SECRETARY'S ANNUAL REPORT - 2015
Faith, Friendship, Fun
As members welcomed in the New Year, they eagerly awaited the announcement of the new Ecclesiastical Bishop for The Union of Catholic Mothers. In the Spring it was announced that The Rt. Rev. Alan Williams SM, the Bishop of Brentwood was to be the new Ecclesiastical Advisor for The Union of Catholic Mothers. Bishop Alan is well known to UCM as he was the Director of the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. The National President, Mrs Maureen Mayers on hearing the news of Bishop Alan's appointment said, 'The UCM National Committee and all the members warmly welcome Bishop Alan as our Episcopal Bishop. We look forward to his participation in the life of UCM through National Council and the Walsingham Pilgrimage and in particular his spiritual help and advice for our members.'
Arundel and Brighton also welcomed their new Bishop, The Rt. Rev Richard Moth, and over the summer they joined in with their diocese as they celebrated fifty years as a diocese; they also welcomed Canon Tom Treharne as their new Ecclesiastical Advisor. Nottingham welcomed The Rt. Rev. Patrick McKinney as the tenth Bishop of Nottingham. Earlier in the year Liverpool Archdiocese said goodbye to their UCM Chaplain, Fr Mark Madden and welcomed Fr David Potter. Clifton members were saddened to hear that Canon Kevin Mortimer had died; he had been their Spiritual Advisor for over ten years but retired because he suffered from motor neurone illness; Clifton welcomed Fr Vincent Curtis as their new Spiritual Adviser. Our thanks go to all our Chaplains who are always there for us, helping us in keeping our faith strong as well as helping us to keep focussed on the Aims and Objectives of the UCM in our daily lives.
This year saw CathCom become the new Publisher for The Catholic Mother newspaper and the issues of the paper were reduced to three copies per year. Thanks go to the Media Team of Mrs Caroline Mills, National Media Officer and Mrs Ann Jones, Features Editor for working hard with CathCom to produce the newspapers. At the same time the Trustees, with CathCom, began the process of redesigning the UCM Website, www.theucm.co.uk, a daunting task which took much longer than anticipated. A success of 2015 was the introduction of the new UCM Facebook page, now used and liked by many members; please urge all those who have a computer to use our UCM Facebook page, so that our organisation may figure more prominently in this technological world. Northampton UCM also have their own Facebook page which members are using to post photographs of events as well as sharing information. Throughout the year, members have been informed of both good and bad news.
Congratulations were sent to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their daughter Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge and a Thank You card has been received from their Royal Highnesses. A Congratulations card was also sent to her Majesty the Queen as her 63-year-reign surpassed Queen Victoria's record for the longest-reigning monarch in British history. The Queen thanked The Union of Catholic Mothers for the kind message, good wishes and assurance of our prayers. Sadly, on Friday 13th November, the news broke of the atrocities in Paris and so quite rightly The Union of Catholic Mothers offered condolences and prayers to the people of France. The President of France, Francois Hollande, thanked members for their support and solidarity saying that the French people have taken comfort from all the messages and that 'these testimonies have deeply touched us because they carry within them the aspiration of all humanity for peace, respect, friendship between all people. They are a comfort and encouragement to remain what we are, a people who love freedom, equality and fraternity, the universal values that the world needs more than ever'.
