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Pat Walker
Conference Report
by Pat Walker (pictured left)

At the opening Mass in St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, concelebrated by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ AM DD VG who, in his homily, spoke about Mary.  We were entrusted to Mary from the Cross and she was entrusted to us as mother.
We honour Mary, the homeless refugee, who bore her son in a stable and immediately had to flee to Egypt to save his life.  Mary watched her son die and was among the disciples when he appeared to them after the resurrection.  She always put her life in God’s hands as we also put ourselves in God’s hands.
Carmel Zollo MP welcomed everyone to SA on behalf of the Premier Mike Rann and the Government of South Australia.  She acknowledged the contribution of CWL to women through Social Justice and keeping the Premier advised on the concerns of women. Bishop O’Kelly said that we are a part of history in the oldest working Cathedral in Australia, where Mary McKillop worshipped.

National President Mary Schultz introduced proceedings: “As we now begin our formal sessions in this Adelaide Town Hall, let us ask God’s blessing upon all that we will think, say and do in this place.”

Shirley Peisley OAM gave the Welcome to Country, asking the Aboriginal forefathers to welcome us on their lands. 

Mr. Michael Harbison, the Lord Mayor welcomed us to the Town Hall and Officially Opened the Conference. The Lord Mayor told everyone that Adelaide people are warm and friendly, welcoming them with sunshine even though we would like rain.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly, Auxiliary Bishop, Adelaide Archdiocese, spoke on our theme – “Living the Faith of our Mothers into the future”. Being ordained or getting married is a Leap of Faith.  Faith with the mass as our anchor point transcends changes and scandals.  Now we are no longer taught by the nuns, we all need to be teachers of the heart.  Catholic Women’s League from our beginnings is about Love, Justice and service.  SA was second to New Zealand to give women the vote.  CWL affirms the role of women in a hostile world.  Australia has been enriched by Catholic women from the Sisters of Charity, Caroline Chisholm and Mary McKillop all working to help others, the sick, the isolated and to educate the poor.  Catholic women need to be independent, loyal to the church but not judgemental.  In some countries women are seen as inferior.  Fewer girl children are allowed to live and this has created a great imbalance.  Only now are these countries seeing their mistakes.  Parents are the most important teachers.  Faith Hope and Charity need to be taught in the home. Mothers’ love hasn’t changed and our children will draw strength from their mothers, whose faith has never been more needed.

Brenda Finlayson, WUCWO Board Australia and Vice President General, gave the WUCWO report (printed in the Conference booklet).  We all need to work and pray together for peace especially in Jerusalem for Jew, Muslim and Christian to work together. 

Madge Fahy, our National International Secretary called for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.  Abortion is promoted as a woman’s choice and many countries kill girl children before and after birth.  Without girls there is no society.  Without the right to be born there are no human rights.  The United Nations keeps pushing contraception and ignores the fact that in many places they don’t work either to prevent birth or to prevent aids.  Steroids are banned in sport but OK for contraception. This world doesn’t need affirmation it needs conversion.  It doesn’t need approval, it needs witness.

BUSINESS SESSION was chaired by Mrs Robyn Gaspari.

After morning Mass in the Cathedral, reports were received from Member Organisation Presidents and Bioethics and Social Issues Convenors.

Bernard Siebert spoke on behalf of our major sponsor about the way the funeral industry has evolved over the years.

Fifty years ago only men worked in the industry.  The office contained no chairs only sloping topped desks.  Funerals were arranged in order on the desks.  Men went to the houses to bring in the bodies.  Most of Sieberts’ funerals took place in the Cathedral.  Family were told when the funeral would be held.  There would be Rosary the evening before and the coffin would remain in the Cathedral until the funeral next morning.  There were no afternoon funerals and sometimes two or three coffins would be in the Cathedral at the same time.  No cremations were held.  Sieberts had a special hearse which could accommodate three coffins – one on top and two in a compartment underneath.

The priest wore black vestments. Now white vestments are worn.  We look at the attributes that the person had shown for us to emulate. The family select and deliver the readings and the ceremony is in the parish community.  The process of good grieving allows us to focus on God’s love more than on our loss. The involvement of women in our church communities is now much more.  However the qualities of our mothers are still there providing confidence and certainty in our faith.

Libby was born with club feet but she also had no feeling below the waist.  She was diagnosed as spina bifida but many years later they found out that this was the result of a  forceps delivery and wasn’t genetic. She never suffers pain as the lower part of her body has no feeling so she must be careful not to injure herself inadvertently.  Her parents built a house close to Loreto so she could wheel herself to school.  But she had to go home for lunch. She enjoyed school and her mates shared her wheel chair, dumping her out so they could use it. She cut up the oranges and cheered during the sports. Libby did extra study for secretarial work and her first job was with the Botanical Gardens.  She had her own car with special controls and could walk with callipers.

