TEXARKANA, Texas The Texas State Convention of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas opened its biennial convention here Wednesday. It bills itself the "largest Catholic women's organization in the world."
And as if to punctuate that point, nearly 500 attendees from all parts of the state converged here for the four-day event.
They will attend seminars, elect officers for the coming two years and in general, enjoy fellowship with each other.
"This is the second time the biennial convention has been held in Texarkana," said Melodie Brunt, state regent and Texarkana, Texas, resident. "The 8th biennial convention was held in 1931, at the Grim Hotel. Interesting thing is, the automobile was a much newer feature of American life. Most in the area were still getting around by walking or horse and buggy. One of the features of the convention that year was automobile rides. We were hoping to do it again at the Grim this year, but the timing did not quite work out. But still, I'm gratified to see the Grim on its way back."
The Catholic Daughters of the Americas has a deep seated tradition.
"It started out as an American-centered organization," Brunt said. "The organization was originally called Daughters of Isabella and began in 1903. It later became known as Catholic Daughters of the Americas."
The headquarters of the national conference is in New York City, she said, and the original headquarters was Utica, New York.
In Texas, the first local court, now known as the mother court, was established in Austin in 1909. The Texas State Court was organized in 1917 in Houston. The organization is now made up of 245 local courts, including five college and university-level campus courts and 68 junior Catholic Daughter courts, with young women ages six to 18 making up their ranks.
This year's featured event will be a 1-mile walk-run held at Central Mall. The money collected will go to various organizations to help the needy.
"We help out a wide range of organizations and needs, such as an organization in Georgetown that helps out young mothers," Brunt said. "We help Habitat for Humanity. In fact, this coming Sunday, we will be at the dedication of a new home in Redwater, Texas, that we helped out with Habitat for Humanity."
Rebecca "Becky" Brown of Angleton, Texas, is 1st Vice-State Regent of the Texas State Convention of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. She describes what the organization does as "spirituality through service."
"Our service projects serve those in need, like MOMs (Mission of Mercy), the Georgetown project assisting young mothers," she said. "I think when we help others, such as with Georgetown, Habitat for Humanity, food pantries, etc, it takes us out of ourselves, seeing Christ's mission and through that, seeing others in need. This is what Catholics are called to do, seeing Christ in others."
Added Brunt, "The Lord gives us all talents and opportunities and nudges us to lends a hand. The Lord works with nobodies, but that's the thing, no one is a nobody in the eyes of God."
Besides seminars, the 484 registered attendees, including a dozen or so priests and the 294 convention delegates, will take care of convention business, hold elections and enjoy shows and concerts.
"It is mostly women here, but some husbands and even some children showed," Brunt said. "This is a family affair."
Texarkana, Texas, officials welcome the Catholic Daughters of the Americas to the city for their second official visit.
"The team at the Convention Center and City are constantly working to bring events just like this," said Lisa Thompson, spokeswoman for the City said. "We are so thrilled to host (them). It takes a lot of hard work to get a group like this to visit our city, and we are so proud that our Convention Center can partner with the business community and religious community to make this event work."
Many precautions have been taken to ensure the convention is conducted safely considering current COVID-19 concerns.
"The normal capacity of our Convention Center is much, much greater," said Jennifer Montoya, Director of the Convention Center. "But, we've limited this conference to about half of its normal attendance so we can maintain social distancing. We've provided red, yellow and green wristbands to help attendees communicate their level of comfort with social interaction, provided an outdoor venue for the large concert planned; we've ensured plenty of space for the group to spread out and proceed safely."
While the group is in town, restaurants and retail stores should see a boost in activity. Only five meals will be provided at the Convention Center, leaving plenty of time for attendees to patronize local establishments.
"Events like this in our city are good for the economy," Thompson said. "They boost sales tax, foster community pride, and give us a chance to show off all the selling points of the Texarkana region."