Mrs Maureen Woodward for the final time, ably organised the National Study, Welfare and Media Conference, the theme being 'Caring in the Family' and the Speakers covered various aspects of care within society. They included a Presentation about The Samaritans by Pauline Walsh who gave an interesting and educational talk. Clare Ward from The Catholic Communications Network explained the good points about communication and delegates were reminded that St Paul had no modern means of communications like email and texts; she advised delegates to keep it simple as St Paul did, choose the words carefully and write a clear and concise article. Darren Maltby, Advice and Information Officer for The Royal British Legion, gave a heart rending account of his private life so that delegates could understand how he came to be volunteering in the Organisation. His account enabled us all to have a better understanding of how to deal with family and friends. Zena Aldridge from Admiral Nurses gave a wonderful presentation about the various forms of dementia; one comment was that it is a pity that the Admiral Nurses are not more widespread across the country as they do such tremendous work with those suffering from dementia. It is pleasing to note that a number of Dioceses have invited the Admiral Nurses to speak at meetings; Sally Rylance from Admiral Nurses for Birmingham and Solihull NHS, was invited to speak at the Birmingham Archdiocese Study Day. The talk was just as interesting and inspiring as the one at the National Study, Welfare and Media Conference. Members heard that Admiral Nurses differ from other services to people with dementia in that they concentrate on the carer rather than the sufferer, helping them not only with the practical problems of caring for someone with dementia but also addressing their own emotional needs, which are so often overlooked. At the National Study, Welfare and Media Conference the group discussions concerning Study, Welfare and Media were very well received; delegates were able to discuss their concerns, ask questions and share ideas and then inform their dioceses when they returned home. Father John McNamee, who gave the Reflection, suggested that it is not always easy to listen, it is much easier to be a Speaker; St Benedict's first word in his Rule is 'listen'. 'We are not here to judge. We need to share the good things we have heard,' advised Fr McNamee. Birmingham Archdiocese hosted the Conference and Northampton prepared the Liturgy.
The National Officers attend many meetings and monitor many websites on behalf of The Union of Catholic Mothers; as well as compiling reports for inclusion in the monthly National Officers' Reports, some are printed in The Catholic Mother newspaper on a regular basis. Mrs Sheila Godley, National Vice President reported that the Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa May, had met with church leaders from different denominations to address concerns about human trafficking; Churches Together advised that more needs to be put into the Modern Slavery Bill to meet the needs of the victims. Mrs Godley has also advised that various churches and networks of Churches Together have produced papers, guidelines and resources to help Christians in England make informed selections for the General Election. Mrs Anne Emblem, as the new National Vice President, attended the National Council of Women Annual Conference and reported that the following Resolutions were passed:
1. Treatment of women asylum seekers in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre.
2. Removal of VAT on sanitary products.
3. Social care provision; the need for the Cavendish report to be mandated.
4. Addressing the needs of children in care and keeping them out of trouble.
Mrs Emblem also reported on the key messages of Proclaim '15; it is a point in an important journey. It is not a short sprint. It is a long haul. Helping our parishes to become missionary parishes, communities of evangelisation, rooted in the mystery of God and sharing in the mission of Jesus himself, is a long process. Our mission starts in our prayer. There is a movement called 'Mother's Prayers'. It started quietly some years ago now, with just one anguished mother, and has spread to over 30 countries. It is what it says: the prayers of mothers for their children and for each other. It has spread entirely without deliberation, just by the power of example and providence. Here are some of their axioms:
1 'We must always let God Be God ' keep it simple, let God bless you and make you holy.
2 'In Mother's Prayers we can take our masks off. God called us to be here. We've all said Yes. Nothing is too difficult for God.
3 'Lord, I can't but you can', that's what Mothers Prayers is. 'Give each day to the Lord and opportunities will come'.
4 'Always ask for gentleness and a loving approach'
Mrs Val Ward as National Vice President, has kept members informed of news from The Bishops' Conference Website, notably The Call, The Journey and The Mission and Proclaim '15. She also reported on Pro Life Issues and members were shocked to hear that almost 170,000 IVF embryos are destroyed in Britain each year. 'Failure to respect and protect human life in its earliest stages leads to a disrespect for life at every other stage. There should be an honest and open reappraisal of the legislation which permits this to happen'. Since becoming National Vice President in May, Mrs Mary Piper has continued to monitor the Websites as well as updating members about The Catholic Union and attending the Annual General Meeting. She reiterated that Pope Francis has said ?Do not be content to live a mediocre Christian Life, walk with determination along the path of holiness?; this is what UCM members follow, as a group and in conjunction with other Catholics. Mrs Piper enjoyed her first visit to the National Justice and Peace Conference as National Vice President. The theme was ?Things that make for Peace?; the call was for people to build peace in our communities and across the world. She found it to be a very interesting and thought provoking Conference.
