The Union of Catholic Mothers

National Officers' Reports   December 2015

Reports include: - Welfare, Media, National Secretary, National President, International.

National Welfare Officer

Housing Justice:

As we are now no longer affiliated to Housing Justice I have only had 1 communication from them with information of their forthcoming Road Show on Oct 15th I was unable to attend. However I feel that its details are of interest:

The Road Show was to be an opportunity to find out more about what they do and how notably through their key projects ? Faith in Affordable Housing & Church Winter Night Shelters? as well as addressing the needs of Homeless Migrants with no recourse to public Funds. This event was passionate about our Churches addressing housing crisis practically. Housing Justices is passionate about Churches getting involved hands on in support of people in difficult housing & have been supporting Churches now for 10years.

 

The next Homeless Sunday is 24th Jan 2016.

 

Caritas:

The Bishops Conference of England & Wales statement on the Refugee Crisis recently asked us to respond with prayer, practical action, advocacy, whether it was by donating time, skills or money. All can make a valuable contribution to the humanitarian effort. Our responses are being coordinated locally through the diocese. I do know that in Westminster Diocese it is Caritas that is going to organise the distribution of our donations from clothing to furniture and anything else received.

 

We were also asked by the Bishops to urge our MP to contact the Home Secretary encouraging her to devote the required resources to help settle as many people as possible in their 1st year.

 

Familias:

Association for Catholic Diocesan Marriage & Family Life Ministry

 

Marriage is celebrated annually in each of our Diocesan Cathedrals with Mass celebrated by its Bishop to recognise the sacredness of the Sacrament of Marriage, its permanency and the family.

 

Prayers of Intercession were offered to all those who suffer the pain of broken relationships, separation and divorce, a sense of exclusion or bereavement.

 

In the homily given in Hexham & Newcastle, they were encouraged by the words of Pope Francis: ?Married couples, thanks to the Sacrament, are invested with a genuine mission, that of making visible, starting with simple and ordinary things, the love Christ has for his Church.? Everyone was asked to pray that the Holy Spirit would guide the Synod of Bishops, as they gathered in Rome in October, to consider the pastoral responses of the Church to those issues that affect the well-being of Marriage and Family.

 

?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?.? (Familiaris Consortio)?

 

Mental Well-Being:

I attended a day on Mental Well-Being ?Listening with Compassion? on June 6th at St Marys? University Twickenham. The day was chaired by Bishop Richard Moth. He is the Bishop with responsibility for Mental Health issues to the Bishops Conference also for Prisons. Bishops Moth?s talk was printed in full on our summer edition of the Catholic Mother.

More recently on Nov 2nd, Bishop Moth commented on the ?Mental Health Equality? campaign saying ?The campaign which is being launched today to treat mental health equally with physical health and ensure that those that need receive proper access to treatment and help is extremely important. I?ve become acutely aware just from our work on the Mental Health Project for the Bishops Conference these past few years how prevalent is the need, and how often the need goes unmet.

 

On behalf of the Bishops Conference in England & Wales and together with other churches and faith groups, I?m glad to be supporting this vital cause, and I urge people to join this campaign for more resources for mental health by contacting their member of parliament?.

 

More about the campaign on equality4mentalhealth.uk (www.equality4mentalhealth.uk/index.php)

 

Marriage & Family Life Project:

On June 13th a day?s talks were held at Newman University arranged by The Marriage & Family Life Project. I attended this on behalf of UCM.

 

The morning talk was given by Professor Thomas Knieps a Lecturer at a German University, he was by birth Belgian. His talk was about the Questionnaire the ?Consultation Document? sent out by the Vatican to all countries with a view to enable the faithful to express themselves and so hear their views from around the world, by way of preparation for the Synod in October. The Bishops had been told in advance that the outcome of this document was not to be discussed, or made know before the Synod. The Professor had had access to the Flemish, Swiss, Belgian and German outcomes. They did not make good reading as parts of them were disparaging about the Church and marriage. I did not write up this lecture it had no interest to UCM.

 

The afternoon was very different it was titled ?the Joy and the challenge of evangelisation in 21st century family life? This lecture was given by Dr Patricia Kieran, a lecturer at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. Prior to that Dr Patricia was a lecturer at Newman University Birmingham. She is herself is a young married mother with 5 small children.

 

This was a very informative and encouraging talk. I asked Dr Patricia if I could put something on the Catholic Mother Newspaper, she agreed, but later decided to do this article herself. As yet I have not received it due to her pressure at work and no doubt her family time which she stressed as precious. She asked for some details of UCM and I forwarded our Aims & Objects to her, she was very impressed with these. If anyone would like to read my version in advance I will make it available.

