Brenda Finlayson, WUCWO Vice President General and WUCWO Board Member Australia, has been awarded the Papal Honour of Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great in recognition of her service to the Church, WUCWO, the Catholic Women’s League Australia the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga, and the Australian community. A retired secondary school teacher, wife, mother and grandmother, Brenda has been an extraordinary witness to the faith. Brenda will be invested by Bishop Peter Connors at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat, in November.
Founded in 1910, WUCWO now represents 100 Catholic women's organisations worldwide with a membership of more than 5 million women. WUCWO’s aim is 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. WUCWO was the first international Catholic organisation to receive UN recognition as an NGO. WUCWO was also a force in the creation and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 2006, WUCWO was erected by the Holy See as a Public International Association of the Faithful. This week, WUCWO is celebrating a century of service by women for the Church and society at their Centenary Assembly in Jerusalem.
The Board of WUCWO is currently made up of 27 members from the five WUCWO Regions – Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America – each woman representing the Catholic women’s organisation(s) of her country. Brenda has served on the Board of WUCWO since 2001. Her husband, Peter, is a retired agricultural scientist who has worked in 35 countries with the United Nations, AusAID, the Asian Development Bank and unilateral aid agencies in those countries. Accompanying Peter when he travelled to developing countries as well as postings to Spain, Brazil and later Hungary, after the fall of communism, led Brenda to a deeper understanding of the importance of aid, “not just money but technical advice, education, and giving people the opportunity to better themselves”.
As WUCWO Vice President General, Brenda has been responsible for leading WUCWO’s lobbyists in several key international agencies. WUCWO has consultative status with the United Nations and is present at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York and Geneva; the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome; the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva; the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva;and UNESCO in Paris. WUCWO is also present at the Council of Europe. WUCWO’s representatives, working at the highest level of international civic society, enunciate the tenets of the Catholic Church on all matters pertaining to ‘the common good.’ Brenda says that “this facet of WUCWO work is tremendously important, as it is becoming increasingly more difficult to combat the anti-Christian influence exerted on UN policy by atheistic humanists embedded in the United Nations and at the Council of Europe. What is instigated there, slowly but surely, infiltrates into legislation of UN states, Australia included. It is imperative that WUCWO is supported to continue in this vital apostolate.”
WUCWO women also undertake advocacy for those whose human development is impeded by poverty, apathy, corrupt governance or unjust laws, stressing the lack of the appreciation of the dignity of each human person by all those who violate it in any way.
As the Convenor of WUCWO’s Communications, Information and Publications Permanent Committee and as Editor of the WUCWO Official Newsletter ‘Women’s Voice’ (published also in French and Spanish), Brenda has also been responsible for sharing information about the work of ‘ordinary’ Catholic women performing ‘extraordinary’ tasks for ‘the common good’ all around the world and highlighting WUCWO’s strong commitment to and interaction with the Holy See. In 2008, Brenda spoke about the role and mission of women at the International Congress, Mulieris Dignitatem.
Brenda says that although “the workload has been extremely demanding, I have been the recipient of many blessings, including the friendship of women from many other countries, the opportunity to meet with wonderful people in the countries visited in the course of my duties, and the interaction with senior Church personnel visited within the dicasteries of the Holy See. I take this opportunity to express my thanks to CWLA leadership and members for their affirmation and support in this unique work for Church and society.”
Published by CAM