30 September 2011

Turning point for Catholic Women's League Australia

Written by Anna Krohn
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In her welcome address to their 45th Biennial Conference, Emeritus Professor Gabrielle McMullen extolled the more than 220 participants from the Catholic Women’s League of Australia (CWLA) for being “the leading organisation for the formation of women throughout Australia”.

Professor McMullen reflected that the conference theme, ‘Go Forth in Peace, Glorifying the Lord by Your Life’, was well chosen. She said the active and practical social concern shown by contemporary CWLA members was an authentic expression of the spirit of CWLA’s founders and of what Blessed John Paul II called the ‘feminine genius’. It was also founded upon the ‘glory’ shown in the lives of “the three Marys – Our Lady, Mary of Fitzroy (St Mary of the Cross MacKillop) and our own Mary (Dr Sr Mary Glowrey, first president of the Catholic Women’s League in Victoria)”.

Along with Archbishop Denis Hart, Professor McMullen – the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the Australian Catholic University, which was the major sponsor of this year’s conference in Melbourne – commended the CWLA for its long practical history of outreach to those in need in Australia and in developing countries, and its tireless advocacy on issues of human life and dignity.


During the Opening Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Hart said the CWLA women were particular examples of “active contemplatives” who were called not only to rest upon their great tradition but, “in season and out of season”, to deepen their role as evangelists.

During the conference, three distinctive themes could be seen flowing from the above words and in the presentations led by keynote speakers: the role of the CWLA in contemporary evangelisation and into the future; the particular inspiration Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ gives to the CWLA mission to the culture of life; and ways in which the CWLA might link its deeply pastoral response to new technologies and media.

Current CWLA president Madge Fahy also confirmed that the League had entered a new and definitive era with the advent of new alliances by which younger women were increasingly being given leadership roles and with the launch of new CWLA communication and media capabilities, including websites, blogs and Twitter.

CWLA national chaplain Fr David Cartwright, Fr David Tremble MGL and Anima educator and Archdiocese of Melbourne interfaith and ecumenical officer David Schütz provided rich spiritual, biblical and practical insights into the topic of evangelisation. Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliot also extended this question with his insightful paper on the ‘Church and Personal Ordinariates’.

Confronting, creative but positively inspiring examples of contemporary responses to social and faith issues were provided by very lively sessions with the Youth Mission Team, Melinda Tankard Reist, who addressed positive strategies and networks of resistance to child sexualisation and the ‘pornification of culture’, and in the touching description by Kate McKernin (CatholicCare) and Sudanese-Australian father Ambrose Mareng, from the African Dads and Kids Program.

However, it was the various talks about Dr Sr Mary Glowrey JMJ which drew the most tears, joy and inspiration. Participants described Conventual Franciscan Fr Paschal Corby’s paper on Mary Glowrey, his contribution to the panel discussion on ‘Nascent Human Life’ along with CWLA members Jo Grainger and Marcia Riordan, and Catherine Keightley’s dynamic witness to intercessory prayer and Mary Glowrey as “simply riveting and unforgettable”.

Anna Krohn is a sessional tutor in the Nursing Department at Australian Catholic University, the National Bioethics Convenor for CWLA and an academic skills adviser at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.


Published in Kairos Catholic Journal Volume 22, Issue 18