What a blessing to be able to meet with Catholic women of faith from throughout the world and to be privy to the expertise of the women who provided so many points of reflection on the state of the world from the perspective of faith, environment, and geo-politics. The various speakers, while being realistic, left all with a sense of optimism. If, as Father Whelan stated in his homily, we spend time discerning who we are as women of faith, dream, and allow “hope to flourish”, we have no reason to fear. God is good, all the time. His Holiness is probably one of the most visible living examples of this optimism, while we recognize the myriad number doing their parts daily to secure a better world.
The subjects that concerned the people of Jesus’ time are with us today: family and all its challenges and joys, migration, care for the planet, securing peace, equality of persons, and seeking holiness while evil seeks to divide and destroy. If we, as WUCWO women, are truly “artisans of peace, justice, encounter”, as President Maria Giovanna noted, we have our work cut out for us in the universal church. It was poignant to hear the contradictions voiced regarding solving world hunger while trying to find water on the moon, for example. This emphasized the need for women, raised to be nurturers, to assume an even more prominent role in solving problems worldwide through their involvement. How to mitigate the strains on people, planet and church, we acknowledge through belonging to this world body that our challenges are everyone’s challenges.
Years ago at a national convention of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, keynote speaker, Mary-Jo Leddy, recounted a story about a woman who had recently arrived in Toronto at Romero House. When a recent arrival pondered aloud who lived in the house at the back of the property, no one at first understood to what she was referring until it was noted that this building was “a house for a car”, at which point the statement sounded ludicrous. This prompted a re-purposing of the garage into living quarters for future arrivals. This simple concrete example leads me, as president of a national body that represents almost 80,000 women, to reflect on how we can make the world a better place through our single and combined efforts.
The two most recent two-year themes, Inspired by the Spirit: Women Respond to God’s call (2017-2019) l, and Care for Our Common Home (2019-2021), indicate how our membership is being encouraged and supported with every effort made to grow towards holiness through action, and to help bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, again through action. Throughout the 42 pages of notes I took during the study days and the statutory days in Dakar, the common theme kept emerging: all are thirsting in different ways. Those of us in the material west seem to have so much, but yet so many are seeking the joy that may only be experienced through Jesus’ presence in every molecule of our beings. Knowing this cognitively and addressing it through mitigating our spiritual hunger, even unknown, is a huge challenge.
What the members of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada have been inspired to do as “living water” is to reach out to the homeless, those dispossessed from their homes due to violence, single mothers and children fleeing their homes, the physically and mentally ill among us, our indigenous sisters and brothers, and to advocate for justice for all. While not easy at the best of times, the knowledge that our “ants’ work” is relieving in some small way the suffering of others, gives hope that a better world may be achieved. Women need to assume even more today their rightful place as leaders in this work.
The physical act of traveling to Dakar, Senegal, played a huge part in the overall experience of the WUCWO conference. It was necessary to see both the beauty of the countryside and the indomitable spirit of the people, while at the same time the pain of those lacking the necessary resources. The tour of Goree Island, which was more of a pilgrimage, recalled the untold suffering of millions, something that is now burned into me. This provides the motivation to reflect upon how our lack of concern for our brothers and sisters has had a huge impact on an entire race, and how we must never forget to relate our personal actions to the greater world. All is connected to God, who must weep when we cause suffering, and who must smile when we live the new covenant brought by Jesus’ presence with us.
Catholic Women's League of Canada