Kathleen (Kay) Blackburn CWLANZ National President

Wife of Greg, mother of 4, grandmother of 7.

Born in Wellington, 2nd eldest of 10, I spent most of my childhood in Milton, Otago, before our family moved to Invercargill. Educated in Dominican Schools, I went on to Dunedin Teacher’s College to train as a teacher, then added one more year of study to graduate as a Teacher of the Deaf.

After several years at Sumner School for Deaf and a year in Melbourne at Yooralla Hospital School, I returned home to marry Greg in early 1962. I put my teaching career on hold for the next few years to be a fulltime mother to our 4 children.

Our many moves with Greg’s work saw me returning to teaching in Christchurch when our children had all entered school. On transfer to Wellington I returned to fulltime classroom teaching in Catholic schools in Titahi Bay and Porirua, then back into Deaf education where I remained for over 20 years until my retirement.

My involvement in CWL began in Auckland in the 1960s and continued until the present day wherever Greg’s work took us. I have been Regional Rep and Branch Treasurer in South Invercargill and WUCWO Officer for the Dunedin Diocesan Council. From 2008 to 2012 I was CWLANZ National International Secretary for WUCWO. In October, 2010, I travelled to Jerusalem with 5 other CWL members to attend the Centenary Assembly of WUCWO.

I am currently a member of the Paraparaumu Branch in Our Lady of Kapiti Parish north of Wellington.


Dignity, Equality and Freedom of Women

Pope Francis urges us to, “offer our thoughts honestly and without fear in the matters that concern us”.

As part of it’s thrust towards renewing and reinvigorating the Catholic Women’s League of Aotearoa New Zealand, the National Board has been focusing on the vision that led Margaret Fletcher to found the League in 1906.

Her concern for the ‘Dignity, Equality and Freedom of Women’ seems no less relevant or important at this time in the history of Church and society.

Among our recent actions to offer our voice to the Church, we have shared insights on the 2014 Synod on the Family, the Safe Church programme, Evangelii Gaudium. Misericordiae Vultus, Laudato Si’, Mercy in Creation, Leadership, Change and more.

We encourage our members to ask and answer the hard questions about poverty, euthanasia and assisted suicide, the trafficking of humans, abortion law reform, youth suicide, children of prisoners, drug abuse and social issues, both national and international, around the welfare of women and children.

We are challenged to be a group of women willing to answer and respond to the hard questions and be witnesses to our motto of Faith and Service.

A motto bringing life, energy and informed voices into our communities.

We continue on the journey begun in 1906 by Margaret Fletcher and carried on into 2018. We acknowledge the Charism which compelled Margaret to advocate for Catholic women and we claim her ideals as our own.

  • To be prepared for change.
  • To be part of that change.
  • To be familiar with the teachings of the Church.
  • To be seen and heard.
  • To live the Joy of the Gospel.
  • To listen with the Heart..

“In the Church and in the journey of Faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord.”  Pope Francis

Let’s keep opening those doors!

Kathleen Blackburn
National President CWLANZ






Catholic Women’s League OF AOTEAROA

New Zealand

               Te Rōpū Wāhine Katorika o Aotearoa. 



Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa, te whanau o te ropu o

te Wahine Katorika, nau mai haeremai.

Greetings, greetings, greetings to you all the family of the Catholic Women’s League. Welcome.

In the Gospel passage from Matthew 4: 12-23, we witness Jesus building on the ministry of John the Baptist by calling his first leaders, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John. We are told they left their nets and followed without question. Shared leadership. Jesus wasn’t calling for perfection, the finished article. His message seems to have been, “ Come as you are, that’s how I want you. Why stand alone”?

If we are committed to this shared leadership then communication must be a key component. Communication is vital for any relationship. Today we are communicating more and more without actually talking.

Let’s take time to listen and talk to each other the way we want to be heard and spoken to. Remember that our opinions are not more valuable than other opinions.

Michael Tan tells us we have a shared leadership.“ The fruit of success will be sweeter if it is not just a single person calling the shots”.

At one of our Board meetings we shared insights on Leadership. We talked about ‘inspirational leaders’. A statement that stood out for me was, “ An inspirational leader understands and is enthusiastic about the vision and mission of the organization.

Vision and mission of CWLANZ.

What are they? We cannot repeat them enough.

Vision and Mission inspired Margaret Fletcher to found CWL in 1906.

Vision answers the question, “What was her dream”?

Dignity, equality and freedom for women.

Mission answers the question, “ What is our purpose in order to achieve that dream”?

To support, encourage and enable spiritual, intellectual, family and social development so that Catholic women are an active and positive influence in the life of the church and society.

How far have we drifted from Margaret Fletcher’s founding vision and mission? How can we respond in our time and culture in a way that is vital, visible and vibrant, making us a ‘Face of Mercy in Creation’ so that the dignity, equality and freedom of women is recognized, respected and enhanced.

A constant cry I am hearing is, “We have to change. Times are changing. We have to change with the times.”

This was a cry I heard at the National Conference last July and it came through loud and clear in the National Conference evaluations.

Change within the League is not something to be done alone. Our reaction to the subject of change is usually guided by our own personal likes and dislikes. We often don’t see the bigger picture. First, we need to be all singing from the same song sheet.

We need to consider the possibility of change: pay more attention; ask broader questions and listen for the positives in the answers; ask ourselves ‘what will success look like?’

