“It is the personal element that brings true charity into life”. Mary Virginia Merrick
Each Easter season, I try and think about how I can change for the better. What can I do to be a better me? I question if I’m doing enough with my God given talents and blessings. I try and pray a bit more, asking for God to help me discern where my time and efforts would be best spent. But this Easter season, was a bit different. I was looking through some vacation photos from a trip to France in 2013 and I came upon a picture of a Saint Anthony statute. Now this was no ordinary statue…We had just attended mass in French at Notre Dame, and I was thinking that I really couldn’t count that as going, as I didn’t understand a word…As I was trying to figure out what God would mark down on my attendance card, I looked up and saw a statue of St. Anthony. At first I thought it was a regular, run of the mill statue, until I noticed that it was staring at me. I stared back and was really mesmerized for a minute or so. It was a feeling that I can’t really explain, but I’m guessing that many of you have felt the same at one time or another. At that point I began to wonder what it meant. Was St. Anthony giving me some kind of sign? Was he telling me that I was supposed to do something? Was he suggesting that my life take a new direction? All kinds of thoughts rattled through my brain. I waited a bit, hoping for a revelation, but, just my luck, none came. I went on with my tour and vacation…at every church we visited, I sought out the St. Anthony statue to try and get back that connection. Looking back, I must have appeared a bit loony staring deeply into the eyes of the various statues.
Throughout my vacation and continuing upon my return, I tried to decipher the “St. Anthony stare”. I kept telling myself that it was a sign, and not in the small sign sense. No, this sign had to be something really big – it happened in Notre Dame, of all places! Maybe I was meant to change the world…but how? I thought my life was going quite nicely, but maybe I wasn’t pushing myself enough. Maybe I was supposed to sell all my belongings and join Mother Teresa’s group and, although I really didn’t want to leave my family and especially my dog, I really did want to, at least, listen to what was asked of me…
Well, everyday life took over and I didn’t think much more of my encounter with Saint Anthony after those initial thoughts. But seeing the picture brought back all of those questions. I could still see Saint Anthony staring at me. It appeared that he was still waiting for me to do something remarkable. The pressure returned. And then it finally hit me. I wasn’t being asked to save the world. I just don’t have it in me to sacrifice everything. I can only do my small part. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that doing small acts of charity and kindness is just as important as setting out to parts unknown. And that is the essence of our wonderful Christ Child organization. If the Christ Child Society can bring a smile to a beautiful young face or ease a parent’s burden, we have all done our part.
So, St. Anthony, once again, was just telling me that I needed to step up my game just a bit. And, of course, you all know what that means. If I am to step it up, I’m taking you along. I ask each and every one of you to review and re-evaluate your participation in Christ Child during this Easter season. Are you contributing to the best of your ability? Is there more that you can give, both in monetary and hands on support? Perhaps you too, can dig a bit deeper for this wonderful organization. I have no doubt that St. Anthony will help us all along the way.
“Lord I have sought you, and at last I have found You. Thanks for the state of Your Grace which has guided me.” Mary Virginia Merrick
I watched a bit of the Academy Awards show this year, mainly for the fashions, and I was struck with how many people look up to actors and sports figures. They not only look up to them but adore and admire them. Everything from their fashion and style sense to their values and political views. They inspire to be like them and take every opportunity to check out stories about their lives, photos, and tweets. I was reminded about a recent homily of Monsignor Connolly’s, my parish’s retired pastor. Monsignor commented that people who focus on celebrities are not inspired by them…they are impressed. Celebrities have a great effect on our culture, setting trends and highlighting the cause du jour. But these people do not feed the soul. They do not inspire you to be a better person. They simply impress, not inspire. So I decided to take the time to think about what and who inspires me. And it did not take me long to find inspiration in everyday life where God is always present.
We recently held our face to face National Board meeting at our offices in Maryland. We have women from 11 different chapters, all with one common goal; to continue, and more importantly, enhance the support of National to the chapters so that they may advance the Christ Child mission. We had several discussions and brainstorming sessions, but what struck me the most, what inspired me the most, was how proud each member was of their individual chapter. We were all eager to share successes and instances of our fellow members who go above and beyond. Yes, we are connected as National Board members, but even more so as members of this very unique national organization.
I’m inspired by the Summit, NJ program that we recently highlighted, where 4th graders at the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child make blankets for layettes. The fact that the students contribute to Summit’s layette program is inspiration enough, however, the teacher takes it to another level when she brings the blankets and children to the chapel to discuss who will be receiving those blankets and why. The teacher highlights the Christ Child to each student while supporting and reinforcing our mission.