Mrs Agnes Milne, Northampton Justice and Peace Officer also attended the Conference and she has encouraged members in her diocese to be involved in discussions connected to The Synod of the Family and the question of Climate Change, especially Pope Francis? thoughts in Laudato Si.
Since becoming National President at the Annual General Meeting in May, Mrs Val Ward has attended a number of meeting on behalf of the Union of Catholic Mothers. However last October, together with Mrs Maureen Meatcher, she attended a meeting on behalf of The National Board of Catholic Women in the House of Lords. The event was organised to launch the Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith by Aid to The Church in Need. The meeting was chaired by Lord David Alton of Liverpool and Speakers included Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo and Tobias Ellwood MP. Victoria Yohanna a young 15-year-old Nigerian spoke about her ordeal when she was kidnapped by Boko Harem and Timothy Cho also spoke about being tortured in North Korea. Mrs Ward has urged members to keep these people and their countries in our prayers.
In July Mrs Val Ward and Mrs Irene Mitchell attended a reception hosted by the Apostolic Nuncio at Westminster; this was a good opportunity to meet the Apostolic Nuncio, Cardinal Nichols and spread the word about The Union of Catholic Mothers.
Mrs Maureen Meatcher, International Officer, advised members that the Women?s World Day of Prayer had been composed by ladies from the Bahamas; the Bahamas is one of the most prosperous countries in West Indies, but there are also areas of deprivation; many women are poorly paid and single parent families are common and mothers often struggle to support their families. As Mrs Meatcher said ?women all over the world are suffering from the same problems so we show our mutual support on this special day of prayer?. She also stated that the World Union of Catholic Women?s Organisation began 2015 with the celebration of the first International Day of Prayer and a Reflection against Human Trafficking. In the words of Saint Pope John Paul II, ?The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offence against human dignity and is a grave violation of fundamental rights?. Mrs Meatcher also reported that Europe is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees and CAFOD?s mandate from the Bishops? Conference of England and Wales is to support poor communities overseas. CAFOD has urged all to pray for the refugees facing exploitation around the world and support the refugees were possible.
The Union of Catholic Mothers agreed to sign a joint letter, instigated by Ekklesia, to Mr Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Minister, in which it was stated that the evidence shows how both the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the changes currently being pushed through will ?make things worse? for elderly, sick, vulnerable and disabled people in Britain. The Union of Catholic Mothers is concerned that the Welfare Reform is impoverishing many families and sick and disabled people.
Both Mrs Shirley Brook and latterly Mrs Brigid Hegarty, as National Welfare Officers, have also reported on many issues relating to families; Poverty, Dementia, Young Suicide and Mental Well Being are just a few of the topics covered. As Saint Pope John Paul II stated in Familiaris Consortio, ?No one is without a family in this world; the church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who labour and are heavy laden?.
It seems that the family is under attack now more than ever before because of today?s culture of division that want to break from, and be free of, all everlasting bonds and forms of solidarity reported Mrs Maureen Hurst, Public Service Officer. MPs voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man so as Mrs Hurst stated, this is a hugely significant moment for families involved and Society as a whole.
The members were urged to contact MPs regarding the Assisted Suicide Bill and a plan for the right to die in England and Wales was rejected in September. Members were also urged to question their prospective parliamentary candidates especially about the needs of the family in the run up to the General Election.
Mrs Caroline Mills has advised members about ParentPort which is a government initiative set up to unite the UK?s major media regulators in order to enforce standards and protect children from inappropriate material. The Government is keen to hear the views of parents, grandparents and carers, so it is really important that we, as members of The Union of Catholic Mothers, send our comments to ParentPort, www.parentport.org.uk
The National Triennial Mass was held at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Salford on Saturday 25th April. It was attended by Mrs Maureen Mayers, UCM National President, her family and over five hundred members and guests. It was concelebrated by The Rt. Rev. John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, Bishop Terence Brain, Bishop Emeritus, Canon McBride, Frs. Steven Parkinson, John Williams, Leo Heakin, David Irwin, Michael Murray and David Potter. The National Banner was carried to the Sanctuary by the National Vice Presidents, Mrs Sheila Godley and Mrs Val Ward. The Readers were Mrs Angela Higginson, National Treasurer, Mrs Irene Mitchell, National Secretary, and the Gospel was read by Canon McBride. The gifts for the Offertory Procession, were carried by Grassroots members from Liverpool Archdiocese. Mrs Maureen Mayers presented Mrs Pauline Allen with a cheque for £14000 which had been raised by members for the National President?s nominated Charity ?Let The Children Live?. Before the final hymn the National President, Mrs Maureen Mayers was presented with the Bene Merenti Award by Bishop Emeritus Terence Brain.
