Developing meaningful friendships can go a long way in helping Soldiers and Family Members through the challenges that are inherent in the lives of military Families. One Fort Drum organization seeks to provide Catholic women an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals in an environment that nourishes the spirituality of its members.
Catholic Women of the Chapel is a more local inception of the large international group, Military Council of Catholic Women. It was born out of Installation Management Command’s desire for Army posts to create a more intimate environment in which Catholic women could grow and thrive.
“They wanted the focus to go back to the chapel groups – where the heart of our Catholic small groups (is),” said Nancy Belmont, Faith Study facilitator for CWOC.
Belmont was president of West Point’s chapter of MCCW when it became CWOC. She said that, while changes have been made to the structure of the organization, the overarching mission – to foster and nourish women in spirituality, leadership and service – remains the same.
For Fort Drum’s chapter of CWOC, the change has meant a considerable increase in membership, said Vice President Brooke Jensen.
“We have 41 members, compared to five who consistently came in the spring of last year,” Jensen said. “We’ve grown a lot through the support of many people who wanted to see CWOC grow and provided the support we needed.”
Jensen and President Nicole Lockhart credit collaboration with post chaplains, Religious Support Office personnel, and similar organizations such as Protestant Women of the Chapel with helping CWOC to build a strong foundation.
One of the best things about CWOC is that most Army installations have a chapter, Jensen said. This leads to an added sense of assurance to Catholic women as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of military life.
“The Army does an excellent job of providing the resources you need when you’re moving, transitioning and getting involved in your new location,” Jensen said. “That extra fellowship and connection with other women – based on your religious and spiritual life – is what everybody seeks during those times.”
“When you have all this change and stress in your life, knowing that the same foundation, fellowship, connection and support are available to you and your Family no matter where you go is comforting,” Jensen added.
Group member Jennifer Fencl recently made a permanent-change-of-station move to Fort Drum with her husband. Fencl, who had been involved in an organization similar to Fort Drum’s CWOC at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., said that getting involved with the group soon after arriving on post eased the stress and anxiety of assimilating to a new environment.
“The transition goes more smoothly because you feel like you are home no matter where you are,” Fencl said. “You have a group of ladies who have the same faith, and all have common goals within our faith.”
Members look to each other for support and advice as they grow in their faith, and as wives and mothers. In their gatherings, these women share their struggles and triumphs, pray for one another, and study faith-based texts together.
In addition to serving as a support system for one another, CWOC focuses a great deal of effort on community outreach. Although the Fort Drum chapter is still in the process of establishing itself, it has already begun to make contributions to the local community.
CWOC has held two donation drives this year, delivering collected items to Watertown’s Urban Mission. Members plan to participate in many more community outreach opportunities in the future, and they hope to collaborate with PWOC in some of these endeavors.
“We’re just in the beginning,” Jensen said. “It will be great to look back at the year and see how we were able to support each other through our in-reach coordinators and how we’ve been able to help within the community through our outreach coordination,” Jensen said.
Currently, CWOC has two different types of meetings that members may participate in. A “Mom’s Faith and Play Group” for members and their children meets from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays at the North Riva Ridge Chapel playroom. Wednesday meetings are held from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Religious Support complex on the corner of Fourth Street and Oswego Avenue on South Post. Saturday retreats for all members and weekly conference calls for working members of the group are being planned.
New members are welcome. For more information, contact Nicole Lockheart, (336) 402-9053, or visit www.facebook.com/drumcwoc.