 

Pope Francis delivered a strong Pro-life Speech at United Nations 25th September:

The Pope made a speech to heads of state at United Nations. He told delegates from around the world ?A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged. He urged governments to ensure people had enough to live: ?in practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land?. He continued ?The poor are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today?s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity?.

 

He urged leaders to respect life ?in all its dimensions and to recognise the ?natural difference between man and woman?

 

NCW Health Report, Meeting 29th October 2015 held at Lyndon House, Hagley Rd Birmingham.

The Health Committee Resolution for Conference 2015 on the topic of ?Assisted Dying- a change in the law? was not considered appropriate for Conference but a topic NCW will keep abreast of and pursue. The Chairperson wrote to say how shocked she was to receive this news but promised that the Health Committee would continue to monitor and consider this issue and produce further reports. Several members present said they were pleased the Bill was defeated. It was felt however that more money needs to be spent on care of the dying and that not everybody can be treated in a hospice at present.

The Chairperson has sent a letter about breast cancer screening to the Secretary of State for Health asking that consideration be given to extending the current age of 70 as the current cut off age and that a routine continuation of screening beyond this age should be introduced no reply has yet been received. This would be beneficial to many women because of our longer lifespan and the added increased risk of Breast Cancer in older women.

Concern was raised again about the health risk posed by antibiotics in water, and there use in the farming system. Dame Sally Davies recently said ?there is a disaster of apocalyptic proportions awaiting us because of antibiotic resistance? to which the afore mentioned adds great concern.

 

A study cited in a report by Lord O ?Neill found two thirds of antibiotics were likely to have been inappropriately prescribed for infections caused by viruses or conditions not linked to infection at all and that new tests are urgently needed to curb their use. Excessive use of antibiotics partly due to the wrong patients receiving them is one of the main driving forces of microbial resistance. And while bacteria respond to the drugs, virus do not.

 

 Lord O ?Neill has been brought in by the Government to chair a review on ?Antimicrobial Resistance? has said ?the world needs rapid diagnostics to improve the use of antibiotics and avoid the tragedy of 10million people dying every year by 2050.

 

Brigid Hegarty National Welfare Officer

 

MEDIA REPORT

Catholic Mother The schedule for the distribution and printing has now been confirmed for 2016. The paper will be published on 17th February, 15th June and 12th October 2016, with the deadlines for the diocesan media officers approximately one month before that.

Diocesan Editors Forum I attended the Meeting in October, with Editors of various Diocesan newspapers and Nick Layton from CathCom who is also the publisher for our newspaper the Catholic Mother, it was an opportunity to discuss and share ideas and experiences.

We also have a representative from the Bishop?s Conference to talk to us about;

The Media in general

Useful contacts in the Media

How best we can utilize skills from the Conference and the Forum to mutual advantage

Media Watch Campaigns continually for socially responsible media and against content which is potentially harmful.   

In many ways the technical revolution has redefined our Society. Every one of us engages with a constant flow of images and information. Our screens, technology, the printed media, online relationships and even the streets where we go about our daily lives influence our world-view.  This vast array of powerful information, combined with influential marketing strategies, can be bewildering, overwhelming and is increasingly beyond effective regulation.

Whether it is increasingly sexualised images, access to violent and addictive gaming, the non-existence of a water-shed in an on-demand world or inappropriate bullying through mobile phones and social media; the media?s influence is damaging our society, and its effects are particularly profound upon children.

Parentport 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. They are keen to hear the views of parents, grandparents and carers, therefore, it is really important to use this valuable online resource in order to have your say.

Caroline Mills Media Officer

National Secretary

The Year of Mercy

Pope Francis dedicated one of his catechesis at a general audience to the meaning of the 'Holy Door', which he will open on 8 December in St Peter's Basilica. He said:

?This great door is that of God's mercy, which welcomes our repentance and offers us the grace of forgiveness; a door which is opened generously but whose threshold must be crossed with courage.

The Holy Father referred to the recent Synod of Bishops, "which gave all families and all the Church as strong impetus to meet at the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go forth with the Lord towards His sons and daughters who walk together, at times uncertain, at times lost, in these difficult times. Christian families, in particular, have been encouraged to open the door to the Lord who waits to enter, bringing His blessing. But the Lord never forces the door; He asks permission to enter through ours, although His doors are always open".

