Howard parish women’s group celebrates 125 years

Support for the church, children and the community remain priorities

Bonnie Ver Vaeren, left, Marilyn Johnson and Diane Tappa were recognized as 50-years-plus members at the 125-year anniversary celebration of the St. John the Baptist Council of Catholic Women/Christian Mothers held on Oct. 2. (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

HOWARD — Greetings, conversations, laughter and music filled the school commons on Oct. 2 as members of the St. John the Baptist Council of Catholic Women/Christian Mothers gathered to celebrate 125 years of spiritual enrichment, socialization, and parish and community support.

The council/confraternity was formed on April 11, 1896, at the invitation of Bishop Paul Rhode — 28 years prior to the founding of the Green Bay Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DCCW).

“We were created for the purpose of promoting works of Christian charity,” said Karen Bookter, the group’s president. “This started because they were losing the family. The women needed to support families to save the little souls that didn’t know God. The way the world was going, there was so much turmoil.”

Today, the group has approximately 50 active (100 total) members that meet once a month, September to May.

“We usually have some sort of spirituality and then we have our meeting,” said Bookter. “We give a lot of money to the church, to children and the community. We did a Seroogy’s (chocolate) sale, which raised $1,500 for the (diocesan) one by One campaign. We haven’t had our ‘Spring-Get-Away,’ our major fundraiser, for the last two years due to COVID, so we’ve tried other resources to raise money.”

Another challenge throughout the pandemic has been to maintain communication, especially when the women were not able to meet in-person, said Bookter.

“The friendships are such an important part,” she said. “I’m trying to keep the women connected. I sent out messages regularly, but we’ve probably got about 15 ladies who don’t have email. I want to let them know what’s going on in the organization. I want us to just help each other.”

“It’s a wonderful organization. It was a great way to meet friends,” said Mary Vande Yacht, a 10-year member. “The fundraisers are very rewarding. Everybody works together so well. The support is wonderful from the group.”

Among the external support provided by the women are scholarships each year for an eighth-grade boy and girl at St. John the Baptist School to apply toward their first-year high school tuition. They also assist with parish events, including providing more than 300 cupcakes for September’s “Blessfest,” for example.

Diane Tappa, a member for more than 50 years, pointed to the Christ Child statue and Divine Mercy image in the church as additional examples of contributions from the women. The Council of Catholic Women\Christian Mothers also lead a May Crowning of Mary in conjunction with first Communion and provide a reception after confirmation. An example of community outreach is volunteer service by members at the St. Vincent de Paul Store in Howard.

Paula Freimuth, president of the DCCW, offered words of congratulations at the anniversary celebration. Members of the St. John the Baptist women’s group attend DCCW and Vicariate II seminars. They also participate in DCCW campaigns, including “Let’s Lick Family Violence,” which has raised more than $250,000 for area shelters.

The anniversary celebration featured music by Daniel Lovett, food, prizes, a photo area with props, a basket raffle and silent auction. All women in attendance who have been a part of the group for 20-plus years were recognized individually.

“These women really know how to celebrate,” said Fr. Jim Lucas, pastor at St. John the Baptist. “I feel blessed to be among them.”

“We wanted the women to have the opportunity to socialize and talk,” said Bookter. “Sometimes when you get together for a meeting, you don’t have time for socializing. That’s such a valuable thing, to give your time to someone.”

Following the social gathering, the women moved to the chapel to recite the rosary and then joined the congregation for Mass in the church.

For information about the St. John the Baptist Council of Catholic Women/Christian Mothers, visit