Preserve the dignity of the human person
“I believe in the genius of women. Even in the darkest periods that genius is found, which is the leaven of human progress and history.” Blessed Pope John Paul II
The Catholic Women’s League of Australia (CWLA) is the national peak body representing the League's six member organisations located throughout Australia. Addressing social justice and ethical questions is one of our primary tasks. We seek to influence legislative and administrative bodies at all levels in order to preserve the dignity of the human person. We strive to be a voice for the voiceless.
We are a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and have consultative (Roster) status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
We are a member organisation of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO) and work together with 5 million women in more than 60 countries to promote the presence, participation and co-responsibility of Catholic women in society and the Church, in order to enable them to fulfil their mission of evangelisation and to work for human development. In 2006, WUCWO was erected by the Holy See as a Public International Association of the Faithful.
Our Vision 2018-2019
To create a more just society through prayer and action
We will strive to emulate the faith, courage, determination and love of our founder, Margaret fletcher and the women who have led us forward to this day. To continue to affirm the dignity of women in family, religious and single life, and to encourage the participation of women in the Mission of the Church; to nurture and respect their God-given gifts and to using these gifts wisely. To collaborate effectively with women of other faiths.
Unique history and charism
Each of our Member Organisations has its own unique history and charism.
The League in NSW can trace its origins back to the Catholic Women’s Association which was founded in Sydney in 1913. Although initially a forum where ‘Sydney’s Catholic women could meet and enjoy each other’s company…’,1 it gradually transformed ‘from an organisation with an almost exclusive interest in social activities to one with a dominating charitable function…’.2 CWL South Australia was established in 1914 along the same principles as the Catholic Women’s League in England, uniting Catholic women in a bond of common fellowship for the promotion of religious and intellectual interests and, social work. The Catholic Women’s Social Guild, now known as the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga, was a new ecclesiastical movement founded in 1916 by a small group of visionary young professional women who sought to change the world through prayer and action.
The League in Queensland was modelled on the Catholic Daughters of America. “In 1927 when Archbishop James Duhig approached the Ladies Committee of the Seamen’s Catholic Club and suggested the formation of a branch of the Catholic Daughters of Australia (CDA), he could hardly have imagined what lay ahead.”3 The Catholic Women’s League of Tasmania was modelled on the League in South Australia but was also influenced by the Catholic Women’s Social Guild of Victoria—a branch opened in Hobart in early 1936.
The Catholic Women’s League of Western Australia was established along similar principles to both the Leagues in South Australia and England. At the time of their foundation in October 1936, CWLWA also benefited from a visit by Countess de Hemptinne of Belgium, President of the International Junior Catholic Women’s League, who was travelling to Adelaide to attend the Seventh Interstate and Overseas Conference of Catholic Women.
The League in Canberra and Goulburn began as a small group in St Christopher’s Parish, Canberra, in 1945 but ‘the intervening years have seen it develop and grow, spreading to the city of Goulburn and to towns and country centres throughout the archdiocese.’4
In the Northern Territory, the League, then known as the Council of Catholic Women, was established in 1962. Sadly, the League is no longer operating in the Northern Territory but we hope and pray that it will be re-established.
The various Catholic women’s organisations started to work together at the national level as early as 1928. Our Federal Conferences grew out of the International Eucharistic Congress held in Sydney that year.5 This first gathering of representatives of Catholic women’s organisations in Australia was such a success that they ‘…agreed to hold Inter-State Conferences at regular intervals, and to combine in as many ways as possible to influence public opinion.’6 As a consequence, the Federal Council of Catholic Women was formed, uniting women throughout Australia in prayer and action.7
‘At the 1961 Conference in Canberra, the name of the Federal Council of Catholic Women was changed to the Australian Council of Catholic Women.'8 At the national conference in Canberra in 1975, the peak representative body was re-named the Catholic Women's League Australia.9
1 Hilary Carey, Truly Feminine Truly Catholic: A History of the Catholic Women, 1987, p 9.
3 Most Reverend John Bathersby, Archbishop of Brisbane, Foreword of ‘The Essence of a Vision’ by Rita A. Daley, May 1997.
4 Sheila M. Tilse, A Power for Good, 1998, p 1.
5 Lucille Quinlan M.A. and Ursula Clinton B.A., What is this Catholic Women’s Guild, 1938, p 19.
8 Rita A. Daley, ‘The Essence of a Vision’, 1997, p 47.
We are dedicated to building a culture of life
We are dedicated to building a culture of life; advocating for the respect of human rights with a particular focus on women and children; promoting the teaching of Christ and his Church concerning the dignity, integrity and freedom of the human person; promoting and supporting the formation of women to meet contemporary challenges; upholding the dignity of women through education and encouraging their participation in social and public life; promoting and supporting the duty of Catholic women to be educated in the teachings and traditions of the Church; promoting the role of lay women in the mission of the Church; and enabling women to participate more effectively in working for and building the Kingdom of God on earth.
CWLA also liaises with other organisations and faith communities in a creating awareness about social justice and ethical issues. We foster ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue.
We promote and support vocations to the priesthood, religious life and single life as well as to Christian marriage and family.
CWLA is based on the collegiate system of governance where delegates from the seven Member Organisations form the National Council, the governing body of CWLA, and Council members are authorized by their respective bodies to make decisions on their behalf. The National Council has such powers as are necessary to enable the CWLA to carry out its Aims and objects and the authority to act as necessary to further the Aims and Objects of CWLA (CWLA Constitution Para 6B). The CWLA National Executive executes the decisions and policies of the National Council as well as conducting and managing the day to day business of CWLA (CWLA Constitution Para 18A and C).
Our National International Secretary, National Bioethics Convenor and the National Social Issues Convenor are non-voting members of the National Council but have the right to engage in discussion and debate. The WUCWO Board Member Australia also attends National Council Meeting and also has the right to speak but not the right to vote.
Our Research Officer assists the National Executive and National Convenors by undertaking research and the primary drafting of documents; preparing submissions for Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry; and conducting her own research under the direction of the National President.
The League's Prayer
A blessing on the works performed by
the members of the Catholic Women’s League.
I pray that, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
and through the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians,
more women will become participating
members of the Catholic Women’s League.
Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Imprimatur W. Brennan
League Organisations across Australia
Our Member Organisations are active in each State and the Australian Capital Territory. Each Member Organisation is an autonomous incorporated entity, with its own Constitution and Executive.
Branch members are the backbone of each League Member Organisation. Members throughout Australia participate in the spiritual and practical aspects of their local parishes while also supporting the works carried out by their respective State/Territory Member Organisations as well as the work of the Catholic Women’s League Australia.
Gospel discussions and prayers are a key element of League meetings at all levels.
If you are interested in joining your local Branch of the League, please contact the League organisation in your State or Territory.
If you would like to support the work of the Catholic Women’s League Australia, please contact us at email@example.com or on 0439 781 240.