"There are still places in the world where doors are not locked, but there are also many where reinforced doors have become normal. We must not accept the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to life within the family, in the city, in society, and far less so in the life of the Church. ... An inhospitable Church, like a family closed in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and makes the world arid. No more reinforced doors in the Church!" he exclaimed.

"The symbolic management of doors - thresholds, passages, frontiers - has become crucial. The door must protect, certainly, but not repudiate. The door must not be forced: on the contrary, it is necessary to ask permission to enter, as hospitality shines in the freedom of welcome, and darkens in the arrogance of invasion. The door is opened frequently, to see if there is anyone waiting outside, who perhaps does not have the courage or even the strength to knock. How many people no longer trust ... to knock on the door of our Christian heart, at the doors of our Churches. ... We have lost their trust; please, we must not let this happen. The door says many things about the house, and also the Church".

"We ourselves are the guardians and servants of the Door of God, Who is Jesus", affirmed Francis. "Jesus is the door that lets us enter and leave. Because God's flock is a refuge, not a prison. ... We must pass by the door and listen to Jesus' voice; if we hear His tone of voice, we are safe and sound. ... If the guardian hears the voice of the Shepherd, then he opens, and he lets in all the sheep that the Shepherd brings, all of them, including those lost in the woods, that the Good Shepherd has gone to find. The sheep are not chosen by the guardian, but rather by the Good Shepherd. The guardian too obeys the voice of the Shepherd. The Church is the door to the house of the Lord but she is not the proprietor of the house of the Lord".

The Pope concluded his catechesis by reiterating that the Holy Family of Nazareth knew well what was meant by an open or closed door for someone awaiting the birth of a child, for those who do not have shelter, and for those who must flee danger. May Christian families make the threshold of their home a little sign of the great Door of God's mercy and welcome. It is precisely in this way that the Church must be recognised, in every corner of the earth, "as the guardian of a God who knocks to enter, with the welcome of a God Who does not close the door in your face with the excuse that you do not belong to the household".

"With this spirit", he concluded, "we approach the Jubilee: there will be the Holy Door, but it is the door of God's great mercy. There will also be the door of our heart, to receive all God's forgiveness and to give ours in turn, welcoming all those who knock on our door".

The Holy Door will be opened at Walsingham at a special Mass at the beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy, where pilgrims will receive the graces and special blessings of the Holy Year under the normal conditions for the granting of a Plenary Indulgence. Our 71st Walsingham pilgrimage next year, led by Leeds Diocese is on Tuesday 5th July; please do join us and make this a very special pilgrimage during The Year of Mercy.

Irene Mitchell National Secretary

 

National President

Aid to the Church in Need. London 13/10/2015

I attended this meeting on behalf of the National Board of Catholic Women with their President Mrs Maureen Meatcher which was chaired by Lord David Alton of Liverpool in the Cholmondeley Room in the House of Lords.

The event had been organised to launch the report on Christians oppressed for their Faith (2013-2015) by Aid to the Church in Need.

Lord Alton began by quoting Prime Minister David Cameron, who only the day before had said ?No one should be persecuted for what they believe?. He went on to say that Christianity was now the most persecuted religion in the world. It seems the full scale violence is to eradicate Christianity from the Middle East. Research shows that 75% of acts of religious persecution are against Christians. They are being killed, maimed and/or abducted and imprisoned. The report tracked a course showing that in a few years Christianity could be completely wiped out in Iraq. We were asked to ensure that persecuted Christians are not forgotten. If we don?t speak out ? who will? How much more violence will have to take place before Governments around the world say that religious freedom is a human right?

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy Sea to the United Nations, said we need to keep this issue before the world as Christians are the targets of unspeakable violence. He said ?No one can kill in the name of God?.

Victoria Yohanna a young 15 year old Nigerian girl spoke through an interpreter of her ordeal when she was kidnapped with her mother and five brothers (and almost 400 others) by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The non-Muslim women were given the choice of converting to Islam or being killed. Victoria and her family managed to escape when they were left unattended and then walked for seven hours to safety.

Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria spoke with passion and great emotion of the horror happening in his country. Fifty Christians had been savagely killed by Daesh (Isis) four days previously. The world is confused and disorientated. It?s terrible, he said. The symbol of human rights is democracy and freedom; we respect freedom for everyone, everyone has all rights. Help us, he said, to get this for our country. The Jihadists want to kill everyone who is different from them. They have destroyed the economy, churches and even man?s right to choose what they want to be. He asked for our support to get back their rights, for everyone to have full citizenship, for mutual respect between Christians and Muslims.

