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Three recipients of the Father Clem Hammerschmitt high school scholarship

Scholarship Winners

PALM BEACH GARDENS  |  Women from parishes throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach gathered for camaraderie at the 38th annual Diocesan Council of Catholic Women convention May 18, 2024, at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens. The council sisters celebrated another successful year of service, with “Feed My Sheep” (Jn 21:17) as the day’s theme.

“It is so great to be with you, all my council sisters,” said Dorothy Harper, diocesan council president. “We are blessed to have Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito and the seminarians of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary joining us today in celebrating Mass together and sharing a meal with us at our luncheon buffet.”

The keynote speaker was Sister Jadwiga Drapala of the Sisters of the Most Holy Soul of Christ the Lord, who serves as diocesan coordinator of women’s vocations and episcopal delegate for religious women and men. This year, she is celebrating her 25th jubilee.

Sister Drapala was introduced to consecrated life when her pastor in Poland, where she grew up, invited a religious priest to talk to her religious education class. “I was shocked because I never saw someone like that,” she said. “The only thing I knew was his name, and he was a religious priest, and he worked in Africa. I never saw such a happy person and he just won my heart.”

After that class, she decided: “Whatever he has, I have to get, and I wanted to be happy like him.” Discerning consecrated life, she prayed, “Jesus, if you call me to be a sister, there are hundreds of them and I am confused.” She said, “He (God) put in my heart a strong desire to visit religious communities that have missions in Africa.”  

Sister Drapala said she loved “fashion, music and long beautiful dresses.” So, she looked for religious communities that wore long habits “every day and all day long,” and looked for religious communities that had “Jesus” in their name.

After attending a “come and see retreat” with a friend, she knew deep in her heart that she had found her community, especially since those sisters wore “habits, long, every day, all day,” she said. “I told them, ‘I will be back.’” God answered her prayers.

After her presentation, there was a question-and-answer session, with one woman asking what she calls her mother in Polish. Sister Drapala answered, “Mama.”

Bishop Barbarito presided at an 11 a.m. Mass in honor of the council women. He welcomed everyone, saying, “As always, it is wonderful to be with you, the best council of diocesan women in the country. We give thanks to God as we begin on this eve of Pentecost, a very special day, and we ask God’s blessings upon all of you and for the wonderful, wonderful work you carry on in the diocese.”

In the parish hall, before blessing the luncheon meal, the bishop spoke about the upcoming Florida Amendment 4 and urged the council women to vote “no.” He said the ballot question “is a serious thing, and the amendment is worded in such a way that, unless someone is familiar with it, they might think that they are voting against abortion rather than for abortion.”

This year, there were three recipients of the Father Clem Hammerschmitt high school scholarship of $1,000 each. They were Alice de la Paz, a parishioner of St. Sebastian attending St. Anastasia School in Fort Pierce and entering John Carroll High School in the fall; Tenley Ellis Eitel of St. Ann School in West Palm Beach, who will attend Cardinal Newman High School; and Rylee Danielle Murphy, a member of St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach who will go to Cardinal Newman.  

Another highlight of the afternoon was when Harper presented a mock check to Bishop Barbarito representing the total number of CCW volunteer hours, worth almost $6,243,480.

A trailer was shown for the movie “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist,” for which Alexis Walkenstein, former diocesan communications director, helped with production and distribution. The women were encouraged to promote the film.

For information about joining the Counil of Catholic Women, visit To learn about consecrated life and the Sisters of the Most Holy Soul of Christ the Lord, call Sister Drapala at 561-775-9586. For information on Amendment 4, visit

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