Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols says the contibution of women in the Church is essential, as they take “the lead in studying and acting upon crucial issues in our society.”
The prelate affirmed this in a message sent to mark the 75th Anniversary of the National Board of Catholic Women (NBWC), which was celebrated 21-22 June.
“I wish to thank most sincerely the NBCW for its valuable contribution to the life of the Church in England and Wales since its formation at the invitation of Cardinal Hinsley,” the cardinal writes. “On the occasion of the NBCW’s Golden Jubilee, another of my predecessors, Cardinal Hume, said: ‘The Bishops’ Conference needs to hear from women about the concerns and views of women in the Church on topics which seem to women to be the most crucial or fundamental’. Twenty-five years later much has been achieved as the Board takes the lead in studying and acting upon crucial issues in our society.”
Citing Pope Francis, Cardinal Nichols acknowledged “’the need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 103). Looking to the future, I am confident that the NBCW can play its part in realising the Holy Father’s vision so that the joy of the Gospel may be shared ever more widely.”
Established in 1939, the NBWC promotes the presence, participation and responsibilities of Catholic women in the Church and society.
Some 60 representatives of womens’ organisations, dioceses and groups from across England and Wales gathered at Newman University in Birmingham to celebrate the anniversary, and to hear updates about the breadth of members’ work at its AGM.
Pearl Clarke, President of the NBCW, said: “The 75th Anniversary celebrations provide a wonderful opportunity to give thanks to God for all that has been achieved through the hard work and generosity of generations of Catholic women in England and Wales. Our members are tireless in their efforts to serve the Church’s mission, from taking part in discussions at the UN, to seeking new ways to serve the poorest of the poor. If you’re a Catholic woman who is interested in finding out more about sharing your gifts in service of the Gospel and the Church, do get in contact with us.”
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, and liaison Bishop with the NBCW said: “Pope Francis highlighted at the beginning of his Pontificate that one of the areas he was hoping to explore was the role of women in the Church, and he has since affirmed in Evangelii Gaudium (103) that women make an ‘indispensable contribution’ to society through the ‘sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.’ I am delighted to be liaison Bishop with the Board and have been moved and impressed by the passion, professionalism and energy that members display for Jesus Christ and the Church’s mission, as well as the campaigning and lobbying that is done in support of the most vulnerable in our communities.”
A resolution was made at the AGM to adopt St Hilda and St Winefride as patron saints. St Hilda played a significant role in the conversion of England to Christianity, while the Welsh St Winefride has inspired generations through her life of service and holiness; a Shrine and Well both dedicated to St Winefride, at Holywell in Flintshire, have been places of pilgrimage and healing for over 13 centuries.
Attendee at the Anniversary conference, Nikki Petch, representing the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, said: “This is such a dynamic forum for Catholic women. I value being a member of the Board enormously and find it a source of inspiration and encouragement as I try to live and share my faith and serve the Church.”