'Women of Distinction' honored in Harrison County

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Ten black women--with ten unique stories--were recognized for their contributions in Harrison County Friday.

The Progressive Women's Association of Harrison County bestowed them with the honor of being 'Women of Distinction,' in observance of Black History Month.

"It feels great to be recognized as a black woman of distinction, who has worked in Harrison County for thirty years with the public," Kettera Smith, an employee with the Harrison County Courthouse and honoree, remarked.

Each woman was honored for their contributions in various fields, including literacy, education, and public service.

Catherine Burley retired from the FBI after 32 years. She received a warm reception from the crowd at the luncheon, when she touched on race relations in the country.

One woman who received some of the biggest applause lines was Sister Maria Rukwishuro, who admitted she did not know where or what West Virginia when she arrived in the country 12 years ago.

"Going to an unknown country, it was scary," she said in an interview afterwards.

Sister Maria came to Clarksburg from Zimbabwe in 2004. She is the Director of Religious Education at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksburg.

"I don't feel foreign," she said, calling Clarksburg home. "I feel like I belong here, where I have mothers, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and all the little ones whom I sponsored for their baptism."

And the honor Friday just re-affirmed the warm welcome she's received.

"I feel honored, I feel blessed, I feel loved," Sister Maria said, before adding a final message. "I thank you for everything."

The ten women honored are listed here:

Corliss Hanger Barksdale
Catherine Burley
Cydney Cooper
Jodi Cox
Luvina Cuthbert
Carol Meeks
Regina Parker
Sister Maria Rukwishuro
Arissa Smith
Kettera Smith

5 News' Cydney Cooper was among those honored Friday. We spoke with her after the ceremony. That conversation is above this article.