I am inspired by Baltimore’s summer reading program. “Stay Ahead! Soar Through Summer and Read!” was begun in 2013, recognizing the importance of continued reading during the summer break. What started out as a used book distribution to 5 partner organizations has grown to a program that distributes over 3,085 books to 12 partner organizations along with a subprogram called “Book/Kindness Ambassadors” for middle school students, where a librarian from the county or city presents a program on “How to Read to A Child”. Along the way, grants, book drives, donations, and volunteers were solicited and obtained. Thank you Baltimore for your inspiration. Identify a need and build on it each year.
I am inspired by the Sarasota, FL chapter’s Soap Closet project. Member, Pat Maguire, presented the idea of donating dish detergent and laundry soap to families in poverty in 2016. She proposed filling recycled plastic water bottles with the soaps. She and her husband James worked the donations out of their home until health issues prevented her from continuing. As time went on, current chapter President and NCCS Board member, Loretta Haugh’s husband David asked if someone had taken on the project. When the answer was no, he said without any hesitation, “I will do it.” The project became known as ‘The Soap Closet” of the Christ Child Society of Sarasota and they distribute laundry soap bottles to needy mothers at Stillpoint House of Prayer, Bradenton, Florida. Sometimes, it’s a small act that can inspire the most.
I am also inspired by the Tucson, AZ chapter’s new project that arose from a request from a local school’s principal. Mr. Bill, from San Xavier Mission School, asked if CCS Tucson could help him acquire a washer and dryer to help the children wash their clothes so they would feel good about themselves. Studies have shown that children and teens without clean clothes, skip school because of bullying, name-calling, and low self-esteem. Mr. Bill is using this to teach the children how to wash and dry clothes so they can take care of themselves while building their confidence and school attendance. The president of the Tucson chapter reached out to the owner of a local appliance store for a good price and was surprised by his answer of “I can do better than that…I will donate a refurbished set, just tell me where to deliver it”. We need to remember that inspiration, as well as need, comes in many different forms.
I could go on and on with many other chapter programs and local projects. Each chapter is truly an inspiration to me and I am constantly reminded that our members truly live the mission that was begun by Mary Virginia Merrick over 130 years ago.
So…what inspires you? I am sure that if you take the time, you will find inspiration in your local chapter programs and members. Let us all remember that the Christ Child is present in everyday deeds and people and even small acts can be inspirational!
“Do not consider that in order to be great either in the eyes of men or God, it is necessary to do great deeds. It is an error; to do well the little duties of everyday life, to perform well the duties of our station is to be great.” Mary Virginia Merrick
Seasons of Love…
At our recent Convention in Milwaukee, where I became your new National President, I was so impressed with our chapter members who were able to attend. I especially noticed the variety of backgrounds and ages. Christ Child is made up of 5500 members in different seasons of their lives. We have those members just starting their families, where the focus is on diapers, preschool and yearning for adult conversation. Or maybe we are starting new careers and work means there is no such thing as free time or “me” time. We all then transition to that time where we seem to always be in the car, juggling work, schools, sports and homework while trying to fit in a romantic weekend – heck, we’d even settle for one night out! Of course there is also the fact that we may never sleep again after our teenagers begin to drive. And once again, work gets in the way of our volunteering and making time for ourselves.
As years go by and kids leave (come back and leave again…) and we retire or cut back on our workload, we have more time to devote to volunteering and service. We also travel more and we try our hand at different activities. We stretch ourselves, quite excited about finally having time to do all of those things we promised, all the things we enjoy. We spend time with grandchildren, but know that we can give them back when we are done playing. And finally, we move to that season when the spirit is always willing but the body may be telling us it is time to slow down. We continue to enjoy life, but may focus on small acts of kindness or memories of a life well lived. We may also have obligations that prevent us from giving of ourselves as we had done. And let’s just say it, we may be tired after years and years of service to others. We have done our part and happily pass the baton to others.
We find this on the National level as well as in our chapters. We look to older, more “seasoned” members for their history and chapter wisdom and we welcome new members with their enthusiasm and new energy.
This fits right in with our National Board theme for the next two years: Energize…Inspire…Advance! We will be calling on our Board and chapter members to develop some creative ideas to continue to energize our membership, inspire our partners, donors and local communities by telling our story and advance
our mission with productive and successful programs in conjunction with great community partnerships.
