Catholic Daughters grounded in prayer, aim to be ‘hands and feet’ of Jesus

Categories: Around the Diocese

St. Cloud Diocese is home to new national regent, chaplain

By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully
The Visitor

Shortly after she moved to Fergus Falls 37 years ago, Shirley Seyfried saw an announcement about a Catholic Daughters of the Americas meeting in the Our Lady of Victory Parish bulletin.

As a stay-at-home mother with young children, she thought joining the Catholic Daughters would be a good opportunity to meet other women, get involved and help with charitable works.

She became a member in the fall of 1978 and since then has not only met fellow parishioners but also women from across the United States and from other countries. She has held many positions in the organization and was installed as its national regent in July.


The St. Cloud Diocese is home to two national leaders of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Father Matthew Kuhn, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Butler and St. Henry Parish in Perham, is the national chaplain, and Shirley Seyfried, a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Battle Lake, is the national regent. Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor

“One of the things that has been so wonderful is the friendships you make with fellow Catholic Daughters,” she said. “You also grow in spirituality and do works to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth.”

Catholic Daughters of the Americas is a women’s organization dedicated to spirituality and charity. The organization will celebrate National Catholic Daughters of the Americas Day Oct. 19.

It is one of the largest Catholic women’s organizations in the Americas with about 73,000 members in 45 states and Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Girls between ages 6-17 can join the Junior Catholic Daughters of the Americas. College women can become members of campus courts.

The organization was established in 1903 by the Knights of Columbus in Utica, N.Y., and became independent of the Knights in 1925.

Its motto is “Unity and Charity,” and they address concerns of today’s church and society as well as issues that affect the well-being of women and children. Catholic Daughters participate in national, state and local projects and donate to charities.

They also participate in prayer, Masses, days of inspiration, Holy Hours, Divine Mercy devotions and eucharistic adoration.

Grounded in prayer

Father Matthew Kuhn, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Butler and St. Henry Parish in Perham, was installed as the national chaplain for the Catholic Daughters in July.

He provides spiritual support for the group, attends executive board meetings and celebrates Masses. He also writes scriptural reflections and answers questions about procedures being in line with Catholic teaching. He will be the spiritual director for a Catholic Daughters’ pilgrimage to Rome and Medjugorje in 2015.

Father Kuhn said the Catholic Daughters start meetings with prayer.

“That sets a tone,” he said. “The installation of officers happens at or after a Mass. Everything is tied into cooperating with the pastor, cooperating with the bishops and being a part of the church.”

He is impressed by the range of ages of women involved in the organization. While some members are elderly, others are young single adults or mothers with small children, like Seyfried when she joined.

The St. Rita Court in Perham and St. Cabrini Court in Fergus Falls are two Catholic Daughters groups in the St. Cloud Diocese.

St. Rita Court, established in 1919, is the third oldest in Minnesota. The court meets monthly from September through June and plans many activities. Members host an annual style show with brunch, a silent auction, games and door prizes. They also are involved with a Celebration of Life Mass, May crowning, a Valentine’s Day party for residents at a nursing home and a breakfast for Catholic students graduating from high school. Fifty-nine people belong to the court.

“It’s a very caring group that looks out for each other and helps the community,” said Dianne Rohde-Szarke, regent of St. Rita’s Court. “It’s a way to meet other Catholic women of all ages. It’s a spiritual group. We open and close meetings with prayer.”

Seventy-seven members belong to the St. Cabrini Court in Fergus Falls. The group’s activities include a silent auction to benefit seminarians, salad luncheon, coffee and rolls after Mass, vocations Mass lunch, Habitat for Humanity projects and Adopt-a-Class at Our Lady of Victory School in Fergus Falls.

“It’s a chance to work with people and really help someone,” said Kathy Nordick, regent for St. Cabrini Court. “You can get together with good friends, work together and have fun.”

In addition to their local projects, Catholic Daughters assists with national and state projects. National projects include building a Habitat for Humanity house and donating money to Support Our Aging Religious, disaster relief for dioceses and Holy Cross Family Ministries, which promotes the rosary.

Looking ahead

As a national goal, Catholic Daughters hopes to increase membership, with at least five new courts in each state and territory. Fifteen people are needed to start a court.

As national regent, Seyfried hopes to increase the focus on spirituality. Her theme is, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do for me,” from Matthew 25:40. She asked each court to do a new project that fits that theme in hopes of renewing the courts and encouraging new people to join.

For Minnesota’s state project, the Catholic Daughters supports the seminarians in Minnesota through monetary, spiritual and other tangible ways. Each member of the courts pays $1 for the project. Courts “adopt” seminarians and send them letters, notes and cards throughout the year.

Catholic Daughters in Minnesota also hand out Gummy Bears for donations for Habitat for Humanity. Members help fund and physically assist in the building of a Habitat for Humanity house in Minnesota each year.

“Selling Gummy Bears for Habitat for Humanity might be what they are most famous for because that’s what the kids love, but that’s not what they’re all about,” Father Kuhn said. “The thing that I like best about the Catholic Daughters is they don’t exist just to fundraise. They exist for the spirituality, education and promotion of the church.”