Timothy Cho was another witness of persecution. He had been tortured and had escaped twice from North Korea. Lord Alton spoke of a CTS booklet on the 8,000 Korean Martyrs. It is now out of print but is on his website.

Tobias Ellwood MP said the British Government had not forgotten the persecuted Christians. We stand up for freedom for all religious beliefs free from violence and persecution he said. He praised Aid to the Church in Need for their work.

The scale of oppression/persecution of Christians is classified as EXTREME in China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam; Classified as HIGH to EXTREME in Egypt, Iran and Turkmenistan; HIGH in Belarus, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka; MODERATE to HIGH in Israel and Palestine and MODERATE in Turkey.

Please read the full report ?Persecuted and Forgotten? ?A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-2015 which is available online at www.acnuk.org/persecution

Please keep these people and their countries in your prayers.

Prayer for persecuted Christians

Almighty, everlasting God, look with compassion on all those who suffer persecution for justice?s sake. Grant them grace to carry their cross with patience in the name of Thy beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let the chalice pass from them if such be Thy holy Will: yet, in all things, may Thy Will be done. Grant to those who persecute, light to see the truth, and the grace of mercy and forgiveness, for they know not what they do. Mary, Mother of Jesus, Comfort of the Afflicted, help thy children in their time of bitter trial. O Lord our God, by the sign of Thy holy cross deliver us from our enemies. Amen

Val Ward National President

International Report 

Nearly 800,000 refugees and migrants risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in the first ten months of 2015, according to the United Nations - nearly four times the number recorded for the whole of last year. More than 3,400 people have died while making the dangerous crossing.

The increased number of refugees and migrants seeking a new life in Europe is largely a consequence of humanitarian crises around the world. Many of the refugees are able to carry little more than the clothes they are wearing on their journeys. With European governments struggling to provide adequate support, tens of thousands of people every day are in need of food, shelter, warm clothes, and safe water and sanitation. As temperatures plummet over winter, conditions are likely to deteriorate rapidly.

How is CAFOD responding to the crisis in Europe?

Sister agencies in the Caritas network are providing aid to refugees in almost every country in Europe. They are directly supporting Caritas Greece and Caritas Serbia, who are providing food, water, shelter and emergency supplies like raincoats and sleeping-bags to thousands of refugees every day. The governments of both countries are struggling to cope with the crisis. On 4 September, CAFOD launched a campaign calling on the UK government to do more to help vulnerable refugees resettle in the UK as quickly as possible. Within a week more than 2,000 Catholics in England and Wales had emailed the Prime Minister calling for action.

CAFOD?s mandate from the Bishops? Conference of England and Wales is to support poor communities overseas. CSAN (the Catholic Social Action Network) is the social action arm of the Catholic Church for work in England and Wales. Their members support refugees who have already arrived in the UK, and they do advocacy work on poverty in the UK. Together, CAFOD and CSAN form Caritas England and Wales.

How is CAFOD responding to the crisis in Syria?

They are supporting Church partners in Syria, who are providing food parcels, medical aid and relief supplies and helping people to find safe places to stay, in areas held by both government and opposition forces. The extensive community networks of the Church, even as a minority faith, mean that it is well placed to provide aid in some of the worst hit and most inaccessible areas of the country. ?We recognise that we can all contribute and play a part in helping to support the most vulnerable of refugees. Such assistance includes: Prayer; Financial support; Time and professional skills (e.g. language teaching, legal help, advocacy); Shelter and accommodation. On 4 November, Cardinal Vincent Nichols criticised the government?s response to the crisis. He said: ?Progress is slow, but the plight of refugees cannot wait. People?s generosity, in my view, far outstrips the response of our government.

?We can all be attentive to those who are vulnerable and newly arrived in our local communities and parishes. A warm welcome can be the most simple yet effective of gifts we can all offer.?

CAFOD is also working with Caritas partners in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to ensure that newly arrived refugees have food, medical support, clothes and safe places to stay. And they are working in Iraq to help their Church partners to respond to the urgent needs of families forced from their homes. Thousands of people have been supported with immediate food, essential household goods, alternative housing, sanitation facilities, and psychosocial support to both children and adults. Find out more about the Syria crisis by going to the CAFOD website. www.cafod.org.uk

What can we do to help?

Please join others in praying for refugees facing exploitation around the world.

Find out more about the crisis - use CAFOD resources for children and young people.

Help your local diocese support refugees.