As I mentioned in my Convention speech, I would love for Christ Child to be the 3-H Club, (similar to the 4-H Club however farm animals are not needed…). I want all of our members to have Christ Child in their head, their heart and their hands. A thoughtful head, a listening heart and kind hands. Imagine the possibilities…
So whatever season you may be in, thank you for continuing to support and contribute to Christ Child in whatever way you are able. I am proud of all of our seasons…seasons of love!
“The coming year, oh my God, I give to Thee. I welcome all it holds and I am glad!”
Mary Virginia Merrick
A wonderful convention and a fond farewell
First I have to apologize for the gap between this blog and my last. On July 28th, I fell down one simple step and fractured my ankle in three places. Surgery followed a week later and that was followed by basically bedrest for 5 weeks then moving with the aide of a wheelchair for several more. As of today, I can still only partial weight bear with a walker. But that did not stop me from attending convention in Milwaukee in September!! My family thought I should stay home. My daughter and mom were so worried about me traveling but my husband knew how important it was to me so he did not give me any grief! So, my knee scooter and I traveled to Milwaukee and I am so glad that I did!
Convention 2018 was fantastic! The Pfister Hotel was such a perfect setting for our meeting and dinners! Truly beautiful (and very kind to handicapped individuals!) The Milwaukee chapter was so generous to us with the wonderful reception they hosted on Thursday evening, making Mass arrangements at the Cathedral and dinner plans at the Wisconsin Club on Saturday evening. Also, it was wonderful to see so many chapters represented and especially the large number of attendees from our Wisconsin chapters!
We wanted to make sure we were not all work and no play so once again an excursion was planned for all interested attendees-a Milwaukee sightseeing tour! Although I was not able to experience it first-hand (not handicap accessible!), from the pictures I saw and the stories told, everyone really enjoyed seeing the culture and breweries of Milwaukee!
The theme for 2018 was “Sustaining our Mission” and the seminars offered were all geared to helping our chapters do just that. Our seminars began on Thursday and centered around communications. Our Immediate Past President at the time, Anne Kelley’s seminar “What Makes a Photo Great” taught us how to take a great photo that will tell our story well and encourage action when people view them. This was followed by “Let’s Communicate” presented by incoming President, Carol Pickle and President-Elect, Molly Fanning. This seminar covered how to post to social media effectively and here is where those great photos you learned to take will come in handy! They also taught the attendees how to plan and organize more effectively using and a communications calendar.
After breakfast Friday, our day began with our Keynote speaker, Matt Deevers, PhD, whose seminar “Seeds to Trees: Cultivating Persistence in Ourselves, Our Chapter and Our Programs, was innovative, interactive and very well received. Our Program committee led by Beth Barrett, VP, presented “Beyond the Book Drive” which was geared to help chapters understand what a literacy program should be, how to start one or how to improve the one you have. Their workshop that followed used chapter representatives from the Sarasota, Albany and Washington, DC chapters to share with the attendees how their chapters took their literacy program to the next level and members just love hearing from other chapter members about their successes!
Friday evening’s reception is always highly anticipated due to the raffle display we always put on and this year’s raffle was no exception! Thank you, Past National President, Maureen Wesley and to all the chapters and board members who donated raffle items!
Saturday morning began with our Annual Business Meeting. Congratulations went to the Monterey Bay, CA chapter as they received their charter. The Monterey Bay chapter, led by Anne Kelley, has grown and become so much more impactful in their community in two short years! The first seminar of the day was “Don’t Stop Believing: Successful Strategies to Grow Membership” facilitated by Loretta Haugh and presented by the founding members of our three chapters in formation: Patricia Gonzalez of Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Rebecca Smayda of Greater Binghamton, NY and Chuck Alfano of Western Massachusetts.
They were truly an inspiration to listen to and we could all tell that we have three very strong chapters forming that are doing all the right things to succeed and we wish them the best of luck! The membership committee led the next seminar, “Invite, Involve and Invest: Mobilizing Members to Get New Members”, facilitated by Mary Jo Dawson, Melanie Mbuyi and Jean Phelan. Again, it was a chance for chapter members to work in small groups, talking to each other, sharing what is working or what they need help with then sharing this information with the larger group. Always a great way to share ideas and learn from each other!
The last seminar of the day was “How to Fundraise Like a Pro” presented by myself and Carol Pickle. We aimed to address all the issues you need to be informed on when starting a new fundraiser or adding to an existing one. This was followed by a “Speed Dating” session with chapter representative from Akron, Denver, Pasadena, South Bend, Toledo and Tucson sharing information on their very successful fundraisers! I want to say thank you again to all our chapter representatives that presented at Convention 2018. We appreciate all the hard work you put into your presentations and we know that all the attendees loved hearing from you!! And just a reminder that all the convention seminar material is posted on our website if you were unable to attend the convention or if you want to use any of the material within your chapters-which we hope you do!