Bishop John Arnold addressed the congregation saying that ?UCM is so important. We stand for marriage, for family life, the security of children growing into their future. We are proclaiming the Good News in a world which actually does not want to listen at the moment, but it will because if our world goes into its secular direction, people will understand it does not get anywhere. We have to come back to look at where God is asking us to be?. Bishop John thanked UCM and urged all to look to the future because ?UCM is still as strong as ever and the witness we give is so important in the world in which we live?. As St Mark says ?Go out to the whole world, proclaim the good news?.
The National Council and Annual General Meeting was held at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick from 11-13 May. It was hosted by Portsmouth Diocese and the Night Prayers were prepared by Shrewsbury Diocese. Once again there were long busy days, filled with fun, spirituality and business. Delegates listened to Presentations by the National Officers, entered into lively discussion about issues that are of concern and listened to the Guest Speakers. National Council began with Holy Mass led by The Rt. Rev. Alan Williams SM and concelebrated with the Diocesan Chaplains. Bishop Alan could only make a brief appearance at National Council but he hopes that as his diary calms down after a hectic first year as Bishop, he will be able to spend more time with UCM.
Kevin Lonergan from Galloways Society for The Blind was a humorous Speaker but he also, on a more serious and practical note, talked about loss of sight, diminishing sight and blindness and the various reasons why this can happen. Mrs Sheila Godley, National Vice President, bravely ?modelled? various glasses to depict different conditions, such as Macular Degeneration. Kevin reminded us that it is important ?to see the person first, don?t make assumptions, don?t see the disability, see the person?. Members who have sight impairment are indebted to those who, including Mrs Margaret McNicholas, UCM Past National President,
generously give up their time to record the Catholic Mother newspaper which Galloways produce free of charge to our sight impaired members. Part of the proceeds from the Raffle at Council are usually raised for Galloways. The second Speaker was Bishop Crispian Hollis, Bishop Emeritus of Portsmouth who gave a short talk on Sharing Faith and Communications. He spoke of how retirement has freed him to speak of his own personal faith as well as ?The Faith?. He also spoke about Pope Francis who he said is ?like a breath of fresh air for the Church and the world?. It was during the afternoon session that it was announced that Mrs Maureen Meatcher, International Officer, had been elected as the new President of the National Board of Catholic Women ? congratulations Maureen.
The ever popular social, organised by Portsmouth Diocese, took place after the second day of business. A trio of Ukulele players gave a variety of music and songs and then ?Rocking Rev?, Father Kevan from Lancaster Diocese, playing his accordion, entertained us; a wonderful evening was had by all.
The AGM saw the stepping down of National Officers, National Vice Presidents Mrs Sheila Godley and Mrs Val Ward and National Welfare Officer, Mrs Shirley Brook and Sub Committee Officer, Mrs Anne Nicol, Administrator for The National Holidays and Rest Homes Service who had completed their Term of Office. We welcomed Mrs Mary Piper and Mrs Anne Emblem as the new National Vice Presidents, Mrs Brigid Hegarty as the new National Welfare Officer and Mrs Lorraine Richards as the new Administrator for The National Holidays and Rest Homes Service. Mrs Pat Uglow completed her Term of Office as Minute Secretary; the National Secretary, Mrs Irene Mitchell is indebted for all Mrs Uglow?s help in compiling the Minutes for various meetings. Mrs Kate Moss will take over this role in May 2016 after she has completed her Term of Office as Liverpool?s Archdiocesan Secretary. Mrs Maureen Mayers completed her Term of Office as National President and she was thanked most warmly for generously giving up her time for UCM and leading the organisation over the past three years.
