Whether it’s aiding local charities or weighing in on social-justice issues, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas have done a century’s worth of good will in the Southern Tier.
Catholic Daughters Court St. Joseph No. 139 observed its 100th anniversary on May 14. The celebration began with a noon Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Painted Post and was immediately followed by a banquet at the Radisson Hotel in Corning. Attendees came from Court 139 as well as various courts throughout the state. Father Lew Brown celebrated the centennial Mass and Laura Opelt, executive director of Catholic Charities of Steuben, served as the banquet’s guest speaker.
The Catholic Daughters’ motto is "Unity and Charity" and these qualities are exhibited by Court 139 in many ways, according to Ellen Regan, a 100th-anniversary committee member. Regan said the court’s main function is involving itself in "community-oriented charities. We serve a lot of people locally."
Among those currently assisted by Court 139 are Food Bank of the Southern Tier and its member food pantries, as well as the Teen Angel project at All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post that provides holiday gifts for needy families. Regan said charitable funds to support such causes are raised through donations, raffles and white elephant auctions.
A favorite initiative of Regan’s is Court 139’s Layette Project that provides clothing for newborn infants. Regan noted that a display of the Layette Project was featured at Court 139’s 100th-anniversary banquet.
"I really enjoy it when we get together and put the layettes together," she said, noting that the clothing get snapped up quickly. "There’s great pockets of poverty around here. I think our layettes are the most important thing we do. The hospital calls us sometimes to see if we have any."
Advocacy is another major focus of Court 139. Although the Catholic Daughters don’t endorse political candidates, they speak out often for social justice — particularly in ways that align with Catholic Church teachings. For instance, Regan noted that in recent years Court 139 has dedicated itself to the annual White Ribbon Against Pornography Campaign, by which supporters wear white ribbons to oppose the proliferation of pornography. Court 139 members make ribbons that are distributed to Southern Tier parishes.
Catholic Daughters across the country also are renowned for supporting legislation related to the protection of life. Their many other good works show up in such areas as Habitat for Humanity, disaster relief, promotion of priestly vocations, prison ministry and arrangement of scholarship funds.
The Catholic Daughters is one of the oldest and largest organizations of Catholic women in the country, having begun in 1903 in nearby Utica through the efforts of the Knights of Columbus. Court 139 was formed in 1911 in the Corning area. According to the CDA website (www.catholicdaughters.org,) the Catholic Daughters are active in nearly all 50 states and several countries, with approximately 95,000 members in 1,250 courts. In New York state, there are 8,500 Catholic Daughters in 118 courts, including several within the Diocese of Rochester.
Regan, a member of St. Joseph Church in Campbell, has belonged to the Catholic Daughters for more than a decade.
"It’s a good group and I enjoy the (guest) speakers," she said of the monthly meetings.
Court 139 currently meets every second Thursday, except July and August, at the Corning Radisson. (Contact Pat Haughey at 607-936-9322 for scheduling details.) Regan said Court 139 is always in search of new members, particularly young women. She said the court has discussed offering alternative meeting times from its current late-morning slots in order to accommodate more schedules.
"There aren’t that many mothers who stay home with their children. They’re working," she said.