Altoona Hosts State Convention for the Catholic Daughters of the Americas


By Tony DeGol

If anyone has the credibility to talk about the power of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, it is Pat Gildea.

“It has strengthened my faith to be with all of these women who think and feel the same as I do,” she insisted.

A member of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Hollidaysburg, Gildea is getting ready to celebrate 65 years of membership with the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.

She has a leadership role as state parliamentarian, and she was thrilled to welcome her fellow Catholic Daughters from around Pennsylvania to the Altoona area for the CDA’s 54th biennial state convention April 16-19.

The theme of the gathering was “Full Speed Ahead with CDA.”

Bishop Mark extended a hearty Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown welcome as he celebrated the convention’s opening Mass at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Altoona on April 16.

The Bishop reflected on the convention theme, “Full Speed Ahead with CDA” by citing the example of Saint Joseph.

“Just think for a moment all the times and circumstances when Joseph was ready and needed to go full speed ahead,” the Bishop said. “At the same time, Joseph listened to the word spoken by God’s messenger. Saint Joseph was such an upright and practical person, but his faith made him a man who understood full speed ahead.”

The Blessed Mother, according to the Bishop, is also noteworthy for her immediate and decisive response when she was informed of God’s will for her to be the Mother of our Savior.

“These are stories of faith which had a significant impact,” Bishop Mark reminded. “They represent the best of what can happen when a person listens to the Holy Spirit and moves full speed ahead with the grace and guidance of that same Holy Spirit.”

The Catholic Daughters of the Americas is, indeed, moving full speed ahead, even during this time of pandemic – something that delights State Regent Shirley Hall, a member of Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone.

“COVID has not slowed us down,” Hall assured. “We became Zoomers and imaginers. We were able to get members through some rough spots and help them with Zoom meetings and show them different ways to do the things with deadlines. As we watched the courts grow in this area, it was one of the biggest thrills.”

An example of a new initiative that blossomed in this pandemic is the tele-buddy program.

“We talk with some of the residents at Garvey Manor because they don’t get any calls and people don’t come to visit them,” said Gildea. “Over the years, we’ve done so many projects in the community and in our churches. I think that’s so important.”

Formed in 1903, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas is one of the oldest and largest organizations of Catholic women in the Americas. Their motto is Unity and Charity, and their foundation is Spirituality and Service.

“One of our big outreaches in the state of Pennsylvania is through pro-life,” Hall commented. “Through the Knights of Columbus, we support an ultrasound machine. We are connected with the Carmelite Community of the Word Haiti project, and pro-life in general. The ladies help in their own communities with food drives, clothing drives, and supporting the elderly.

Essie Walker, a national leader from the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, was on hand for the convention to offer support and enjoy fellowship.

“The mission is to go out and do the work the Lord did – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and share our faith with people,” Walker stressed.

“The ladies just love to do it,” Hall added. “They’re excited about doing it.”

[Photo: A group of Catholic Daughters of the Americas gather before the procession at the start of the opening Mass of the 54th Biennial State Convention.]