by BRYAN JOHNSON and FRANCES TOWNSEND
WAIUKU — The third oldest Catholic Women’s League branch in New Zealand celebrated
its 80th birthday earlier this year.
Celebrations for St Anthony’s, Waiuku, began with the recounting of some of the history of the branch.
CWL was formed in 1906 in England with the aim of uniting Catholic women in promoting spiritual, intellectual, and family and social life based on the teachings of the
Church. The CWL motto is “Faith and Service”.
In New Zealand, the first CWL was established in 1931 in Auckland by Bishop James
Liston, who wanted CWL to provide volunteer social work during the Depression.
Originally groups were called “circles”, made up of members from similar interest
areas, but Bishop Liston promoted “a branch in every parish”.
Waiuku branch was formed in 1934, the third in New Zealand.

Lorne Bulte, the oldest member of St Anthony’s CWL, cuts the 80th birthday cake with Joan O’Sullivan, QSM, a past vice-president of the Diocesan CWL Council, in the background.
Branches spread throughout the country. Regional and national conferences were held
to develop policy and in 1949 CWL became affiliated with the National Council of Women
of New Zealand. NCWNZ was established in 1896, under the leadership of Kate Sheppard,
to promote the interests of women through influencing legislation. Today CWL works with NCWNZ to bring about change by contributing to Government submissions.
Up until the formation of the parish council in Waiuku in 1972, the Catholic Women’s
League took care of much that the parish council looks after today. Their annual “sale
of work” went a long way to supporting the priest before the introduction of planned giving.
CWL women have visited the sick, helped at funerals, raised funds for the missions and other causes, helped families in need and supported youth activities.
Each meeting the branch has a trading table and a raffle to raise money for the mission
in the Solomon Islands. This is received by Bishop Chris Cardone of Auki diocese, who uses the money to support the women of that diocese to improve their who uses the money to support the women of that diocese to improve their health and employment opportunities.

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