In response, Mrs Mayers has so many memories from her Term of Office as National President, happy and funny ones, but also some sad ones as long term members and old friends have gone. Mrs Mayers thanked all members around the country for their support, kindness and generosity shown to her. Mrs Val Ward was inaugurated during the closing Mass; she was accompanied by her husband John and daughter Deborah, a very proud moment. It was appropriate that John and Deborah were present as it is the support of our families which makes us able to be active members of The Union of Catholic Mothers.
Mrs Lorraine Richards, Administrator for The National Holidays and Rest Homes, and her predecessor, Mrs Anne Nicol, organised a number of holidays throughout the year. It is pleasing to note that The Union of Catholic Mothers, through their charitable act of raising funds for this service, have been able to provide holidays for people who would not have been able to have a break. Members read, in The Catholic Mother, about one couple who thoroughly enjoyed their holiday in Rustlington and they can?t wait to go again! Members are reminded that this service enables UCM to hold a charitable status so it is essential that it is promoted.
Members raise funds for so many different charities but many do this by partying, knitting, running, baking, quizzing, dressing up, having raffles, auctioning; members are enjoying themselves and at the same time raising funds for so many needy causes. Children?s hospices are well supported by many. St Colman?s in Portsmouth Diocese are raising funds for Jack?s Place which is an area in Naomi House for teenagers; they have received a copper leaf, with the foundation?s name engraved on, for the new ?Money Tree? as they have raised ?100. Watch this space as they hope to raise ?500 and so gain a silver leaf. The small foundation of Kinson, Plymouth Diocese hold bring and buy sales, raffles and cake sales to raise money for the Josesphite Community which is teaching the apostolate in the Congo as well as providing education for many young people. Once again Mrs Margaret Kerbey, Liverpool Archdiocesan Treasurer, has abseiled down Liverpool Cathedral to raise funds for Parkinsons UK and Liverpool UCM; this is becoming a regular occurrence, congratulations Margaret. Liverpool mums have also been knitting muffs for the Dementia Awareness programme ?Forget Me Not? - Twiddlemuffs, which are then adorned with buttons, ribbons or costume jewellery; these are then given to the patients to help soothe their anxieties by giving them something to stroke and to also keep their hands warm. Hallam mums have also been busy knitting bonnets for new-born babies in the Jessops Maternity Hospital, Sheffield. Many provide needy funds for HCPT, Hosanna House and Children?s Pilgrimage Trust, Alzheimer?s, Help for Heroes, The Charles Thompson Mission, Lifeboats, the Macmillan Nurses, the Medaille Trust, the Salvation Army, the Air Ambulance and Zoe?s Place, to name a few. Leeds held a ?Blooming Great Tea Party? for the Marie Curie nurses.
Members in Leeds have also raised funds for people in Peru; a Mission has been set up in Lima to help young people to stay in education. An orphanage in Bolivia is supported by St John?s Chorlton, Salford which houses 166 children under the age of seven; two women work day and night feeding and looking after these needy babies who have been abandoned, due to severe economic conditions. ?The Railway Children? is also supported by Salford UCM; this charity provides protection for children with nowhere else to go and nobody to turn to. These children are forced to leave homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect and it is imperative that they are helped before an abuser can reach them and they become entrenched in street life.
Over seven hundred members of the Union of Catholic Mothers and their families came together for the 70th Annual Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham which took place from 6th ? 7th July, the theme being ?Mary, Mother of Silence?. To celebrate this occasion, all were asked to wear a white rose. This was Mrs Val Ward?s first official duty at a UCM occasion as National President. East Anglia UCM, led by the Diocesan President, Mrs Maria Taverna, was the lead diocese. The Liturgy Booklet was compiled by Mrs Val Ward and the Walsingham Sub Committee and it included a special feature of the History of Walsingham and details of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The Rt. Rev. Alan Williams SM joined members at Walsingham in his first official role as our Ecclesiastical Advisor and both he and The Rt. Rev. Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia celebrated The Service of Light on Monday evening and Mass on Tuesday morning. The Mass on Tuesday 7th July was the first Mass to be live streamed at Walsingham. The concelebrated Mass began with the hymn ?All are welcome? and indeed all ladies, married or single, who are in sympathy with our Aims and Objectives, are welcome in The Union of Catholic Mothers. We also welcomed Monsignor John Armitage, the new Rector of the Walsingham Shrine and he presented a Novena of Masses to UCM to celebrate our 70th pilgrimage to Walsingham, a lovely and very special surprise.
