Group thrives on faith since founding in 1921
Dottie Stillitano sorts through pictures, articles and artifacts piled on her dining-room table.
Sitting on the table are a set of three albums -- one from June 1921-70; another from 1970 to the present; and one from June 1921 titled "Just Memories."
She also has one set of four books -- handwritten by the court's secretaries -- with all the information about meetings from 1930-82. The books were in the care of member Mary Elizabeth Fisher before being turned over to Stillitano. Fisher has been a member since July 1, 1942 -- the longest of any living Court Charleroi member.
Stillitano, who has been a member of the Catholic Daughters of America since Nov. 8, 1992, is on the education committee of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. She has developed a Power Point presentation about the charter, established June 5, 1921, of Court Charleroi No. 669.
With 88 years of names, notes and memories, the history of the organization is remarkable. Court Charleroi, which was formed from 1921-31, began with 54 charter members. Mary Mogan was the first grand regent, Lillian Crowley was the first vice regent, and the Rev. (Father) Welsh was the first chaplain.
In 1935, the court made a $5 donation toward the installation of a window in a Brownsville church. "Today that wouldn't pay for the putty!" Stillitano said.
In 1941, members were asked to give to a collection for two brides-to-be. They watched as Elizabeth Grummer became Elizabeth Guidatis, and Rosemary Courtney became Rosemary Martinet. Also in 1941, Regent Irene Cotter was awarded a medal during a convention. She accepted the award for the chapter having made the most progress of any court in Pennsylvania with the largest increase in membership.
The court sold war bonds and stamps and sent letters to men and women in military service in 1943. In 1944, court members washed, pressed and mended altar boys' cassocks. Nylon hose -- a hot, new item - were given as door prizes in 1946. Ordained in 1947 were the Revs. Ralph Bailey and Lydon Lee from St. Jerome Parish, who were presented with gifts from the court.
By 1952, a donation of cigarettes was made to Aspinwall Veteran's Hospital. "That would probably be a no-no now!" Stillitano said. Also in 1952, a reception was held at the Elks in Charleroi to welcome new members. Dinner was $1.75.
Court Bentleyville, called Court Dolores No. 1675, was instituted April 4, 1954, with Court Charleroi acting as the Mother Court. Rosemary Martinet was grand regent at the time. Rosary books were given to each member and $100 was awarded to the new court.
The last 50 years
By 1956, Assunta Ferrari was honored as the court member of the year. The chapter also began to honor the mother of the year at mother-daughter banquets. Also in 1956, The Bishop Fulton Sheen Faith Fund received 10 cents from each member of the court. In 1957, the chapter gave a monetary gift for the chapel at St. Jerome's Convent and a $500 donation to Mon Valley Catholic High School.
In 1959, a $500 donation was given toward the purchase of the baptismal font at St. Jerome. Also in that year, a spring fashion show was held at Mon Valley Catholic auditorium to benefit the school library, sponsored by four Catholic Daughters of the Americas courts -- Courts Transfiguration; Dolores (Bentleyville); Donora; and Charleroi. The show was attended by 450 women.
Court Charleroi purchased a monstrance for St. Jerome in 1963. That same year, each member was asked to give $1 toward the "Voice of Religion," which originated from Vatican City and was beamed behind the Iron Curtain.
Marie Slezak was grand regent from 1967-68. Members gave to the silver collection to fill baskets for the needy and for patients at Dixmont State Hospital.
In 1970, donations were made to help pay the expenses of two student musicians from Charleroi Area High School, who were chosen to tour Europe.
Petitions were sent to Washington, D.C. about Madelyn O'Hare's call to prohibit religious programs on radio and television.
In 1984, Regent Dolores Moyer was elected diocesan chairwoman of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
On June 9, 1986, "Priest Appreciation Day" was co-celebrated by the Revs. John Marcucci and Ed Schleicher. Rita Fraino was organist for the Mass.
On August 2, 1992, Mary Mother of the Church was formed from the parishes of St. Cyril and Methodius, Mother of Sorrows and St. Jerome.
On May 6, 1994, Catherine Ferrara opened the doors at 5:45 a.m. and found the church in flames. "I went inside the church. The keys on the pipe organ were burnt to a crisp," Stillitano recalled. Firefighters risked their lives to save the church, she said.
In other events, member Elaine Paluso was honored by Tener Library and received the Carobina Niccolai Award for her efforts in having the old post office building converted to the Charleroi Library. She was later instrumental in having the library placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1997.
"When I did the Power Point presentation, it highlighted all the things in the past and what will be useful for those in the future," she said.
Stillitano said she enjoys being active. "You get more out of it -- nothing I did without the people before me," she said. "The oldest members are still the strongest members at every meeting."
Officers for 2009-10 are Regent Dottie Taylor; First Vice Regent Mary Elizabeth Fisher; Secretary Dorothy Paterline; Financial Secretary Pat Lehr; and Treasurer Kim Gray.