Offer shelter, time and skills to support refugees through one of the organisations listed by the Catholic Bishops? Conference

Progressio

On 2nd November Progressio celebrated 75 years work alongside poor and marginalised communities. After the AGM, which reported the continued growth of Progressio, (formerly the Catholic Institute for International Relations), since the 1940s, around 200 supporters gathered at Temple Church to enjoy an ecumenical choral service led by their President Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. The Cardinal spoke warmly about Progressio's values and history, and encouraged everyone to "renew their commitment to working in solidarity with others, rather than in narrowed self-interest."

Temple Church was a fitting venue for Progressio's celebration with its close links to the Magna Carta and to the early foundation of democracy, justice and respect for every human being. To align with this, Progressio's work alongside partner organisations and faith-leaders in Zimbabwe, Somaliland and Yemen has enabled people to play their proper part in the social and political life of their own country. Quoting from the gospel, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6), the Cardinal's homily placed strong emphasis on the power that each individual member of the congregation has to bring about change. He said, "We in our country have the privilege of some comfort, some love, some power, and some peace. It seems to me that it is all the more important that each of us can work on that inner change and identify ourselves in different ways with those who are on the periphery, who have no privileges and often have no way to tackle the injustices and the poverty at home." Later in his homily, the Cardinal described Pope Francis as "a breath of fresh air" and used the Pope's 2013 visit to welcome African refugees fleeing poverty and conflict into Lampedusa, to demonstrate our human responsibility to use simple, kind acts to comfort complete strangers who are suffering.
The Cardinal also referred to his personal experiences overseas in order to highlight the importance of Progressio's HIV/AIDS education projects in Southern Africa, and relayed the words of one female aid worker he had met in Zimbabwe. She said, "It's very tragic here. People come to get [anti-retroviral] drugs, which enables people diagnosed with AIDS to continue to live. But when people come many are seriously undernourished, so the drugs don't work and they slowly die. All that we can offer them is love."
The evening was a great success with many fond memories of Progressio's history being shared amongst its supporters. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor concluded by encouraging support for Progressio's work so that it may flourish long in the future, and asked people to remember that "There can be no peace without true justice for all."

Women?s World Day of Prayer

The service for 2016 has been written by the Christian women of Cuba. No sooner had the UK organising committee worked through the materials for the service than they heard the news that the USA and Cuba declared that hostilities between the two countries were to cease. Talks have been taking place to lift the embargo, Cuba is indeed in a time of change! The title of the 2016 service is ?Receive children, receive me.? Information can be obtained from www.wwdp.org.uk . Prayers can also be found on the website in response to worldwide emergency situations.

WUCWO

As we near the time when world leaders meet to discuss the important topic of ?Climate Change? I am reminded of the International Conference in Rome entitled ?Women and the post 2015 development agenda, the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? to which I was invited as the UCM WUCWO representative. You may ask what has this to do with us. Perhaps Pope Francis? message to the attendees will explain.

?I encourage you who are engaged in the dignity of women and promoting their rights, to allow yourselves to be constantly guided by the spirit of humanity and compassion in the service of your neighbour. May your work be marked first and foremost by professional competence, without self-interest or superficial activism, but with generous dedication. In this way you will manifest the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding and dialogue in settling conflicts, big and small, in healing wounds, in sustaining life at every level of society and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world. All this is part of that ?feminine genius? of which our society stands in such great need?.

Over 100 women participated in the 3 day event which was organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Although progress has been made in certain areas the world has not been successful in attaining the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGS0 which were set at the beginning of this century to be achieved by 2030. In September the United Nations elaborated a new post 2015 development agenda which now has 17 goals, 169 targets with more than 400 indicators. All of them have relevant implications for women. The women who gathered in Rome shared their views on the SDGs and targets and at the end of the very fruitful discussions a document containing our comments and suggestions was produced and presented to the Holy See ?for its activity in the international fora?. The text of the final reflections was delivered into the hands of the Holy Father on 10th June 2015. For more information go to www.iustitaetpax.va

The document should be very helpful to the Holy See, not only because of the excellence of the analysis itself, but also because it came from the combined wisdom of a broad range of powerful and respected international women leaders. There are those who say that the Holy See is not ?qualified? to speak on women?s issues because they are male. But we can testify to the fact that the contents of this document was produced by 100 key international women leaders. I was there to represent the voice of ?ordinary? mothers concerned about their families and was heartened to see some of my comments included in the final documents. Visit www.wucwo.org

Maureen Meatcher International Officer

December 2015

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