Daughters of Isabella Circle #258 in attendance at the 100th anniversary event on Aug. 27, 2023. COURTESY OF LYN SALOVINO
Daughters of Isabella Circle #258 celebrates 100 years
BY AMY SULLIVAN, SPECIAL TO THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
August 2023 marked the centenary of St. Francis de Sales Parish’s Daughters of Isabella Circle #258 in Paducah, Ky., chartered 100 years ago in 1923.
Scribe Laura Shaw, past regent Tracy Crawford, and regent Sheena Thomas Brown oversaw the planning of a celebration held on Aug. 27 at St. Francis de Sales Parish Hall attended by members, their guests, and local clergy. The group is the only remaining circle in Kentucky.
“As many meetings as I had attended, I never paid close attention to our charter that hangs in our meeting hall,” said Crawford. “One day last year I decided to look at it in more detail and noticed we were coming upon a hundred years! So we started talking about it at our meetings and agreed we needed a celebratory event.”
The evening began with a catered dinner and delectable desserts from Cindy Futch of Cindy’s Kitchen bakery and catering. Members and guests were invited to view tables of memorabilia including scrapbooks, photographs, prayer cards, stoles, banners, letters, and other treasures displayed in the hall which invoked reflection upon the circle’s rich roots.
Past Regent and Past State Regent Jackie Hopper, and member Mary Weitlauf – whose mothers were also both active members and past officers of Circle #258 beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the new century – shared inspiring historical memories. The two remembered attending Daughters of Isabella state and international conventions in both the U.S. and Canada. They recalled formal initiations of members clad in robes with pomp and circumstance. Many current members have never experienced state or international conventions, and their words inspired the Daughters to consider doing so in the future.
Past Regent Sheri Babbs, a member for more than 20 years, recounted the history of the Daughters of Isabella and shared how the Paducah circle continues to embody its founding motto of unity, friendship, and charity.
The objective of the Daughters of Isabella is to unite Catholic women into a fraternal, beneficial, and social society. Queen Isabella of Castile, for whom the organization is named, aided Christopher Columbus to undertake the greatest voyage in history. Her benevolent sponsorship of the discoveries of the new world, where Christianity was yet unknown, and untiring preservation of Christianity, is emulated in the Daughters of Isabella, who seek to promote the welfare of the community and to follow in mutually supportive ways the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The national Daughters of Isabella was founded in New Haven, Conn., on May 14, 1897, organized by the members of Russell Council #65 Knights of Columbus and also incorporated as an auxiliary to that Council in 1904. On July 25, 1907, they secured a national charter under the name “National Circle, Daughters of Isabella.” The charter gave them permission to establish subordinate branches throughout the country with the purpose of uniting all Catholic women in sisterhood.
St. Francis de Sales Circle #258 was formed in August 1923, long before Kentucky became a state circle in August 1947. Currently, it is the lone surviving circle in Kentucky serving the Paducah Deanery. The group is comprised of members from St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas More, St. John the Evangelist, Rosary Chapel, and St. Mary of LaCenter parishes.
The Daughters have always worked in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, demonstrated year after year with its donations of baked desserts during Lenten fish fry fundraisers and barbecue dinners. Monies raised from these events support their charitable contributions to Hope Unlimited, Victory through Grace Ministries, local Catholic parishes, St. Mary School System, Moses Basket, Easter Seals, Child Watch, and tornado victims in the region.
After this history was shared, Tracy Crawford presented information about the circle’s activities in most recent years. Though the current body is small and has undergone participation and attendance challenges since COVID-19, she commended the circle for continuing to come together monthly to lift up those in need of prayer and recite the rosary prior to meetings.
Despite the pandemic, they received dues from many faithful members including longstanding Daughter, Edith Wurth, who passed away a few months ago at age 103. She annually reminded the circle, “I have lived as a Daughter of Isabella and I want to die a Daughter of Isabella” – a goal which she accomplished. The past several months the group planned the anniversary event which included commissioning local artist and Daughters of Isabella member Rebekah Thuline to create a commemorative oil painting of the organization’s logo and 100-year milestone that will hang next to the charter at Paducah’s Columbia Hall on Jefferson Street.
Current Regent, Sheena Thomas Brown, commented on future plans for the group and said the circle will concentrate on boosting membership in hopes of flourishing another 100 years.
“Our past is rich with service,” she said. “In the future we plan to return to our roots, go back to our bylaws and back to the basics, and remind ourselves where we have come from. We want to go back to our mission, focusing on prayerful intentions and service work at a pace we can handle.”
Paducah Middle School choral director and former music minister at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Samantha Veal, presented several musical selections, including “We’re the Daughters of Isabella,” by H. O’Reilly Clint, sung at countless Daughters of Isabella meetings throughout the years.
Member Amy Sullivan read letters from Bishop William F. Medley and D of I International Regent, Micheline Huard, who both congratulated and commended Circle #258 on the 100th anniversary of their charter.
Bishop Medley’s letter stated, “To me, a jubilee is not just a time to honor the past and history, but to look ahead and ask now how the charisms that have carried the Daughters of Isabella these one hundred years will continue to further a sacred mission for years and generations to come.”
Fr. Gary Clark, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish, gave a final blessing and charged those present with continuing to strive in the mission of Christ.
“We need the Daughters of Isabella now more than ever… it’s part of your DNA, your makeup and who you are,” he said. “Fight for it, because the world is becoming more barbaric, and we don’t want to lose this. You have your work cut out for you.”
Originally printed in the October 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.