WUCWO NORTH AMERICA REGION CONFERENCE 2021
The WUCWO North America Region Conference was held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA on 24 August 2021, the day prior to the start of the NCCW Convention. The day started with a breakfast offered by the hotel, and then attendees gathered in the meeting room where the stage was graced with a large WUCWO NA Region Conference banner above the stage, another banner on the podium, the flag of Vatican City, and lovely red and white floral arrangements. Each attendee table had small Canadian and USA flags as a centerpiece. The day began with the WUCWO video prepared by the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and went on to an Opening Prayer followed by recognition of Joann Hillebrand who had served as WUCWO Treasurer General and Joan McGrath who had served as USA Representative to the WUCWO Board. We were delighted they were both with us for this meeting. We then quieted for a remembrance ceremony with a votive candle placed in front of Mary’s statue for the deceased members and Spiritual Advisors of each of WUCWO’s North American member organizations. Next, Father Stembler, Spiritual Advisor of the Friends of NCCW for WUCWO served as principal celebrant and homilist for Holy Mass with our other priests present as concelebrants. Beautiful music was provided by Bernadette Corso and Dr. Kimberly Hess. Mass was followed by the presentation of the flags and anthems of Canada and the USA, the WUWO North America Region countries. A new flag for the WUCWO NA Region joined the national flags on stage. We were delighted to receive letters of greeting from the Apostolic Nuncio to the US who extended the Apostolic Blessing to all present, from the Undersecretary of the Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life, from the Bishop of Arlington, and the Chair of the Arlington County Board. In-person greetings from the President of the National Council of Catholic Women, the Supreme Lady of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, and the President of the Friends of NCCW for WUCWO were interspersed with video greetings from the WUCWO President General, President of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, and the Canadian Representative to the WUCWO Board. Videos were received from those outside the USA as the COVID pandemic precluded travel for our Canadian and Italian WUCWO sisters.
We then heard from our first speaker, Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant who explored the first current WUCWO Resolution, A Healthy Planet Depends on All of Us. Following Dan’s informative talk, we prayed the Angelus and a Lunch Blessing after which we adjourned to the Luncheon Salon where we found Happy Birthday tiaras, blowers, and special placemats at each place and Happy Birthday balloons on each table that helped us to celebrate WUCWO’s 110th Birthday! After a delicious lunch that included birthday cake, we reconvened with prayer and continued our meeting. The next speakers addressed the three remaining WUCWO Resolutions. Molly Whalen, State Director, Capital Region for Best Buddies International spoke to the resolution, Care for the Family, Especially the Most Vulnerable Members. She was followed by Kathy Bonner who expounded WUCWO’s third Resolution, Elimination of prejudice and violence against women. The final WUCWO Resolution, Responding to Our Call to Holiness, was provided by Maribeth Stewart Blogoslawski, WUCWO Vice President General. Each speaker illustrated their talks with power point slides that captured the essence and complemented their presentations. We next heard an address from WUCWO’s President General by video which was followed by Table Discussion guided by a set of questions pertaining to the talks presented. After this session, we accepted a Final Declaration of this Conference by acclamation. Maribeth acknowledged our gratitude to the Friends of NCCW for WUCWO for their faithful support for this Conference and for WUCWO as well as for others who participated in this day. Father Stembler then led us in our Closing Prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace, Patroness of WUCWO. A lovely day of education, celebration, prayer, and fun was enjoyed by attendees of this Conference and was captured thought the service of a professional videographer and photographer.
WUCWO BOARD MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 2021
A two-day Board meeting was held via Zoom to learn updates from the Standing Committees (Finance, International, Statutes, and Communications) and Working Groups (Four Groups each addressing one of the WUCWO Resolutions).
In addition, the Board voted to postpone the Meeting with the Women of the Middle East to 2022 (from November 2021) and the next General Assembly to be held in Assisi, Italy to 2023 due to COVID travel restrictions.
