This past weekend, the parishioners of St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church hosted their 20th annual Women's Day Celebration, empowering women to "Rise Up! Step Up! Move Up!"
"I think it was a great success …," organizer Rhonda Labat said. "I've been getting calls and texts all weekend long saying how wonderful everything was. And then the culmination on Sunday, that Women's Mass Choir was amazing! It put a good cap on the end of the weekend. I think everyone was happy they participated."
Judith Verrett organized St. Rose's first Women's Day Celebration in 1999. After her tragic death in a car accident in 2016, her fellow parishioners kept the celebration going each year in her honor.
Saturday's celebration, hosted at the church's Holy Spirit Center, included forums on health, education and politics, led by professionals in their respective fields.
Health forum speakers included Luella Williams, nurse practitioner at Coastal Family Health; and Marion Brewer, registered nurse at Ochsner Medical - Hancock Center.
Education forum speakers included Pass Christian Schools Superintendent Dr. Carla Evers; Dr. Cherie Labat, formerly of Bay St. Louis, who is now the superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District; and Dr. Toy Watts, also formerly of Bay St. Louis, who is now the superintendent of the Laurel School District.
The "political" seminar featured Judge Ellen Hazeur-Colbert of Division A for the Civil District Court for Orleans Parish; Emleigh Mitchell, justice of the peace liaison in Houston, Tex.; and Wendy McDonald, a former member of the Bay St. Louis City Council and current candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives.
Other speakers included former Bay High standout Christa Reed, who now plays professional basketball with the Killester Basketball Club of Dublin, Ireland.
Dorothy Wilson, publisher of Gulf Coast Woman Magazine, led a Book Review Forum on Saturday, joined by local contributors to the new book "Unboxed," including Angelyn Teutel Zeringue of SouthGroup Insurance; Holly Lemoine-Raymond, owner of HL Raymond Properties; Ellis Anderson, publisher of the Shoofly Magazine and French Quarter Journal; and Brandi Stage, owner of Brandi Stage Portraiture.
During the seminars, Labat said, "The room was standing-room only -- all the chairs were filled. …. I think the highlight was the educational seminar because the audience got a chance to ask these educators questions that they probably wouldn't on a daily basis get a chance to ask. Those three ladies were so open and honest about the challenges they face, whether it's in a school system that's fully funded or one not properly funded.
"The ladies were all so well-versed in all of their fields, and yet they were able to speak to everyone in there and everyone was able to get a message from them … that women are powerful in their own right.
"Just to see it all come together, it was very rewarding and inspirational."