Every Monday night in the summer, members of the St. Rocco Women’s Guild gather at the church to wrap gifts. It sounds like a simple task, but the raffle tables under the tent reveal what has kept the women so busy.
The 25 to 30 members of the St. Rocco Women’s Guild assembled 700 raffle prizes for their annual straw draw.
“Each year we make more and more, and it’s really exciting. It’s hard work, but it pays off,” said Guild President Katie Mansolillo.
The straw draw puts a spotlight on the Women’s Guild, but for the rest of the year they work behind the scenes, serving the parish and the community. They start their monthly meetings by saying the rosary, praying for the sick. Mansolillo says they are always willing to say a prayer for neighbors and friends who have fallen on tough times.
“You could definitely call the rectory and they can let us know who to pray for,” she said.
The Women’s Guild also sends out cards to men and women in the community who are sick and go out to visit with them.
Mansolillo joined the Women’s Guild five years ago, after her daughter was graduating from St. Rocco School. She wanted to stay involved and realizes now that it was the right decision. She says the Women’s Guild members are kind, generous and supportive of one another.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s very nice; there’s no pettiness,” she said. “Everyone is very warm.”
After the rosary, the group discusses business and upcoming projects at the roughly 90-minute monthly meeting. To support their charitable work, they hold several fundraisers each year, in addition to their contributions to the feast and festival. Their spring bazaar is one of the most popular events and continues to grow each year.
“We sell spots for vendors and we do all the food for it,” Mansolillo said, adding that there is something for everyone at the bazaar. The guild offers kid-friendly activities, enabling parents to get some shopping done. “We have a lot of free things for the kids. This year we’re going to incorporate the school into it and have a table where the St. Rocco School children will make things and their parents will come in and buy them.”
The Women’s Guild mobilizes for unwed mothers as well, offering their support by collecting brand new baby clothes and necessities.
Surprisingly, Mansolillo called the volunteer work “very calming,” thanks to the women she works alongside with.
“The more you do, the more you get out of it, truly,” she said.
Each year, the women go on a one-day retreat to Connecticut, at a beautiful site where a nun picks a topic for the group to discuss. The retreat is open to the public, as are meetings for those parishioners who are interested in joining the Women’s Guild.
“We tell people you don’t even have to be a member to come and sit in on a meeting,” Mansolillo said. “Come see if you would enjoy it.”
She especially encouraged young mothers or new parishioners to check out a meeting or ask questions of a Women’s Guild member. The only requirements are that you are a Catholic woman who pays the nominal $10 annual membership fee.
“We’re trying to get younger people in there,” she said.
Mansolillo says that being a part of the Women’s Guild is an incredibly rewarding experience, both for the camaraderie among members and also for the good works they do throughout the community.
“It lets you know what’s going on in the church and around town,” she said. “I think it’s worthwhile because it keeps you connected to the church.”