Catholic Daughters of America to gather at Our Lady of Belen

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A handful of women gathered earlier this month in a local church's activities center, forming an assembly line to stuff information packets.

The women were preparing for next week's statewide Catholic Daughters of The Americas annual retreat and workshop hosted by Our Lady of Belen Catholic Daughters of America Court No. 1359.

About 200 women are expected to travel to the Hub City Sept. 28 and 29, from as far away as Lovington to attend the retreat designed to promote spiritual healing and help members understand the duties of the board.

This is the second time in more than 60 years the statewide event has come to Belen. This year's gathering will be in the newly erected parish hall.

Activities officially start Friday afternoon with the posting of the court's colors and opening prayer, followed by guest speaker Father Stephen Schultz. Later in the evening, the daughters will attend a Mass, followed by a roast beef dinner.

Saturday morning, Catholic Daughters of America member and Belen City Manger Mary Lucy Baca will deliver a speech officially welcoming the Daughters to the Hub City. Training sessions will begin after a short break.

"It's an honor to be a Catholic Daughter and promote unity and charity," said Rosie Chavez, Our Lady of Belen Court No. 1359 regent. "We believe we have a wonderful team of officers and members that go above and beyond what we need to do."

Many of the court's 123 members spend their spare time volunteering at the Saint Vincent De Paul thrift store at Tenth and Castillo, selling and sorting gently-used clothing or preparing and passing out bags of food at the organization's food pantry.

In addition to helping out at charitable organizations, the Catholic Daughters often organize fund-raising events throughout the community. The money raised is used to help residents with unfulfilled needs, such as buying propane and other necessities.

"We live good, Christian lives, and if it means stepping our of our comfort zones — it may be scary — but we do it," said Connie Baca of Belen, the court's financial secretary.

She said one of the obstacles the group often face is raising enough money to do all the work it wants to do in the community.

Mary Lucy Baca said although the influx of people will help the economy, she is focused on spending time with people who are committed to helping others.

"The point is they are bringing several of my sisters in Christ together and all of these women work together to make things better for everyone else," Baca said. "Nothing is for them; it is for everyone else and, to me, that is why it is so important."

Two years ago, when Connie Baca lost her husband of 41 years, she learned how important it is to have the Daughters as a support network.

"If it wasn't for the Catholic Daughters, I probably wouldn't have made it. They helped me get through it," she said. "They are such gracious ladies."

Since many of the Daughters are advancing in age, Connie Baca said she hopes the gathering would spark enough curiosity of among the community to attract some "fresh new faces."

The Catholic Daughters of the Americas was founded during the early years of the 20th century as a benevolent and patriotic sorority for Catholic women.

It was originally called the National Order of Daughters of Isabella and is dedicated to the principals of "Unity and Charity."

Our Lady of Belen court is the largest of the state's 33 courts, with about 123 members. It was chartered in 1944 with 38 members, including current members Lilly Tabet and Sabie Romero.