By Amy White
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — “Women are very, very important in any function—but certainly in the Catholic Church,” said Ann Hanson, a parishioner of All Saints Catholic Church in Dallas.
Hanson is one of the 20 women honored as Diocesan Women of the Year at the 2023 Dallas Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Annual Assembly. The event, which took place Nov. 4 at , recognized the integral roles these women play in the life of their parishes.
“The Diocesan Council of Catholic Women gathers once a year as an assembly to recognize the women who have been very active and dedicated and who give unconditional service to their parish,” said Sister Theresa Khirallah, SSND, the spiritual advisor of the group for almost 12 years. “It is a time for them to come together for fellowship, for spiritual formation, but especially to honor these women each year.”
The awards presentation was read by Stacey Cusick, the province director for the province of San Antonio. She has presented these awards for the past five years.
“[These women] do such fantastic, wonderful things,” Cusick said. “It’s humbling to hear everything that they do, the service they provide, and the love they share. It’s overwhelming sometimes, all in a positive way.”
The presentation acknowledged the years of service each woman offered and the many and diverse ways in which each served her affiliate.
“It’s amazing to watch the ladies as I read their stories,” Cusick continued. “Some of them have tears in their eyes, because not a single one of them is doing it for attention or for recognition.”
The honorees have a combined total of more than 350 years of service to their affiliates. They serve in many and diverse capacities, including as choir directors, extraordinary ministers, fundraisers, faith formation volunteers, lectors, ushers, rosary makers, safe environment coordinators, sacristans, and catechists. They serve as members—treasurers, presidents, secretaries—of a multitude of church committees and volunteer in so many other charitable positions.
“The women are always there to say ‘How can I help? How can I serve? Where am I needed?’ And sometimes, they can see what other people don’t see: the needs,” said Dee Dacey, a member of St. Francis of Assisi and the first vice president of the Dallas Deanery Council of Catholic Women.
One honoree, Josie Egan of St. Francis of Assisi in Lancaster, has served her parish for 55 years. She moved to Lancaster with her husband Dan in 1962, before the city had a Catholic church. In August of 1965, Josie, Dan, and six other Lancaster residents created the Lancaster Catholic Church Committee. Egan was the committee’s first secretary. Josie spent the next several years canvasing the streets to seek other Catholic families, meeting for Mass, and continuing to submit requests to the bishop for a church be built in Lancaster. Finally, St. Francis of Assisi Mission was established in 1968 and the church building was completed in 1972.
Egan was also one of the founding members of St. Francis of Assisi’s altar society, formed on Sept.18, 1968. The group cares for the altar linens and other items used for Mass. Egan is now 91 years old and remains an active member of her church.
“She had played such a big role in the founding of our church and our organization,” Dacey said. “We wanted to honor her.”
These women are the eyes and ears of their parishes, the moving parts that keep the machine going.
“I honestly believe that women in the Church are the foundation and the roots for how we continue to grow and empower not only women but men and families,”
Sister Khirallah said. “The women in the Church are the ones who I believe set the tone through their encouragement and unconditional service and love for their community and for the Church.”
The following women were selected as the 2023 Diocesan Women of the Year: Ann Hanson, All Saints in Dallas; Arlene Alexander, St. Pius X in Dallas; Cindi Brickett, St. Michael the Archangel in Grand Prairie; Donna Trautman, St. Patrick in Denison; Janie Guerrero, St. Cecilia in Dallas; Joan Swirczynski, St. Anthony in Wylie; Josie Egan, St. Francis of Assisi in Lancaster; Lucy Tafalla, CDA Court Mary Immaculate #1719 in Dallas; Maria Dempsey, Our Lady of the Lake in Rockwall; Mary Ann Schumacher, St. Mark in Plano; Mary Camarillo, St. Pius X in Dallas; Mary Ellen England, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano; Mirsha Pacheco, St. Joseph in Richardson; Norma Hennessy, CDA Court Our Lady #2337 in Dallas; Patti Fitch, St. Paul the Apostle in Richardson; Ronda Reddy, St. Patrick in Dallas; Rose Blake, Holy Family of Nazareth in Irving; Silvia Morales, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Dallas; Teresa Holmes, St. Francis of Assisi in Lancaster; and Theresa Sutton, St. Francis of Assisi in Frisco.