Theresa Duran, of Freeport, was 18 years old when she first joined the Catholic Daughters of America, an international organization with more than 1,150 local chapters that seeks to unite Catholic women to support their faith and commit good works throughout the Americas.
With her mother and older sister as members, Duran found joy in being part of a group of likeminded women who have helped lift her up whenever she feels down.
Now Duran, 54, has an opportunity to lift thousands of women up and lead them through hardship after she was named the New York State regent of the Catholic Daughters of America, the highest office in the state, during the group’s installation Mass on May 1 at St. Christopher R.C. Church in Baldwin.
“It is an honor to be named regent during one of our most prestigious events,” Duran said. “I will do my best to lead the New York Catholic Daughters of America through these trying times.”
“This is a celebration of a milestone for the Catholic Daughters of America,” added State Chaplain Ralph Sommer. “It will be her duty to make the Catholic Daughters a powerful, active group performing God’s work in our communities.”
During the installation Mass, dozens of members of the New York Catholic Daughters of America gathered at St. Christopher Church to celebrate Duran and the new slate of board members. Joining Duran were Connie Breindel, 1st vice state regent, Tina Bigelow, 2nd vice state regent, Patti Drivanos, state secretary, and Judy Sterling, state treasurer.
For Duran, a graphic designer and mother of three, the moment was not only a culmination of her work for and commitment to the organization, but also a special moment for her local chapter in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, as she is the fifth woman from the diocese to become state regent. She and her sister, Mary Impellizeri, also represent the second time in the group’s 113-year history that two sisters have served as regents.
Duran added that the installation ceremonies tend to happen upstate or in New York City, so it meant a great deal to her to be able to hold the installation on Long Island.
“For more than 20 years, I have witnessed time and again as Theresa positively impacted our community through her engaged leadership in the church and schools,” said Nassau County Legislator and fellow Freeporter Debra Mulé . “I’m thrilled to congratulate her upon her installation as regent for the New York State Court of the Catholic Daughters of America, and I am confident that the organization is in great hands with Theresa at the helm.”
Mulé also sang at the event alongside Duran’s children, Katie, Matthew and RJ.
Heather Rave, the former state regent, wished Duran good luck in leading the organization as she passed on the reins during the installation ceremony.
“You can work to shape [the New York Catholic Daughters of America] into a group of dedicated and active women,” Rave said. “Hold fast to our traditions, but don’t be afraid to venture into new ideas.”
As the ceremony itself was held with social distancing in place, Duran remarked on just how much her organization has changed since the pandemic hit last year.
Because of Covid-19, the group had to cancel its state convention last year, which normally brings together more than 450 catholic daughter groups to join in celebration of their faith every two years. Not only was the convention shut down, but the organization also had to cope with the cancelation all of its other events and fundraisers.
Despite the inability to meet in person, the organization did connect online; however, Duran said that the process was slow at first, since many members were not tech-savvy.
“But everyone eventually learned how to connect, and we took off from there,” Duran said. “We’re meeting on Zoom and getting on Facebook to livestream prayer sessions and Mass.”
Duran began holding special 2 p.m. prayer sessions every day since last April.
As regent, her main objective for the next year is to overcome the feeling of separation caused by the pandemic. Duran said the main draw of joining the Catholic Daughters of America is to find sisterhood and connect with new friends, something that took a hit during the pandemic.
Under Duran, the New York Catholic Daughters of America will preach a focus of internal healing and spirituality to help stabilize the organization and strengthen bonds. Duran said she hopes to lead trips later this year or next to holy sites in the Americas, such as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“This will be a time to heal from the pandemic and come back stronger than ever,” Duran said.
Once the organization is recovered, Duran said the group will then restart its fundraising and charitable events, which support local food pantries, education and women’s rights programs.