Another notable item discussed was a new Decree from the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life which is the Dicastery (Vatican office) that oversees WUCWO. The Decree states that: 1) All major decisions made by an association that falls under the Dicastery’s oversight must be made by the members of the association. This does not change anything for WUCWO since the Board is the governing body and all changes to the WUCWO Statutes are adopted at General Assemblies following voting by member organizations’ delegates. 2) The term of office for a Moderator (which for WUCWO is the President General) cannot exceed ten years and there is no possibility of holding this office again. The WUCWO Statutes will need to be modified to accommodate this change. 3) The term of a member of the governing body (which for WUCWO is the Board) shall be 5 years with the possibility of renewing once for a maximum continuous time on the Board being 10 years. It will be possible for a Board member to serve again after a one term break in service. The WUCWO Statutes will need to be amended for this as currently, a Board member serves a 4-year term with the possibility of renewing twice for a maximum of 12 years. The Decree went into effect on 11 September 2021 and associations have 24 months from then to implement any necessary changes. These changes will not be drastic for WUCWO but were put into place because some other associations just don’t have any provision or inclination to change their president or governing bodies. The 24-month implementation period will allow for changes to be made to the Statutes at the next General Assembly slated for 2023 so there will not be any issues for WUCWO regarding this new Decree.
WUCWO/ HOLY SEE MEETINGS
The Embassy of France to the Holy See and the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO) held, in line with the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, an international conference by Zoom: The new pastoral style of Amoris Laetitia: welcoming, accompanying, discerning and integrating on 15 September 2021. The conference featured Oranne de Mautort, theologian and co-author of the book Familles, belles et fragiles! and Dr Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
A by-invitation only Zoom meeting was held on 16 September with the Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life to discuss the philosophy behind the new Decree described above. I attended (though it began at 3am my time!) and enjoyed the discussions that were led off by His Holiness, Pope Francis, and that featured talks from theologians and from Dr. Linda Ghisoni, Undersecretary for Laity from the Dicastery. Linda had provided a lovely letter of greetings for our WUCWO NA Region Conference.
A meeting of the Vatican’s Working Group for Organizations for Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform was held via Zoom on 14 September to discuss upcoming assignments and work to be done. As a co-chair of this Group, I was happy to attend.
Wishing all who read this the blessings of joy and peace though the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace,
Maribeth Stewart Blogoslawski
WUCWO Vice President General
WUCWO Vice President, North America
USA Representative to WUCWO
WUCWO Representative to ECOSOC, UN, NY
In- person attendance at the UN in NY is still prohibited due to COVID restrictions at least through the end of October 2021.
Accordingly, I have attended one session since our NCCW Convention on 7 September via Zoom at the invitation of the Office of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN. It was the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on the theme “Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery.” The statement made by H. E. Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations was quite comprehensive and powerful. In essence, he stated:
COVID-19 has deeply impacted humanity on an individual and societal level. Families have lost loved ones, lock-downs have impoverished human relationships and interactions, disrupted economies, and inequalities have been further exposed and exacerbated. Now is the time to rebuild with an approach steered by peace and fraternity and with more resilience and inclusion than before. He went on to discuss this in terms of three areas:
Resilience and inclusion in human relationships: While we recover economically from COVID-19, we must also recover socially by rekindling and mending human relationships. As Pope Francis underlined, in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, we need a recovery of kindness in everyday life.
Resilience and inclusion of the poor and vulnerable: The COVID-19 pandemic blatantly exposed the plight of the poor and those on the margins of our society; true recovery requires putting them first. Our inclusivity and, to a certain extent, our resilience can be measured by how our societies treat the poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially in times of crisis. Only in respecting their dignity and valuing their contribution can they be truly integrated into society.
Resilience and inclusion of the environment: Finally, we must also reconsider our culture of consumerism and its impact on our common home. Our economic systems, production patterns, energy use, and how we live our daily lives can only be resilient if they are sustainable. The negative impacts of excessive consumption and most notably climate change, disproportionately affect the poor and those in vulnerable situations.