At twenty she took up wheelchair sport but had some trouble finding the right sport.  She was dangerous with a javelin or discus and couldn’t hit the ball in table tennis. Archery and wheelchair racing were her best sports until she was introduced to rifle shooting and was a natural.  Libby has many medals and after getting gold in four events recently in Germany is a good chance for the Olympic team in Beijing. She met her husband through wheelchair sports. Stan was a polio victim and has to sit down for sports.  They have two sons, now twenty five and twenty nine. 

The afternoon session was held at TANDANYA ABORIGINAL CULTURAL INSTITUTE.
The hospitality students from Tauondi TAFE College served a beautiful meal including various kinds of bush tucker. John told us a story with his didgeridoo (yidikee).  We could hear the kangaroos and emus moving through the bush; a little boy hunting with his boomerang, going to sleep until he heard the dingo and ran home. Much beautiful and interesting Aboriginal Art was on display in the gallery.

Then Vice President Marie Lally AM introduced Peter Smith.  Peter was the youngest of nine children born to an Aboriginal mother and an English father in Queensland.  He is married with nine children of his own, grandchildren and great grandchildren. After her death he finally met up with his mother’s family and filled a big gap in his life. Since Vatican Two we are no longer passive participants in the Catholic Church.  NATSIEC meet with the Bishop’s Conference twice a year to tell them what Aboriginal people want and need.  The Church leaders became more involved in funerals, baptisms, hospital visiting on behalf of the church.  They bless the sick but can’t give last rites.  Peter was once asked to visit and bless a dying policeman when no priest was available.  This is a big change in police attitudes.
Recently NATSIEC celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Alice Springs.  The Australian Catholic Church will not be the church that Jesus wants until the Aboriginal people make their contribution. After twenty three years in the army Peter became more involved in Aboriginal affairs.  He became a Catholic member of the National Council of Churches.  He was nominated for the World Council of Churches and went to the United Nations to represent Indigenous Australian Christians. He will continue to do what he is doing until God tells him to stop. Our greatest experience is to forgive and to be able to ask for forgiveness. The Bahai people tell us that the light of faith can illuminate the whole world.  What can be done today must not be put off until tomorrow. We watched the video “Dreaming from the Heart” celebrating the twentieth Anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Alice Springs.

After the dinner in the Adelaide Town Hall we were entertained by Fiona O’Loughlin, who told us stories of her family. The Dinner was very enjoyable.

Bishop Hurley said that CWL has always played a pivotal role in his previous Diocese of Port Pirie but is not yet operating in Darwin.  The greatest gift we can give to each other is our time.  We should make it a priority to spend time together. Mothers hold a special place in our life of faith.  God’s relationship becomes real through our relationship with our mothers. We come to God through generations of family. There is a danger in over emphasising the roles of our mothers and taking them for granted.  Mothers aren’t faithful and prayerful by nature but through their relationship with God and the Church.  We won’t know who we are until we see ourselves mirrored in the eyes of one who loves us.  Pope John Paul said that we can’t go forward until we contemplate the face of Jesus.  Mothers are close to creation but don’t always get the respect and credit they deserve.  He spoke of the trials of pioneer women, who endured difficulties with humility but were never subservient. Women are strong in leadership, our social conscience, interceding for us in prayer.

Dr Adrian Thomas, Chairman of MaterCare Australia and MaterCare International, told us that MaterCare and CWL can achieve a lot. The solution to safe motherhood is not abortion but trying to breathe life back into motherhood in countries where women still die in childbirth. MaterCare focuses on hospitals and emergency transport service to get the women there.  Some governments think that abortion and sterilisation is the help needed but the people don’t want this.  East Timor is desperately short of everything and in Africa many refugees are not receiving help.  In war and conflict women and children suffer the most.
$75,280.00 was given by CWLA for the project.

Told us we are called to shape the future of our Church.  He introduced our panel presentation - CHANGING DIRECTIONS
Sr Cheryle Thomson MSS
Sr Anne Sheridan LCM
Ms Jill Hutt
Ms Kimberley Davis

Sr Cheryle spoke of changes within her order.  After twenty three years of rural ministry, working with families and sharing their struggles she became a Pastoral Associate in Whyalla SA.  She now lives alone although in touch with her order by phone.  She trains the laity to become more involved in ministries and is more involved in liturgy.  As priests become fewer, there is more need for pastoral associates to manage the day to day running of the parishes.  She prays that World Youth Day will encourage faith and touch hearts of our young.  She was involved in visiting and helping the refugees in Baxter detention centre and has encouraged local involvement with the refugees.  There is now an interfaith dialogue group of Buddhist, Moslem and Catholic people in Whyalla.

