At the end of the 19th century there were many women's societies across Europe. In Tiverton, North Devon, a woman named Mrs Chichester decided to create a similar society to the Mothers Union but with a Catholic emphasis. With the help of her sister, Miss Berkeley, she drew up a scheme for the Union of Catholic Mothers. The UCM officially began in 1913, when the Catholic Women's League received a mandate from His Eminence Cardinal Bourne to form and organise a Union of Catholic Mothers.
The UCM began fairly slowly during and immediately after WWI, but by the late 1920s had grown enough to expand and a constitution drawn up. At this point the UCM was still a part of the Catholic Women's League, but by 1930 it was a large enough organisation to push for an independent existence. Also in 1930 a member of the UCM became the first Catholic woman councillor in the city of Manchester.
During WWII the activities of the UCM were limited to local foundation level, but members were very involved in the war effort, for example in clothing drives for bombed out families and refugees.
The Annual Pilgrimage to Walsingham began in 1946 as a thank you to Our Lady for Peace, and continues to the present day on the first Tuesday in July. For many years we were the only organisation allowed to go in procession to the Abbey grounds and hold a service there.
In 1960, in a response to a call from the Holy Father to help the world's starving, the UCM helped the National Board of Catholic Women to organise a 'Family Fast Day' to be held on Ember Friday in Lent. Families would reduce what they ate for a day and give the money saved to a Third World project. Within a few years a Commission for Overseas Development was set up by the Bishops to administer the funds raised by Family Fast Days - the beginnings of CAFOD.
Post war the organisation continued to grow and by 1963 there were approximately 28,000 members. The Golden Jubilee was held in the Royal Albert Hall, a venue large enough to accommodate the 6000 members who attended.
Throughout its history the UCM has been involved with current affairs, particularly those that have an impact on the family. The National Committee ensures that members are kept informed about parliamentary activity and encourages members to exert pressure on matters that concern them.
In the twenty first century members continue to live out the aims and objectives. In 2013 the UCM celebrated its hundredth year with a Mass in Westminster Cathedral, attended by over 1000 members from dioceses around the country. It was particularly appropriate that our centenary coincided with Pope Benedict XVI Year of Faith, 'a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith'. The members of the UCM have been called to serve and share responsibility for the Church's mission and the need for the work of the UCM is vitally important in an increasingly secularised world.
Intentions that Pope Francis wants us to pray for this month