whose theme was “Catholic Women: Instruments of Mercy—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., reflected in his homily on an iconic image of mercy, the recently canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recalled an encounter he had with St. Teresa in 1976 when he was a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., and heard the founder of the Missionaries of Charity give a speech.
At the end of it, a man sitting in the front row of her audience told St. Teresa that he wanted to return to Calcutta to work with her.
“I’ll never forget what she said in reply. Archbishop Kurtz said. “ ‘Sir, the person that Christ wants you to serve is already at your doorstep.’ I think she was talking, first of all about the way we treat our family. Right?
“Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Christ has put at our doorstep certain people in our life to serve. That is the gift that St. Teresa of Calcutta talked about.”
The convention, the 96th one in the nearly century-long history of the NCCW, was held on Sept. 7-10 at the Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis.
In his homily, Archbishop Kurtz praised the members of the NCCW for seeking to perform 1 million works of mercy during the Church’s Holy Year of Mercy.
But in light of the Mass’ Gospel reading, which recounted the parable of the Prodigal Son, he reminded them both of the power of the mercy they can show to others and their need to experience mercy themselves.
“It’s people seeing the good that you do and the women you are so that they can give glory to God … ,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “We have the privilege of being companions with the Lord Jesus and ambassadors who are witnesses to the risen Lord. And that can only happen when we come to the Lord with humility, ask forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed and then trust that God’s grace will come alive in our hearts.”
In his closing remarks at the Mass, Archbishop Kurtz thanked the members of the NCCW for the good they do in the Church and in broader society.
“I want to thank you for your leadership and your witness in the various parishes and dioceses in which you are involved throughout the United States,” he said. “The role and leadership of women within our Church and within our society is something that is essential to the life and well-being of our Church and of society. And so I thank you for that.”
After the Mass, NCCW member Sharon O’Brien, director of the Catholics for Family Peace Education and Research Initiative at The Catholic University of America in Washington, spoke of how attending the convention was a boost for her life of faith.
“Connecting with a thousand other Catholic women makes you feel energized about your faith,” she said. “We learn so much from each other. It’s absolutely amazing what women in other dioceses are doing.”
She also said the convention was a way to help all the members focus more on being merciful in their daily lives.
“It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that an encounter with others is an act of mercy,” O’Brien said. “We’re called as women of faith and disciples of Christ to encounter each other. Coming here is a reinforcement [of that].”
(For more information on the National Council of Catholic Women, visit nccw.org.) †