Zephyrhills resident Michele Bowman, raised in the Catholic Church, has always embraced faith as her life’s foundation.
“Really, it has given me everything,’’ Bowman said.
Now, she has a rare opportunity to give back.
Bowman recently was elected as one of nine National Directors for the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA), an organization that promotes spiritual growth, charitable giving, community service and sisterhood.
In the CDA’s 117-year history, Bowman is the fourth National Director from Florida.
Bowman, who worships at St. Joseph Catholic Church, has been active as a charter member of the 43-woman Court Mother Teresa in Zephyrhills. The chapter is one of CDA’s 1,150 local chapters. She has held several CDA positions on the state and local level, but said she’s looking forward to making connections on the national level. She’s beginning a two-year term.
“It’s a big deal and quite an honor for Michele,’’ said Kathy Brady, a regent with Court Mother Teresa. “She will be able to give her opinion and be a liaison at the highest level of our organization. She will be hands-on with a lot of big issues, and it’s going to be a great experience.’’
Bowman grew up in North Tampa, where her home parish was St. Mary Catholic Church in the Lake Magdalene area.
During her initial time as a Zephyrhills resident, she attended Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’ Lakes when it was a small church, then saw it grow exponentially as the area’s population increased.
For nearly three decades, she has called St. Joseph home. When she first heard about the formation of Court Mother Teresa, she joined immediately. It became an important factor in her spiritual maturation.
“It appealed to me to be around a group of Catholic women, to grow in faith, to be of service to the community,’’ said Bowman, who was elected by mail voting as part of the CDA’s 58th Biennial National Convention, which was scheduled for Dallas but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a great way to meet people in my parish. I thought the faith-based emphasis, plus the service and social aspects, were really nice,” Bowman said.
“But, it became more than I would have imagined. It has really extended my self-confidence in speaking to people and meeting new people. At one time, I could look around my church and hardly not know anyone. Now, I look around and I know so many people, their stories, their backgrounds. I will now get a chance to do that on a national level. I wasn’t super shy, but this sort of involvement has made me more outgoing.’’
It has also given Bowman ideas about growing an organization.
At Court Mother Teresa, the group has worked with Meals on Wheels and the Trinity Cafe. It has organized a Christmas Toy Drive for children of migrant workers. It has held yard sales and bunco games to raise money for charities.
Fundraising is good.
Charity is good.
But, Bowman wants to expand those concepts. The membership must grow. And, it needs a youth movement.
Court Mother Teresa is one of only seven courts in Florida.
“There should be more, I think, probably many more, but getting things going might be a little harder than it looks,’’ Bowman said. “I think as a national director, that’s part of my job, but it’s part of all of our jobs, really. You have to continually reach out to people, go to parishes, ask the priests if you can give a talk. You try to get the interest going.
“There are many benefits not only to the church community, but to the individuals as well. I would absolutely like to see us increase our membership, and I believe we must attract some younger women. It’s a problem when your membership starts to age out. We may have to change the way we approach things, and I’d like to have a voice in this because I believe it’s a big issue. We should be proactive.’’
As a national director, Bowman will have oversight of several states and interaction with the CDA’s big-picture issues.
But, she knows local involvement is the key to growth.
“I would tell people who want to join a court that it’s a great way to make lifelong meaningful friends with like-minded values,’’ Bowman said. “It’s a way to provide service to others. You become unified in your faith and it empowers you in a way where you know you can make a difference.
“We’re connected by our Catholic faith. By working together, we reach out to each other, encourage each other and enhance our own faith. It’s always nice to pray together. You see how someone professes their faith and strength, how they handle themselves. We are always stronger when we work together. That’s always what I want to encourage,” she said.
For more information on Court Mother Teresa, contact Brady at (813) 625-5556 or Bowman at (813) 838-3804. For more information on the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, log onto CatholicDaughters.org.
By Joey Johnston
Published September 02, 2020