Saturday night was the culmination of not only our convention but of my presidency as well. Bittersweet to say the least…we attended a beautiful Mass at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. I must say thank you again to the Milwaukee chapter’s spiritual advisor, Reverend Robert Gloudeman for con-celebrating the Mass with Archbishop Listecki and installing our new 2018-2020 Board of Directors on Saturday evening. It was a beautiful celebration.
Dinner at the Wisconsin Club was wonderful but the real highlight of the evening was the various awards we gave out. The Mary Virginia Merrick Award was given to Roseann Anderson, Patty Myler and Joan Watkins. I have had the pleasure to work with all of these ladies and their awards are very well deserved. They are an inspiration to all of us! Congratulation to the Red Wagon Grant recipient, CCS of Fort Wayne, IN, for their fabulous Reading Rangers program, to CCS of Atlanta, GA, who received the Membership growth award and CCS of Central Illinois and Quad Cities as they celebrated their 10th anniversary, and CCS of San Diego, their 25th!
Then it was time for good-byes and thank you to the 2016-2018 board and hello and good luck to the new board, led by incoming President, Carol Pickle. I know how hard working all of you are so I have no doubt that the next two years will bring much growth to our organization. I look forward to working with another devoted group of ladies! Thank you for allowing me to serve these past two years-this experience has blessed me beyond words.
I want to end with a quote I found in a beautiful book that one of my board members gave me. The book is entitled “365 Saints Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of Their Lives”. I hope one day we will see Mary Virginia Merrick in just such a book!
“Celebrate each day as a new beginning and a fresh start”.
Through the good works of every CCS member, we will continue to grow and flourish like the mustard seed…
The Christ Child Society flourishes and grows because of the love, dedication and good works of its members.
This past Sunday, the parable of the mustard seed was the theme for the gospel as well as the homily. While listening to the reading, it struck me how the Christ Child Society was once like a mustard seed that was planted and nourished and continued to grow year after year. We, the members of the Society, are also like these seeds-some calling “planted” us in CCS, and as we learned more about it and flourished by taking part in programs and events, we grew and in turn reached more people through our example, helping them to realize and answer their own calling.
This past May, I met many members from the Albany and Utica, New York chapters who are all helping their chapters flourish and grow. I was honored to be invited to be a speaker at Albany’s Red Wagon luncheon where I spoke of Mary Virginia Merrick and the history of National Christ Child Society as well as where we are today and the impact the Albany chapter is having in their community. In fact, this past January, they received an award from Catholic Charities of Amsterdam, honoring them for their collaborative efforts with Catholic
Charities and their many hours of service to their community. Congratulations Albany!
I was able to meet and talk to not only board members but chapter members as well and learned about their many projects and how they responded to the literacy push from National by starting their own literacy program at St. Madeleine Sophie Parish. Not only do they collect and donate books, but they have also started a reading program with a related craft for the students. Members have mentioned that having a hands-on reading program has added a more personal dimension to their volunteering which makes the experience so much more rewarding!
Their luncheon was both a monetary success as well as a ’friend-raising” event! I was even lucky enough to take home one of the raffle items! One very generous board member won a beautiful hand-made diaper “cake” and because she knew I was planning on visiting the Utica chapter the next day, she told me to give it to them so they could use it as a raffle item or donate it as needed.
I was very touched by this gesture and it reminded me of how much our chapters support each other in these little thoughtful ways as well as when I see them interacting with each other at our national convention, sharing ideas and strategizing with each other to solve chapter challenges.
And as I mentioned, I drove to Utica the following day, meeting with several board members at The Seton Center of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, being able to put faces with names and learning so much about the working of their chapter. Last year, the Utica chapter celebrated 90 years of service! What an accomplishment! Because I was unable to attend their celebration event last year due to health reasons, they were kind enough to show me a video of their celebration. They have so much to be proud of! Congratulations to Utica for reaching this milestone anniversary – we look forward to your centennial celebration in 9 years!
Every month they work on one particular project, giving it their undivided attention, whether it’s packing or sewing for layettes, holding birthday celebrations for after-school children of Thea Bowman House at the DeSales Center, collecting books or working with expectant mothers at the Seton Center location. I was shown several beautiful hand-made items they include in their layettes, all of which were made by a woman who is well into her 90’s! I was in awe!
