Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIX, No. 2
30th Anniversary Issue
Mourning a loss, celebrating a legacy
by Hilary Hitchcock
As most of you may have heard by now, we lost our editor, Helen Hull Hitchcock, to a sudden and brief illness in October.
Helen was not only the founder/president of Women for Faith & Family and my boss, she was also my mother.
When an ordinary issue of Voices would go out, she would work on her column last, to give context to all of the articles appearing in that edition. She had not yet written her column for this issue when she became ill. She asked me to bring her computer to the hospital but I told her that her only job was to rest; the column could wait.
And wait it has. I’ve had a difficult time trying to weave together the threads for this issue.
On the one hand: celebration. Thirty years is a major accomplishment! On the other: there is loss, sadness.
When we began working on this issue we asked some bishops to share a few words with us. I’m so grateful that my mother got to read many of these letters as they arrived. It meant so much to her to be of service to the Catholic Church, and hearing from bishops how much WFF’s work helped them was very special to her.
I cannot tell the history of Women for Faith & Family adequately or accurately. The early days of meeting and planning often took place around my parents’ dining room table when I was still in grade school.
So I will let my mother tell WFF’s story; starting on page 4 we’re reprinting her column from an issue of Voices that commemorated the 25th anniversary of Women for Faith & Family.
I would like to share instead a bit about my mother personally. She and my dad met in New York in 1966, and they were married in Saint Louis less than a year later. They bought a house here, where they raised my three sisters and me. Married for nearly 48 years, in the same house for nearly 48 years. Tradition, loyalty, family … all were so important to my mom.
She was tremendously creative and multitalented: she could paint and sculpt and draw (a family friend recently told us he still has a little sketch she made of him, using a burnt matchstick on a napkin. I’ve interspersed a few of her other sketches throughout this issue.) She could sing and make jewelry and play just about any musical instrument she got her hands on (when we were little kids she would sometimes play her mountain dulcimer for events at 19th century museum houses.) She could make a perfect piecrust and sew and spin and knit (when we had a big fluffy Samoyed dog she spun his hair and used it in her knitting; I still have a pair of mittens made from some of it.)
There was nothing she couldn’t do if she put her mind to it, and when she converted to Catholicism in the early 1980s she was fully committed. She and some like-minded friends worked together to draft the Affirmation for Catholic Women and after that her path was clear.
Fast forwarding a bit: in working on the issues surrounding the family and women’s roles in the Church, my mother became concerned with language and the liturgy, and this led to her working with a few others to found Adoremus Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy (adoremus.org).
Almost since the beginning of the existence of Adoremus, its fortunes and that of Women for Faith & Family have been intertwined: sharing space (first in my parents’ basement, now in a little office a few miles away), sharing staff (technically we’re all Adoremus employees on loan to WFF to produce Voices and the website), and sharing an editor/publisher, Helen Hitchcock.
So it’s impossible to say right now what lies ahead for Women for Faith & Family, in part because the future of Adoremus is also in flux. We are a bit rudderless for the time being. Both organizations have governing boards who are very concerned about the future and preserving the work that has been done so far. But this was such an unexpected loss, of someone who was so absolutely integral to both organizations, that it will be very difficult to find a way to fill the roles that she played, particularly in the way we are structured at present.
All of this is to say that I hope this isn’t our last issue, but the possibility is there that this may be, or it may be the last issue for a while. You will hear from us again, one way or another, after decisions have been made, and we know what comes next.
In the meantime, if you have internet access I hope you visit our website often — wf-f.org. We have great resources there, including a liturgical calendar and sections for Advent and Christmas. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, please look for us there as well. We will look forward to your visits!
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