CWL Works

“Missions and the spreading of the Good News is part of our role as followers of Christ.”

When CWL was first formed in 1931 the Bishops of the time asked that one of the main roles should be the support of both the Maori Missions at Home and the church in the Pacific Islands. As a result missions work has always been considered the first beneficiary for fundraising.

The three main priorities for helping the missions have always been praying, writing and giving.

Each branch has a designated Mission Communities in the Pacific.

A national At Home Appeal is held annually which raises funds for a specific cause. The cause must be nationally organised. The National Board decide on the recipient from suggestions received from our branches. The 2006 At Home Appeal raised $10,500.00 for Autism.

Branches also reach out to local organisations with physical and financial help such as driving for Meals on Wheels, and helping with Street Day Appeals among other activities, and by making donations.

In the early days boxes and bales of goods were sent to the Islands. Many hours were spent collecting or making goods to send. It was not uncommon to be asked for a whole set of vestments  –  the material rots easily in the tropics. Religious items such as rosaries, bibles are often still sent. Also basic items for schools such as pencils, paper, etc. Food also was sent in many instances.

When the parcels arrive nothing is wasted. A Sister from a Tongan convent wrote her thanks for the bales of clothes and commented that the hessian bales when opened out and dipped into a cement sludge and fastened to netting supports made sound and warm henhouses! The twine which had been used to tie the bales was used to sew the walls together. The egg output went up and the increased protein available for the children of her village was already showing good results in the classroom!

As the years have gone by so have the postage costs gone up so that the postage at times was almost as much as the value of the goods sent. So today many branches send money to the Islands for the communities to buy what they require.

Also communications have improved. In the past you would not hear for weeks (and often months) from the mission station because they would be waiting for the boat to arrive. Now many communities have email so you can keep in touch much more easily.

Is the need to help the Mission Communities still there?

It most certainly is. There is always likely to be those few communities which are “well off” but the majority still need help.

For many communities the support given by the CWL Branch is the only outside help they get.


Meeting with the Pope

We thank Pope Francis for granting a private audience to the WUCWO authorities, who were received in his library on 10 January 2020. The meeting, which lasted approximately 40 minutes, made it possible to express gratitude, on behalf of the 8 million members of our organisations, for the delicate and frequent attention the Holy Father gives to women, particularly the most vulnerable, throughout the world. The conversation was mainly in Spanish, with some exchanges in Italian.

The Pope received the President, María Lía Zervino, Servidora, the acting Secretary General, Board Member Andrea Ezcurra, Servidora, and the Ecclesiastical Assistant, Father Gerard Whelan, SJ. This meeting, unprecedented for WUCWO, developed quite spontaneously, through free dialogue and close relationship. In the past, St Paul VI received the President of the time, Pilar Bellosillo; St John XXIII granted a large audience to WUCWO; and St John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis himself received the greetings of our authorities, either in public audiences or after a Eucharist in which they participated.

The Holy Father welcomed our representatives with great affection and joviality. At the beginning, with his usual sense of humour, he joked about the women and the Jesuits in a way that created an atmosphere of trust, relaxation and joy. The whole conversation that followed took place in that friendly tone. He was given three books as a gift, and in turn, each one of them received a rosary as a gift from His Holiness. From the beginning it became clear that the great riches of WUCWO are the daily experiences of the member organisations at the local level, which allow each woman to move towards holiness. A holiness that the Pope calls “next door.”

After the presentations and thanks, the President and the Ecclesiastical Assistant gave a brief introduction on WUCWO, its history, its current resolutions and its willingness to collaborate for any pastoral action proposed by the Holy Father in relation to the synodality of the People of God, which as we know is composed of such a high proportion of women. WUCWO affirmed to be a living observatory of lay women on the various continents. The Pope said: “It is women who carry the Church forward without holding official positions.”

The central theme was that of women and the Church; not only from the perspective of their “functionality,” but also with a focus on how the lay women of WUCWO, with their distinctly feminine “being,” can contribute to the development and application of the “Marian principle” within the Church and to the manifestation of the face of the Church in today’s world. The dialogue then turned to some of the concrete projects underway. We also talked about significant issues for the pontificate today, such as gender ideology, our responsibility before the abuse of minors and inter-religious dialogue for human brotherhood, to which WUCWO is committed.

Before wrapping up the conversation, the Pope was asked to bless all the women of WUCWO, their families, countries, organisations and projects. In his final message the Holy Father encouraged all women members of WUCWO organisations to move forward on the path to holiness with courage, but also with craziness. He said: “Without craziness there is no holiness.” He recommended that we be like Mary Magdalene who was crazy enough to announce the resurrection of Jesus to the apostles, even though they did not believe her. His exhortation was: “Take charge with courage”.