Several members of the Catholic Women’s League of Aotearoa NZ spent some days in May attending a general assembly of Catholic Women’s Organisations in Assisi, in Italy.
This was under the auspices of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO). The general assembly, from May 14-20, was attended by 1500 delegates from 47 organisations from throughout the world, and involved women from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and the Pacific.
On May 13, the women from WUCWO had an audience with Pope Francis in Rome, before travelling to Assisi for the general assembly. A special highlight was the Pope shaking the hand of Catholic Women’s League (NZ) national treasurer, Zella McGirr, one of the party from Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Pope’s key message to the women focused on women’s capacity for self-giving, which can bring peace to the world.
He encouraged women to help others find peace through their capacity to build relationships. He urged them to look to the future with their eyes and hearts open to the world, and to listen to the lament of so many women in the world who suffer injustice, abandonment, discrimination, human trafficking, and poverty.
The WUCWO general assembly is a four-yearly gathering, at which Catholic women share their faith experiences and strengthen each other by prayer and listening. The assembly formulates actions and resolutions to guide member organisations for the following four years.
The assembly in Assisi examined the role of women in the Church. The discussion was wide-ranging with an emphasis on synodality. One speaker posed the question, “What if the Church was really a mother?” What difference would we see?
In 2023, WUCWO launched The World Women’s Observatory in Africa. This is a programme of listening to, and telling the stories of women, especially the most vulnerable. The aim is to bring about meaningful change in their lives by making them visible. The assembly agreed to extend the observatory to other parts of the world.
The 2023-2027 Resolutions covered issues of religious freedom, the global food crisis, a call to ecological conversion, strengthening families, caring for migrants and refugees, and synodality and the formation of women for full participation in the Church.
CWLANZ president Susan Dickson said that Damian Walker, the artist who wrote the new national Marian icon, gifted a copy of the full icon and a special edition of the head and shoulders of the Hata Maria Madonna and Child, to take to Rome and Assisi to give as gifts to Pope Francis and the WUCWO leaders.
“We also had collected around a hundred of the cards from the icon’s hikoi to give to other delegates at the general assembly. Our beautiful icon has now travelled to many countries across the world,” Mrs Dickson said.
The out-going president-general agreed to pass the gift on to the Pope’s secretary, she added.
Photo: (From left) Liz Roche, Zella McGirr and Susan Dickson with a stall set up in Italy to display items from New Zealand, including a copy and a section of ‘Ko Hāta Maria, te Matua Wahine o te Atua — Holy Mary, Mother of God’ by Damien Walker