The Silent Procession along the Holy Mile took place after lunch. One member from Salford commented ?once again, I was overcome with emotion as the bell tolled for us to start our silent procession and all one could hear were leaves rustling and birds twittering. It takes me back hundreds of years when our forefathers trod the same path ? barefoot, deep in prayer?. Bishop Lindsay Urwin, the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine joined the procession. The Service of the Sick and the Anointing in the Abbey Grounds, which was led by Fr Denys Lloyd, assisted by four other priests, took place as members were processing into Walsingham. The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was carried along the High Street in Walsingham by members of East Anglia UCM but later carried to the site of the original shrine by Leeds UCM. Mrs Val Ward led members in the UCM prayer followed by her Address and many members have commented that her Address was uplifting and inspiring and that all should take on board her call for action on recruitment. The Rt. Rev. Alan Williams SM then led us with the Renewal of Commitment and The Rt. Rev. Alan Hopes led us in Benediction and offered a Reflection.
It was a joyous, most spiritual and memorable pilgrimage. During the Pilgrimage Charlene Gabriel from Bermuda was enrolled into The Union of Catholic Mothers by Fr Michael Murray, Shrewsbury?s Spiritual Advisor. It was an emotional occasion and we are delighted that Charlene returned home hoping to begin UCM in Bermuda. Thanks go to the Walsingham Sub Committee, Mrs Maureen Smith, Administrator, Mrs Angela Mellors, Treasurer and Committee members Miss Elizabeth Dunn and Mrs Paddy Roberts for all their hard work in ensuring that we had a beautiful pilgrimage; also to Mrs Anne Emblem, National Vice President, for arranging transport to bring Charlene Gabriel to Walsingham and to the Westminster ladies for ensuring her safe return to London. Unfortunately, Mrs Caroline Mills, National Media Officer, was unable to travel to Walsingham; luckily Michael Babalola, Mrs Claudette Turner?s nephew (Brentwood?s Diocesan Treasurer) took many photographs to record our pilgrimage; thank you Michael, your support is very much appreciated.
Changes are happening in Walsingham; there is a three-year development plan for Our Lady?s Shrine and they plan to invest ?6 million in buildings and accommodation and ?4 million in developing the work of the Shrine. Members, on seeing stewards carrying the blue buckets, were encouraged to donate towards this worthy cause.
Some members of Southwark Archdiocese went on another pilgrimage to Lisieux in memory of Fiona Knight, joint President of St Bernadette?s foundation. Fiona had a special love for Saint Th?r?se and she had wanted members of the foundation to share this lovely place; however, sadly, Fiona died before the pilgrimage could take place. They visited the Basilica, a magnificent edifice, the Carmel convent where Saint Th?r?se was a Carmelite nun and is buried and the family home where she grew up. The whole experience was so spiritual and poignant for the group. They attended Mass and said the rosary at the Basilica and they said, ?we felt the presence of Fiona watching over us?.