Both chapters are willing to support our newest chapter in formation in New York-Christ Child Society of Greater Binghamton! It is very exciting to see the Christ Child message spreading not only through New York but across the country as we continue to assist new chapters in formation. Through the good works of every CCS member, we will continue to grow and flourish-just like the mustard seed…
I hope to see many of you at this year’s convention in Milwaukee on September 27-29th!
Click here for Registration Information. We will make new friends-we will meet old friends-we will celebrate our programs-we will learn from each other-we will flourish and grow within ourselves and within our chapters and as a result we will “sustain our mission” for many years to come! Hope to see you in Milwaukee!
God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called. Be open to what God has planned for us.
Do you ever wonder why you have such a strong desire to volunteer? Have you ever been asked to do something for the Christ Child Society that is out of your comfort zone but you said yes? Or perhaps you said no because you weren’t sure you were up for the task. My guess is we have all experienced these feelings. Recently I was reading newsletters from our chapters when I came upon the following quote “God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” This quote really resonated with me because it reminded me that there is always a higher power in place, guiding us along, helping us through challenging times-giving us the strength to succeed, and to make a difference, through our work in the Christ Child Society.
In February, I visited board members from two chapters who answered the call to serve and as a result are making a difference in the communities they serve. Since I was going to Arizona to see the Cleveland Indians at Spring Training (an adventure that had been on my husband’s and friends’ bucket lists!), I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to visit our two Arizona chapters. I was invited by Chapter President, Angela Schneider, to Tucson’s monthly meeting/luncheon at a beautiful location called Hacienda del Sol. Tucson holds monthly meetings for their members and they are encouraged to bring friends along who may want to hear more about their chapter. They shared updates on all their projects and upcoming fundraisers. Their spiritual director, Lee Morrison, told the group about the upcoming Day of Recollection and Recommitment Ceremony she was planning to hold in March. Although they are a small chapter, you could feel their unity and the passion they have for the children they serve at San Xavier and Santa Cruz Schools and I wasn’t the only one feeling this because at the conclusion of this meeting, they signed up two new members to the Tucson chapter! It was a pleasure to meet with board members at the conclusion of their meeting to answer their questions and share ideas to continue to grow and sustain their chapter.
My second visit was with the Phoenix chapter. President, Johanna Warner, picked me up and we headed to breakfast with the Phoenix board at the Talking Stick Golf Club. Over a delicious breakfast, we discussed everything from literacy to leadership. Though they are a very well-established chapter, they continue to look for ways to improve their programs so they continue to be impactful. Johanna gave me a copy of their January newsletter and one of the features that really caught my attention was the “Year in Review” they do each January. It is a chance for chapter members to look back over the year, month by month, and see all their wonderful accomplishments! As I was reading through it, I was very impressed with the site visits they hold. Four to five chapter members visit the agencies that they supply bedtime bags and layettes to, which is about 12 agencies in all. Their goal during these visits is speak to them about the chapter’s accountability to the agencies and to assess the agencies accountability to CCS. What a great way to make sure their programs are meeting the needs of the agency and assess ways they may add to their established programs! I was honored to meet with this special, hard-working group of ladies!
As I returned home from Arizona, it was time to start planning for the National Board’s March in-person meeting! I invited them to come visit beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. Our weekend began with dinner at my home on Friday, March 16th. While thoroughly enjoying each other’s company, we discussed where our committees were in regards to our Strategic Plan goals and we realized that much has been accomplished!
Saturday morning saw an early start to our board meeting. Over the course of eight hours, we discussed what each of our committees are currently working on! We discussed the exciting potential formation of new chapters in Enfield, Connecticut and Dallas, Texas. The membership committee reviewed the data they compiled from their recent membership calls with a plan to get this information out to all the chapters. We continue to plan for our third National Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 27th, this year again emphasizing literacy. More information will be coming to you in the weeks ahead. And we worked together to plan topics for the seminars at our upcoming 2018 convention, “Sustaining our Mission”, September 27th-29th, as well as extracurricular activities for all to enjoy! Our day concluded with Mass at my local parish, St. Francis of Assisi, followed by a delicious dinner and of course, a little wine since it was St. Patrick’s Day after all!
“God does not always call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” Keep this in mind as your chapters (and National) are looking for new members to step up to leadership positions. All you have to do is say YES! God will do the rest…
Thank you for all you do in the name of the Christ Child. Happy Easter! Happy Spring!