We need to get ready for success: use our energy to build our skills; what will be difficult for us? How will we deal with the difficulty?

We, in Our Lady of Kapiti Parish, are going through tremendous change at present and our Parish Priest is constantly sharing thoughts on Change. The following words came from a homily given by Monsigner Dennis Clark. They go like this:

 “Real change of mind and heart comes hard. We cling to ideas that make no sense, and we do so with wide-eyed determination. We hold onto habits and ways of doing things that we see are not working. Year after year, we trudge along in familiar ruts, though we know from past experience we don’t want to go where those old trails are leading.

Why this reluctance to change? Why this dread of letting go of habits and attitudes, ideas and relationships that are not serving us or anybody else? Why the self-imposed blindness? What is the fear?

It’s pretty basic really.

To change means to let go of something we have, in the hope of getting something better.

The problem in letting go is that we don’t have that something better in hand yet. We may not be able to even see its shape yet.  We are making a leap and the big fear is we may end up empty handed.

For a while we may be empty-handed, and that is a good-sized fear.

It’s the fear that can keep us stuck in habits of thinking or praying, relating or living that just don’t work, that haven’t worked for a long time, and maybe never did.”

Change is never easy but we are some way along the track if we are talking and listening to each other. Not only in our Branches and Councils but across the Diocese, across New Zealand.

‘Let’s be open to change; invest in success. Living the change is the best way to eventually believe in it.’ Lianne Davey  ‘Are we resisting change?’

Mahatma Ghandi said, “You have to be the change you wish to see in the world”.

One change that we can make is an adjustment to the capitation levy. At our January Board meeting it was decided that the capitation levy needs to be increased.

I asked Anne Lumb our National Treasurer to supply some information for this Conference. (read the attached notes)

CWLANZ: A Face of Mercy in Creation How are we addressing our theme? (attached information)

Ask yourself, “ What is the earth asking of me?”

The Mission At Home Appeal for 2016 was for the benefit of the Sophie Elliott Foundation. Thankyou for your generosity which means an amount of $10,766 dollars has been given to the Foundation. The money will be used to finance more resources for the relationship programmes which are proving to be very successful in our Colleges.

The annual Mission At Home Appeal for 2017 is PILLARS, a National Charitable organisation, which supports the children of prisoners. Pillar’s focus is on the needs of the children of prisoners. Their aim is to break the cycle of crime and help secure a positive future for children of prisoners. They are active throughout New Zealand. Your Branch may not be able to have a speaker from Pillars but there are informative brochures and access to their website with short presentations which could be a starting point at your Branch meeting. You may also have access to a Prison Chaplain or social worker or school nurse. There are many possibilities to think out side the square. You may have noticed that I mentioned Branch twice. This is because this is a Branch activity. This is your chance to find out what is happening at local level to support these children who, because of distance, may not see their parent from start to finish of sentence.

I think we are losing sight of the real purpose of the At Home Appeal which is to encourage members to learn about the chosen organizations which are working often unnoticed in our communities; to find an action for the Branch to accomplish, which may simply be a fund raiser or in this case an action which would benefit the children; to be present in our communities in a positive way and to give generously but according to our means.

The Mission at Home Appeal goes right to the heart of the Vision and Mission of CWLANZ

When Verna McFelin the CEO of Pillars, answered the initial email from the Board, she expressed her delight at their National organisation being chosen by us but she also said, and I quote, “ As much as you will be giving to Pillars to support the over 20,000 children who have a parent in prison right now, I hope that we in turn, are able to encourage you in your walk in Faith.”

Generosity of Spirit, which I hope we will return.

It is not too soon to begin thinking of positions to be filled in July 2018.

National President, Social Issues Officer and WUCWO International Secretary. We can all play a role in this process.

If you are vacating a Board, Council or Branch position have you thought of what information you will leave your successor? How long will you mentor them in their new position?

Your Handbook is a good place to begin.

Yes we have a Publicity Officer. Coleen Blackmore , cwlanzpublicity@gmail.com is awaiting your contributions. Reports, stories, photos etc

Your Diocesan President received a paper from Coleen at our recent Board meeting to share with Branches. If you haven’t seen it please ask for it. It sets out specifics and suggestions for the best ways to use the website. We are all responsible for the success of the website.

We are still seeking a webmaster. Could you or someone you know fill this role?

From time to time our Special Officers receive requests from local or overseas agencies for information on specific subjects.

These requests to the Special Officers are usually on a very tight turnaround and they need our help to make sensible and full replies.

Please acknowledge receipt of these requests, share them with your branch members and answer if you are able, as it is difficult to pen an intelligent and useful reply with only 5 or 6  responses from 70 branches

Our next Board meeting is a one night two day trial on the 25th and 26th of July. We tried this format last August and it worked well.

We will publish three newsletters this year in May, August and September.

I leave you with this thought from Sister Joan Chittister a Benedictine Nun. An outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality especially for women, all over the world.

She says, “I really believe that nothing is going to change in the world until the situation of women changes. I’ll tell you why. You cannot simply dismiss over half of the human race, which means dismiss their agendas, dismiss their needs, dismiss their gifts, dismiss their intelligence”.

When asked how to start making change happen, Sister Joan’s answer was, “Do something!

Thank you.


In Faith and Service,


Kay Blackburn

CWLANZ National President