Throughout the year members have been discussing ?UCM The Way Forward?. This thinking process was instigated by Mrs Terri Coombs, Past National Secretary, who wrote what has been described as a very relevant letter at this time in our history. Discussions took place in foundations and members were urged to send their ideas about The Way Forward to the National Secretary so that in-depth discussion could begin at the Diocesan Officers meeting which was held at St Chad?s Birmingham in October. Maybe the thought that we could lose all we have shared has really woken us all up. Maybe it was just what we all needed to realisehow much The Union of Catholic Mothers means in our lives. It seems that everyone, with the exception of a very small minority, wants to go forward. It was announced at this meeting that the National Committee has begun to streamline what has been described, by some, as a top heavy team; the National Vice Presidents have taken on the organisation and planning of the Study Days so there will no longer be a Study Days Sub Committee. A new initiative has also been set up, that is all National Officers have become Liaison Officers. Each National Officer has been assigned to the dioceses to give support; she is there to help in any way - mentor, recruiting, speak at meetings but not to take over. The National roles and job descriptions were thoroughly discussed at the National Committee meeting in November and all officers agreed to take on other responsibilities as National roles are rationalised. ?UCM The Way Forward? will continue to be on the agenda as these reviews are a permanent, ongoing reevaluation of UCM to ensure that we don?t fall behind. The National President, Mrs Val Ward, urged all members to be open to reflect and review and not to reject a fresh look at an old idea. She urged all to pray for inspiration and guidance as The Union of Catholic Mothers goes forward.
Mrs Frances Goodman, Nottingham Diocese, has commented that membersand she was remembered in members? prayers, she said ?UCM is about love and prayers and a feeling of belonging to each other. This is an organisation to which I feel privileged to belong?. Even though it has been reported that a number of foundations are struggling, many have elderly members who are unable to travel great distances to meetings; however, it is also reassuring to know that a number of foundations are seeing an increase in their membership. Stalybridge Foundation in Shrewsbury Diocese is going from strength to strength as is Norbury Foundation in Southwark Archdiocese.
Westminster Archdiocese reported that a new Foundation was established in Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church Heston; in March 12 members were presented with their UCM badges on this occasion. Fr. Robert Ehileme was chief celebrant on the day and it was due to his persistent encouragement and support that the group came to fruition.
Members in all dioceses continue to fulfil our fourth objective by supporting the frail and elderly and offering practical and emotional support to family, friends and parishioners. A family of a single disabled mother with three teenagers was helped by members in Clifton Diocese to move house but shortly after the move news broke that the mother and one child were killed in a road accident. UCM stepped in and arranged the funeral.
Members are prominent in many parishes by organising the flower arrangements, cleaning the Church, being Eucharistic Ministers and helping with the First Communion and Confirmation programmes.
During the early part of the year, members aired their thoughts on The Call, The Journey and The Mission in preparation for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican in October, The Vocation and Mission of the Family. All hope for love, happiness and security in the family unit; this is sometimes difficult in our materialistic world. We can lead by example by having a warm and welcoming influence on those who touch our lives in other spheres and the way we try to combat the negative influence of the media. All comments were forwarded to Elizabeth Davies, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
The National Secretary, Mrs Irene Mitchell, was privileged to be present at the Press Conference called by Cardinal Vincent Nichols and The Rt. Rev. Peter Doyle, on their return from Rome. Cardinal Nichols commented that ?It was immensely rich, encouraging, exhilarating and very tiring; three weeks of intense discussion by the Bishops from around the world, led and guided by Pope Francis, came together and discussed, some with strong feelings or disagreement, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World?. So after 54 hours in plenary discussion and 36 hours in discussion groups, Pope Francis will now decide on the way forward; we eagerly await the follow up material so that The Union of Catholic Mothers may give their views and thoughts.
Mrs Lorraine Richards, the National Holiday and Rest Homes Service Administrator, Mrs Diana Norma, Plymouth Diocesan President and Mrs Theresa Hearn, Plymouth Diocesan Secretary were present, with families from around the world, at St Peter?s Basilica for the Closing Mass of the Bishops? Synod on the Family; a very special occasion and lasting memories.
The Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon took place at The Thistle Hotel, London, in October. The keynote speaker was Fr Alexander Sherbrook of St Patrick?s Soho; once again four women received a special welcome at the Luncheon for their contribution to the life and work in the Catholic Church. This was Mrs Janette Woodford?s, UCM Past National President, final Luncheon as Chair of The Catholic Women of the Year; she has worked tirelessly over the years, together with her Committee, to ensure that Catholic women have been honoured and substantial sums of money have been raised for charity; thank you Janette for your time and commitment.
