Not your grandmother’s ACCW

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Terry Beth Lewerenz would like to rock the world — but first, she has to awaken the sleeping giant.

That sleeping giant is the power of women unified.

Lewerenz, president of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women since last August, hopes to unify and fortify women through a reorganization of the ACCW.

Luncheons and meetings are out. Spirituality and formation are in. This isn’t going to be your grandma’s ACCW.

The ACCW is part of a movement that was formed in 1920 under the sponsorship of the American Catholic bishops. The bishops, impressed by the work of Catholic women during World War I, wanted them to strengthen their efforts by unifying and coordinating various groups of Catholic women.

For many years, the ACCW was a powerhouse and nearly every Catholic woman was a member. By the 1980s, however, the organization was in serious decline.

“People’s interests and needs were changing,” said Lewerenz, a member of the Church of the Nativity in Leawood. “So three of us met on a regular basis for a couple of years asking ourselves, ‘What are the needs of modern women?’ We came to the conclusion that the thing people wanted most — and would make time for — was spirituality.”

Lewerenz and her companions also came to the conclusion that women wanted to know how to live in a Christlike way in the modern world. They also wanted to get to know their faith better.

“The ACCW is reorganizing so we can reach out to women and bring them together as a group, to foster unity among women,” she said. “There is a certain degree of support and energy by being together. I think this can be done by bringing them the thing they want, which is spirituality.”

The key, as she sees it, is relationships.

Lewerenz would like the ACCW to construct a network that would reach out — not only to current dues-paying members, but also to women in parish leadership positions who are currently unaffiliated with the ACCW.

The reorganization plan calls for the ACCW to develop e-mail lists, endorse programs and apostolates, host and participate in events, and collaborate with the archdiocesan family life office.

The ACCW was established to be an umbrella organization for Catholic women’s groups and it would continue that function, according to Lewerenz. By forming a network like the one envisioned, the ACCW could pass along information, promote programs and apostolates, and provide an infrastructure for unity and organization.

One of the first events of the new and improved ACCW will be “A Day of Reflection,” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 2 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan. Father Richard McDonald will hear confessions and celebrate Mass. The keynote speaker will be Suzanne Fowler, the founder and president of The Light Weigh, a program for spiritual growth that has the added benefit of weight loss. Fowler is a member of the Church of the Nativity in Leawood.

The event will also include eucharistic adoration and a lunch. The cost to attend is $20.

For information about the day of reflection or about the ACCW, contact Lewerenz at (913) 491-5149, or by e-mail at: tlewerenz@ You may also send an e-mail to Susan Draftz, treasurer, at: draftz<

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