Catholic Women of the Year Awards
posted on 25 September 2003
Speaking at the Catholic Women of the Year Awards lunch today (Thursday 25th September) in London, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said:
“ I am very happy to be with you today on the occasion of the Catholic Women of the Year celebration especially as it is your 35th birthday. So – first a special word of congratulation to your Chairman Angela and all those who are so generous with their time and energy on your, indeed on all our behalves.
' This is a very special celebration of what it means to be Catholic, and to be women committed to all manner of practical, spiritual and pastoral good works in our community. Not only does the Church need your commitment and your particular gifts. Our society needs them too. Frankly we need more like you. So hopefully some of you will still be here in another 35 years celebrating success – yes – but much more important the love and commitment which inspires other women, and men too, to give of themselves in the place they find themselves.
' I will, if I may, say a word about the accomplishments of each of this year’s five “women of the year” - Dr Therese Vanier, Veronica and Sandra Williams, Dr Anne Carus and Wendy Hinds. I know that you were among another bumper bag of nominated candidates, all of whom would have been deserving winners, and many of whom are with us today as you have heard. So many congratulations on your election by the committee.
' Dr Therese Vanier is distinguished not only as a former consultant haematologist, and member of a very remarkable family, but also as a woman of great courage, faith, and deep spirituality who has dedicated much of her life to the palliative and spiritual care of the dying [at St Christopher’s Hospice], and to the creation and nurturing of communities of love and friendship with people with severe learning disabilities – the L’Arche communites founded by her celebrated brother Jean Vanier. Therese, and all four of our recipients today really understand the meaning of a word we use perhaps too loosely – vocation. Vocation means discovering your life as a gift from God and living that gift unselfishly – literally as gift.
' What a marvellous example [you are] to a world increasingly snared by the temptation to live within oneself, and for oneself.
' Dr Anne Carus has dedicated herself to working with women in a very difficult area, which is the area of fertility and infertility. The gift of life begins with conception. For many women conception is an unfulfilled dream, and a source of considerable anguish and soul-searching. Anne is one of a vanguard of women and men using their specialist skills to help women experiencing the pain of infertility to try to overcome the physical barriers which may be preventing conception - without recourse to invasive, and morally evasive, techniques such as IVF. This is courageous and ground-breaking work, which has yet to be given the scientific recognition it deserves. I have no doubt that is only a matter of time.
' Veronica and Sandra have also put their gifts at the service of women, in their case, mothers. They had the grace and the imagination to found a movement – Mother’s Prayers – specifically to encourage and to help busy mothers and grandmothers to pray for their children’s needs. The movement also encourages women to recognise that their children are also the children of a loving Father who is closer to them, particularly in times of need, than even a parent can be. The movement has proved to be an inspired and grace-filled one, which is bringing help and hope into the lives of thousands of worried mums and grand mums!.
' Finally Wendy Hinds who, as I know from personal experience, is more than just one of those extraordinary women whose strength, energy and unswerving commitment keeps many a parish, and almost as many parish priests, going. Wendy is certainly that. But she is something more. She is a model of Christian love and selfless devotion. Des Sheehan, the new parish priest and the people of Tring are very fortunate to have Wendy as right hand woman. And I am sure she will not mind me saying that there are so many more dedicated women - and some men! - like her.
' I am sure our recipients today would agree that most Catholics would be able to nominate at least one woman who would be deserving of nomination as a ‘woman of the year’.
' Today we celebrate four remarkable women – five very gifted women, generous with themselves in the service of others. I am sure you share with me a vision of a Church and a wider community where the sharing of gifts is our natural, God-given reflex. One which, far from resisting, we do everything in our power and with God’s grace to fulfil because it is the key to human flourishing and the true expression of our communion.”