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International Daughters of Isabella office

By Dave Myers

Southwest Kansas Catholic

KINSLEY — Patricia O’Brien has begun brushing up on her French, an exercise that bears evidence to her having recently received a great honor, not to mention bragging rights for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.

At the August convention of the International Circle of the Daughters of Isabella in Montreal, Canada, O’Brien was elected one of only two American International Directors of the 121-year-old charitable group.

“I’m very excited about this new office,” O’Brien said. “It’s a great organization.”

As an International Director, O’Brien will oversee two international committees. The positions requires occasional travel not only across the country, but outside its borders to such places as French speaking Quebec. In fact, O’Brien’s application to run for the office had to be translated into French.

“The farther you move up, the more you need to learn a little French,” she said with a chuckle.

The position will be challenging; it will be rewarding. But the joy of her new elected position will be nothing new to O’Brien; it’s a joy she has experienced since joining the Daughters 25 years ago.

“It’s the friendship and the unique spirit of the people that you meet,” she said. “I love the charity work and get-togethers with people—doing a project for the good of others.”

The motto of the Daughters of Isabella is “Unity, Friendship, Charity.” Their multi-focus includes giving to those in need while offering a strong support base for their own members. 

“I have people ask me how I have the time, but it’s like anything else: you make time for the things that are important. We support the parish, the community, and we do civic work.”

The Daughters are organized by circles, each of which represent a community of members. It may include one parish or several. Each circle picks its own name. Kinsley’s circle is St. John Circle 494, which was founded some 86 years ago. The smaller the number, the older the circle. One of the oldest is the St. Rita Circle in Dodge City, numbered 210. If a circle were to form today, it would be numbered around 1,500.

“Each circle finds its own niche,” its own ways to serve,” O’Brien explained. “The international circle doesn’t say you do this and this. You choose what fits your circle, parish and community.”

Projects of the Kinsley Circle include the “Blessing Box,” a monthly contribution to Catholic Charities to support those in need in our diocese. State-wide, the Daughters maintain a seminary burse in each diocese and support the Knights of Columbus sonogram program.

And there are simple, close-to-home learning projects designed “to last a lifetime”. For example, the Kinsley Daughters recently hosted a program for the public at the St. Nicholas Parish Center on how to bake an apple pie. A simple premise, but one that could be housed firmly in the hearts of the participants for years and years.

Future “Learning for a Lifetime” projects include a session in which an extension agency representative will teach how to balance a check-book. Later, an instructor will teach car maintenance. The workshops are open to all members of the community.

Service is at the heart of the Daughters of Isabella community.

“At our International convention it was announced that organizational wide the Daughters had donated $2,266,477.97 and 2,338,078 hours of service work within the last year,” O’Brien said proudly.

The Daughters of Isabella was formed in 1897 by Father Michael McGivney as an auxiliary to the Knights of Columbus, which he also founded. The organization is no longer an auxiliary, and is an independent entity, O’Brien stressed.

If you think that the Daughters include only middle age or older women, O’Brien is happy to say that a 16-year-old recently joined their ranks in Kinsley. And, of course, there’s O’Brien’s own daughter, Shena, who also joined at 16, a decade ago. “She loves it,” O’Brien with a smile.

“At first when she joined at 16, she said it was like having 30 instant grandmothers,” she added, laughing. “As she’s gotten older, her opinion has matured with her age. There are many women to meet and to do projects with; they are truly a lot of support for a young person. You have people checking in on you, helping to guide your faith and your future.”

And here, O’Brien mentions one other significant bragging right, this time for the people of the state of Kansas.

“Of the hundreds of circles and thousands of members across the United States and Canada, the area with the largest numbers of Circles and members–larger than any other state or Canadian province–is right here in Kansas.”

    For more information on the Daughters of Isabella, visit (As if to highlight the popularity of Kansas among Circles, the first article on the international DofI website as of Oct. 3 brought to light the efforts of St. Vincent de Paul Circle #211, Spearville, Kansas.)

Diocese of Dodge City

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