Tag Archives: CWL

A look at the International Women’s Day and Catholic Women’s League

A section of the different women groups waiting for Mass to begin during the Women’s Day celebration, 10 Mar 2018, Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing.

PENAMPANG – International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

However, during the International Women’s Year in 1975, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March.

In Sabah, the largest Catholic women’s organisation is the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), an organisation rooted in gospel values calling its members to holiness through service to the people of God.

The Catholic Women’s League was actually founded by Margaret Fletcher (1862-1943).  Born in Oxford to an Anglican clergyman, she converted to Catholicism on 9 Sept 1897.  She went to Paris to continue her studies.  While there, she met with people from different backgrounds which raised her awareness to a global level.  In 1906, she helped found the Catholic Women’s League to fight for improved educational opportunities for women.

The CWL was first established in Stella Maris Tanjung Aru in 1968.

The idea of forming the CWL was first proposed in 1967 by a monk, Father J Vivian De Souza, who was temporarily attached to Stella Maris parish then.  He saw the need to have a group of dedicated ladies to assist the parish priest in looking after the welfare of the church and in carrying out fundraising activities.

The first formal meeting was held on 26 June 1968 with 29 ladies.  At this inaugural meeting, five ladies were elected as committee members, whilst the other ladies were divided into five groups for the purpose of duty assignment.  Shiela D’Souza was elected as the first president.

Later it spread its wings to other parishes and now it is in every parish in Sabah.

Today there are more than 100 groups throughout the Ecclesiastical Province of Kota Kinabalu. In KK Archdiocese membership is divided into four zones: West Coast 1 (Dontozidon, ,Kota Kinabalu, Kepayan, Labuan, Limbahau, Papar, Penampang, Tanjung Aru); West Coast 2 (Bundu Tuhan, Ranau, Telupid); West Coast 3 (Inanam, Menggatal, Telipok, Tuaran); and Kudat Zone (Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Kudat).

As the Catholic population grew, many groups were formed with their own women units. In January 2013, the Archdiocesan Catholic Women Commission (CCWKK) was formed. It is a consultative body, coordinating all the Catholic women groups in the archdiocese, and operating under the direction of the Archbishop.

It is interesting to note that six out of the nine archdiocesan commissions/committee are headed by women (religious and lay) and of the staff working at the Archdiocesan Centre, majority are women.

In both Keningau and Sandakan Dioceses, the women’s organisation is known as the Catholic Women Apostolate (Kerasulan Wanita Katolik).

Members of the different women groups of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Church of Mary Immaculate – CWL, Light of Jesus Christ Covenant Community, Neo-Catechumenal Way, Couples for Christ, Legion of Mary, Chinese community, Secular Franciscan Order, BM community, Divine Mercy and the Filipino community – took time out to celebrate the day with Mass presided by Archbishop John Wong, concelebrated with Abp Emeritus John Lee, followed by a simple dinner fellowship at a local restaurant after Mass on 10 Mar 2018.

The theme of the celebration was Press for Progress: Move Forward in Christ.

Since the day usually falls during the Lenten Season, the commission has decided that it should be celebrated at parish level and at the discretion of the parish organising committee.

Over 200 CWL delegates participate in annual assembly

A section of the delegates to the CWL Annual Assembly, BTRC, 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2017.

BUNDU TUHAN – Over 200 representatives of the Catholic Women’s League participated in the 32nd Annual Assembly at the Bundu Tuhan Retreat Centre here on 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2017.

Two hundred and fourteen women from across the archdiocese took part in the event themed “Women of the Bible.”

The programme was a two-day retreat guided by Father Paul Lo, which concluded with the General Meeting on the last day.

In his opening speech, Archbishop John Wong advised the delegates to take the retreat seriously, reflecting on the words that they would hear during the retreat.

He hoped that the women would emulate the lives of the different women in the Bible in their role as mothers of families, and that they would be filled with the Spirit and be more committed in their service to the Lord.

Anita Tunggolou, chief coordinator of the Archdiocesan Catholic Women’s League, thanked the archbishop for his presence as well as for his continuous support of the organisation.

She also urged all members to give their full support to their respective parish priests and to be fully committed in carrying out their responsibilities to the best of their ability.

For the retreat proper, Fr Lo drew the delegates’ attention to the lives of the different women in the Bible, highlighting their courage, their prayer-filled life and their unwavering faith in the Lord.

Besides the inputs, time was given for personal reflection, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and confession.

The next part of the retreat was the business of the General Meeting, in which reports from the various Catholic Women’s Leagues were presented, followed by a Question and Answer session. – Anita Tunggolou/ACWL

Two pioneers reminisce on the beginnings of the CWL in Sabah

Theresa Willie (L) and Nancy Fong (R) pose for a shot after the interview at Willie’s residence, 16 June 2017.

TANJUNG ARU – Two pioneers of the Catholic Women’s League reminisced on the beginnings of the CWL in Sabah in an interview with Catholic Sabah on 16 June 2017 at Theresa Willie’s residence here.

The two women were Nancy Fong, 82, and Theresa Willie, 86.

Fong recalled receiving a visit from assistant priest Father Vivian De Souza way back in 1967, who invited her to come and help the church, to which she replied she did not know how to.

Fr De Souza said, “Don’t tell me you don’t know how to sweep the floor, and put flowers on the altar!”  Nancy’s ‘yes’ to the priest paved the way for the birth of the first Catholic Women’s League (CWL) in Sabah.

The initiation of the first CWL took place at a time when it was unheard of that lay women were required to help the parish priest in the welfare of the church, though religious sisters were a common feature in the life of a parish.

Fr De Souza very wisely deduced the need and approached a group of lay women, who were simple in outlook, yet fully committed to love and serve the Lord.

Twenty nine women responded to the call of setting up a lay apostolate for women, of which five (Shiela D’Souza, Nancy Fong, Theresa Willie, Alice Majalap and Helen Anasthasius) were encouraged to take up leadership to form the first committee.

Both ladies remembered how the members relished the joy of carrying out the tasks delegated to them by the rector, among which were cleaning, supply and arrangement of flowers for the altar, polishing of the altar vessels, laundering of altar servers’ cassocks, etc.

Calling themselves “greenhorns,”  they marvelled at how the Lord provided the courage and creativity to overcome the obstacles encountered, especially when they went from house to house, visiting offices, to solicit funds for some necessary parish building extension works.

With the support received from the priests (including Fr AG Lampe who was then parish priest), the parish council, as well as from their own family members, they ventured further and introduced social activities to enhance parish life.  One of the activities that lasted till today was the Christmas Children’s Party, which gave them much satisfaction to plan, cook and provide gifts to add to the children’s joy during the festive season.

On the other hand, Willie shared an observation as she looks at present-day trends and morality of those that make up the Church.

“In those days, you don’t hear any complaints at all.   You never refuse any task given to you.  You take up the initiative to find a way,”  she said.

“There are beauty and humility in accepting your God-given talents and to put them to service,” she added as she recalled how she was always given the task of buying and cooking fish for bazaar sales just because she was good at it!

Today as she looked at her children and extended family members giving themselves over to serve whichever parish they belong to, she accorded it to simply God’s blessing and reward for her own faithfulness.

Fong echoed the same sentiment that God has blessed her too, especially now that she is in her eighties and still raring to go and be actively involved in the life and service of the CWL.

For the golden jubilee celebration, these two pioneers hope that they have provided a role model of “unconditional commitment” for the future generation of women, a commitment that says ‘yes’ and means ‘yes’ all the way through thick and thin. – CS

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