Members are informed through emails and The Catholic Mother newspaper of many important issues that relate to our Aims and Objectives. Prayer is extremely important and members get much comfort from knowing that The Union of Catholic Mothers are praying for their intentions, the sick, the housebound, the bereaved and special intentions. Bishop Alan has said ?The prayers and loving example of the UCM continue to be a support to so many, near and far?. Mrs Charlotte Toffolo, Clifton Diocese, suggests that there will never be ?perfect? times to pray but she finds that a little and often works well for her. Those members who cannot travel to meetings continue to be included in meetings by saying the Friends Circle Prayer; it is a way for them to participate from home and express their support for the work of UCM members.
Rosary Rallies, notably in Leeds and Northampton, Lenten Reflections, Days of Recollection, Advent Reflections, the Stations of the Cross, the Daily Mass Scheme, and joint Reflections with The Catholic Women?s League and The Mothers Union are important events in the UCM calendar. Crossing the Threshold is an initiative in Middlesbrough Diocese, which aims to reach out to Catholics who have not been to church for some time and to make it easier for them to return.
The Mothers of St. Aelred?s Church, together with Fr Bill Serplus, held a series of short services; during Lent they opened the church providing listening and friendship to anyone who needs it. Towards the end of the year, members were shocked to see the devastation caused by the flooding in Cumbria; special prayers were said for those who were suffering. The Prayer Tree in the Baby Memorial Chapel in Liverpool Cathedral which was installed for the Centenary, continues to be permanently heavy with prayers written by people of all ages and all nations, proving what a great need there is for prayer in the 21st century.
We said goodbye to many members this year but towards the end of the year we were saddened to hear about the death of Mrs Kathleen Plumb, Shrewsbury Diocesan President. She had worked tirelessly for UCM in her diocese and she will be sadly missed. In beginning of the celebrations for the Christmas season, members were shocked to hear that Fr Anthony Sudlow, Salford Diocesan Chaplain had died suddenly on 7th December at St Sebastian?s Pendleton. His Requiem Mass was held at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Salford with around 60 priests from the diocese and beyond and the Cathedral was full to overflowing; a respected and much loved priest who will be sadly missed not only by UCM Salford but by the whole UCM family; may all our deceased members rest in God?s Loving Care.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December, a Feast Day to Mary who is so important to The Union of Catholic Mothers, was the commencement of The ?Extraordinary Holy Year? ? The Jubilee Year of Mercy. This will continue until 20th November 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. The commencement of the Year of Mercy began on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Pope Francis said ?the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time?. This invitation is an invitation to start again. As well as participating in this special year in which we are invited to enter and discover the wonder of the love and mercy of God, should we, as The Union of Catholic Mothers, be consolidating on what we have in UCM and moving forward with increased vigour in our journey in this special organisation. To begin our journey in this Year of Mercy, the National President, Mrs Val Ward and the National Secretary, Mrs Irene Mitchell, have begun to post Pope Francis' Daily Reflections onto the UCM Facebook page; they have been well received.
There was great joy at the very end of the year on the Feast Day of the Holy Family 27th December, when it was announced that Pope Francis gave the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham a rare honour; the Shrine, specifically the Slipper Chapel, the Chapel of Reconciliation and the Domain, was granted a Minor Basilica status. The Rt. Rev. Bishop Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia said: ?The Holy See?s recognition of the importance of the church in Walsingham is a recognition of the growth and witness of the shrine over these many years since its re-establishment after its destruction during the period of the Reformation, for its constant witness to the importance of marriage and family life and its pastoral care of the tens of thousands of pilgrims who make their journey to the shrine every year?. It is hoped that many members and their families will travel to Walsingham for The Union of Catholic Mothers Pilgrimage in 2016 and make it a very special occasion. As Bishop Hopes said, 'I am quite sure that this moment will bring many blessings and graces to all pilgrims in the coming years.'
Hon. National Secretary
Pope Francis? prayer for Jubilee Year of Mercy
Pope Francis has composed a special prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy In the
prayer, the Holy Father entreats the Lord to make the Jubilee of Mercy a year of
grace so that the Church, ?with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the
poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.?
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the
?If you knew the gift of God!?
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Intentions that Pope Francis wants us to pray for this month