On a campus where politics is the tie that binds, GW students Michelle Huntley and Emily Karrs use their religion to connect with other students. That’s why they brought a new student organization, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, to GW.
“Our goal is to build a solid community for GW Catholic women. We are similar to a sorority, because we all are women who share a bond of sisterhood,” said Huntley, a junior who founded the GW chapter – or Court 2577 – last spring. The group was officially installed on campus Oct. 8.
“GW guys have the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic men’s fraternal society), so we and our friends wanted to get involved in our own thing,” Huntley said. “We realized there was already a national organization that shared our cause so we decided to bring (the Catholic Daughters of the Americas) to our college campus.”
The religion-based student organization, which has 25 members, focuses on three main ideals – spirituality, social affairs and community service. For members of the Catholic Daughers of the Americas, or CDA, spirituality is ever-present force in their lives.
“Prayer is important,” said Karrs, a senior who is CDA’s president. “For example, every time we meet we say a prayer.”
CDA social events include Daughter Dinners, one of which will take place Nov. 30, where group members build up their bonds over toasts and prayers. Last week, the CDA sponsored a costume-themed All Saints Day party at the Newman Catholic Center, where members and partygoers dress up as their favorite saint.
Installation Mass, the final step for becoming an official daughter, happens once every semester.
“We don’t have different levels of members or anything; we are all equal,” Huntley added.
The national CDA organization, whose motto is “unity and charity,” was founded by the Knights of Columbus in 1903, but courts mostly generally operate at the local level. The CDA has approximately 95,000 members worldwide, with 1,400 courts in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Saipan and the Virgin Islands, according to the organization’s Web site.
Today, thanks to religiously active students like Huntley and Karrs, the face of CDA is changing to meet modern times.
“Before, this organization was primarily joined by and existed for women like working mothers,” Huntley said. “Now we’re reaching out to younger generations.”
Karr’s grandmother was a regent, or head, of her home court, near Pittsburgh, Pa.
“College courts are a relatively new thing that only started in the last several years,” Karrs said. “We would consider ourselves the cutting edge for college involvement (in CDA).”
Service, the group’s third pillar, is especially important for CDA, and members have been actively involved in the community since their installment last month.
“We had a can drive last week, some of us are volunteering at a soup kitchen and an old folks’ home, and currently we’re working with all-girl high schools in the D.C. area,” Karrs said. “We are also working with the Northwest Pregnancy Center, and we want to throw a baby shower for a single mom to raise money for her and her child.”
The Daughters’ community service and CDA membership is driven by their religious beliefs, Karrs added.
“We are women on the GW campus who are striving to actively and enthusiastically practice our faith.”