Sr Anne is involved in making sure that philosophy is an integral part of the health care in Calvary.  Grounded in the history of the healing ministry of Jesus the sisters provide respect and quality care for the sick and dying.  The Little Company of Mary Health Care manages the service in three Adelaide hospitals.  The Sisters’ vision, mission and philosophy are presented to the staff to provide quality health care.  Patients are individuals not statistics.  The value and uniqueness of each person is recognised.  All staff and volunteers are included in the Little Company of Mary.

Jill Hutt doesn’t like change.  But it is a part of life to be embraced or to be dragged along.  Jill provides pastoral care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and at the women’s prison.  She lost self esteem through unemployment then turned to pastoral care among the elderly.  When she first went to the women’s prison, the dormitory accommodation reminded her of the nurses’ homes where she did her training.  Many women in prison have health issues. Then she was asked to go the QEH.  It has been a journey of hope and development. God grants us the serenity to accept what we can’t change, the courage to change what we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Kimberley Davis acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, also those who have gone before us struggling to pass on their faith.  From the Office for the Participation of Women, she advises bishops on women’s issues.  Her work is to promote the participation of women in the Catholic Church.  Traditional attitudes are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus.  Young women are involved in the church but not necessarily in CWL.  It is encouraging that 25.8% of the population claim to be Catholic even if they don’t all attend church.  Women need to be fully involved in the church to increase it’s vitality.

VISITORS to the Conference from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea also Ukrainian Catholic Women were welcomed. Gifts were exchanged and we received greetings from them.

NATIONAL PRESIDENT, Mary Schultz spoke to her report (printed in Conference booklet) and thanked all present, especially members who had represented the national body during its term of office. She then welcomed visitors to the Conference introducing: Olya Kolomyjec, Founding President, Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League Australia, Tui Pasco, National President of New Zealand and Lucy Muru of Papua New Guinea and their members. Greetings and gifts were exchanged and songs sung. 

Sr Patricia Pak Poy RSM AM
Michelle Rawady
Josephine Baxter

Sr Patricia visited the refugee camp and spoke to 31 victims of mines.  Mines attack anyone not just soldiers.  Telling their stories released their anger because someone else knew their stories.  It is 10 years since the ban but people are still dying and being maimed. Sr Pat was asked to help educate people about Aids.  When a woman’s husband died of Aids everything she had was burnt because people were afraid. No-one knew how it spread.  Through funding from Caritas young people were sent from group to group teaching.  Hope was restored. Governments have funds to help but don’t usually use it for refugees. We can all do something for the human dignity of everyone.

Michelle Rawady is Deputy Principal of Xavier College.  She spoke about bullying.  School children are being taught how to react to bullies.  One in six children are bullied sometime.  Many don’t think it can be changed. Look for signs – when children don’t want to go to school; are tearful and claim they have no friends; don’t talk of school; have torn clothing , belongings stolen and don’t sleep well.  Anyone who is different can be bullied.  There is now more emphasis on cyber bullying.  Photos can be taken on mobile phones and placed on the internet.  Talk to your children and report any bullying.  Some cases of cyber bullying can be punished by the law.

Josephine Baxter from Drug Free Australia aims to get prevention back on the agenda. Drug Free Australia now has 10,000 members working for harm prevention or harm minimisation.  One in three families is affected.  43% of young people know people affected. The very young are being pressured to experiment.  Australia has the highest use of drugs in the world.  Cannabis is seen to be legal because it only brings a fine.  Parents need to talk to their kids about drugs and make time for them. 

The new Executive 2008 -2009 from Western Australia was presented, members introduced by Karyn Kammann, President Elect.

National President Mary Schultz led Prayer before leaving the Town Hall: “God our Father, through the gospel and the Eucharist bring your people together in the Holy Spirit and guide us in your love. Make us, members of Catholic Women’s League, a sign of your love for all people, and help us to show forth the loving presence of Christ in the World, for he is Lord, for ever and ever. Go, in the Peace, and may Christ make all your journeys home safe.”

Conference closed with Mass in the Cathedral, concelebrated by Bishop Eugene Hurley DD, who, in his homily, stated that Jesus lifted up on the Cross, triumphed over sin and became our hero.   He put his body on the line for us.  Women also sacrifice themselves for their families.  We only sacrifice ourselves for important reasons so the Cross is important – an unconditional sign of Love.


Conference Photo Gallery: Click here







43rd National Biennial Conference
Adelaide SA
12-14 September 2007