Raising $14,000 for Mike King’s Key to Life Trust suicide prevention programme as the Catholic Women’s League Aotearoa New Zealand did in 2015 for their At Home Mission appeal is hardly a characteristic of a fading organisation. About 160 women attending the organisation’s national conference in Christchurch last month would surely agree. First impressions of attendees indicated a slice of essential New Zealand fabric: Women who have put their shoulders to the wheel with families, grandchildren, and supporting New Zealand society through CWL with strong efforts towards social issues.

National president Kay Blackburn recognised the need however to regenerate and “open doors for younger people to see ‘Yes there is something there’”.

There certainly are younger women in the organisation, but the CWL is aiming to increase their numbers.

“We are not cups of tea people,” said Mrs Blackburn. To this end, the current website will be revamped and maintained.

One conference speaker was Andre Lovatt of Regenerate Christchurch who is managing the real regrowth of the Arts Centre of Christchurch post-quakes.

The league has a strong spiritual and administrative base to build upon.

Three special officers front the CWL efforts. Mission officer Coleen Blackmore oversees all mission work in the Pacific, with strong branch support. Part of the work of Susan Dickson, social issues officer, is liaising with the National Council of Women on some issues which can provide an avenue to government. The third special officer is World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO) international secretary Stephanie Swann, who makes sure that CWL in this country is active and up to date on the international stage.

A publicity officer will be appointed who will bring CWL charisms and efforts before Catholic women.

For the coming year, the At Home Mission appeal will be for the benefit of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, a cause to touch the heart. In more than six years since Sophie’s death, about 80 New Zealand women have  died at the hands of a partner or former partner.

The vision of CWL founder Margaret Fletcher in 1906 was for dignity, equality and freedom for women.

On the theme of “mercy” on the first morning at the conference, Sr Anne Gilroy, RSJ, provided a stimulating talk and discussion on Creation and the Practice of Mercy.

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