Is The “Catholic Women of the Year” Award… er… “Catholic”?

Is The “Catholic Women of the Year” Award… er… “Catholic”?

Our Lady of Sorrows2The four CATHOLIC WOMEN OF THE YEAR for 2015 have now been chosen.

In a tradition dating back over 40 years, Catholic women are chosen from among nominations sent in from across England and Wales. The choice is made by secret ballot by a committee made up of representatives of various Catholic groups and organisations. The aim is to honour the “unsung heroines” of the Church and to celebrate the service they give.

This year’s Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon will be held on Friday October 23rd, at the Thistle Hotel at London’s Marble Arch, and the speaker will be Father Alexander Sherbrook, of St Patrick’s, Soho.

The four Catholic Women of the Year 2015 are:

Mary-Jane Butler, founder and organiser of WORK,  “Widows and Orphans in Rural Kenya”. She established this charity almost single-handed and it is now helping  over 500 widows and orphans,  and running six schools and two rural health centres.  A current project involves obtaining tools and equipment so that women can obtain jobs and support themselves while also completing their studies.  Mary-Jane spends part of each year in Kenya and while at home in Devon works as a spiritual director for the diocese of Plymouth. Her nominating letter described her as “one of the most dedicated people I have ever met”.

Dr Margaret Ann “Maggie” Burgess, founder of the charity “Promise Nepal” which raises funds to help people suffering from leprosy in Nepal. Herself a qualified nurse specialising in tropical medicine, she was a regular traveller to Nepal over several years and met leprosy sufferers in Kathmandu. Struck by their plight, she pledged herself to help them and has since founded a series of roadside clinics treating some 200 patients a day, plus a 15-bed hospital, outpatient clinic, school, and training centre. People who are receiving care and treatment are also given opportunities to train for work so that they can live full lives and care for themselves and their families, in a society where they are often treated as outcasts. In addition, “Promise Nepal” has helped clinics in remote places, providing access roads, clean water, showers, ambulances, and more.

Monica Cleaver organises and leads youth work in her London parish  (Our Lady of Dolours, Hendon including involvement in the nationwide “Flame” project. She runs the First Communion and Confirmation classes, and started a faith group which now meets regularly. She also took on the organisation of a befriending scheme for lonely and housebound people, and travels regularly with sick and handicapped people to Lourdes as a helper. Her nominating letter described her as a “well liked and loved parishioner, involved in everything.  She is always approachable.  Without her, our parish would struggle!”

Yolanda Fletcher, sacristan, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and all-round helper in her local parish in Wales. On St David’s Day she bakes Welsh cakes which she distributes to parishioners and also takes round to local neighbours especially the housebound, and at Christmas does the same with a batch of over 100 mince pies. Each week she cares for several elderly and frail people, visiting them, taking them Holy Communion and also offering friendship and conversation. She has served as sacristan for over 12 years and this involves cleaning and tidying the church and taking responsibility for preparations for Mass and all special events. Her nominating letter said “Her life is absorbed with genuine Christian love – she is always thinking of others”.   Source


This particular award doesn’t sit comfortably with me at all. And it’s not (just!) because I’m never nominated… 😀

I suppose it’s partly because I think to myself: who wants to hear those terrible wordsyou have had your reward” when their time comes to plead for a place in Heaven. Then again, I’d better not scupper my chances of a future nomination by being too dogmatic about the whole thing. So, you tell me – IS the “Catholic Women of the Year” award “Catholic” – or not?

Comments (53)

  • Semper Fidelis

    I assume, for consistency, you will campaign to remove honorary titles, Papal Medals, and Knighthoods etc.

    The award, I image, is to redress a perceived overlooking of the role women in The Church, and society, and is partly to highlight that the works they undertake are to fulfil their baptismal calling, and Gospel imperatives.

    A person skilled in self publicity, and praise, would not need such an award…

    August 13, 2015 at 6:00 am
    • editor

      Personally, I have always considered such titles/awards within the Church to be inappropriate, to say the least, given that we are exhorted by Christ to not even let our right hand know what our left hand is doing when giving alms (Matthew 6:3). It seems, therefore, contradictory to publicly reward perceived good works via titles and congratulatory awards. It may be, however, that I’m wrong on this so I am open to being corrected.

      It is a pity that you have fallen for the lie that there is a “role of women in the Church” that has been overlooked and needs redressing. For quite a number of years I was a member of the Legion of Mary, where we did (and I presume they still do) all sorts of apostolic work, from visiting the sick, to seeking converts to the Faith in various ways, and it was always an uphill task to get people – including women – to join us. This drive from a certain type of woman for a “role” in the Church needs to be understood for what it is – blatant ambition for what they perceive to be “status” and “power”. It has absolutely nothing to do with fulfilling their baptismal calling and Gospel imperative. Where is the Gospel imperative for seeking power and praise?

      Your final sentence puzzles me, but that is no doubt because I’ve (thankfully) never met any “person skilled in self publicity and praise.” However, I would hope that in any case where I suspected such pride, I would have sufficient grasp of the Faith to know that, since I am unable to read souls, that judgment is not mine to make. I may judge words and actions, of course, and, as I say, I have thankfully never met any Catholic, male or female, who boasts about their (imagined) spiritual or religious “achievements” so – as already stated – your concluding sentence puzzles me. I presume you’ve met someone whom you consider to be a self-publicist and self-praising, in which case I would urge you to pray for that person who is clearly putting his/her soul in serious danger.

      August 13, 2015 at 10:51 am
    • Therese

      Semper Fidelis

      What’s your opinion about singing praises to Gaia in church?

      August 13, 2015 at 2:06 pm
      • editor


        She’ll love it! If she didn’t she’d be on telling us not to be so (what’s that word again? Oh yes…) judgmental…

        August 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm
    • gabriel syme

      a perceived overlooking of the role women in The Church

      Yes, I have often felt that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the several female Doctors of the Church, the entire panoply of female Saints and the multitudes of holy female religious and lay persons have mainly been overlooked and let down.

      I mean, who has ever heard of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

      August 13, 2015 at 3:20 pm
      • editor

        Gabriel Syme,

        Exactly right. That’s why I used a photo of Our Lady of Sorrows, and linked to the Litany of Our Lady of Sorrows, in the hope that we might all do a little bit of reparation for the insults being heaped upon her by this diabolical feminist nonsense, as well as to all the great women beatified, saints, Doctors of the Church etc. They really haven’t thought through this “women are oppressed” baloney, have they?

        August 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm
    • Fidelis

      How is disobeying Pope John Paul II by giving out Communion, fulfilling their baptismal calling? Extraordinary Ministers are supposed to be used in emergencies only and one of the documents says that even a packed church is not an emergency and they shouldn’t be used.

      August 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm
  • westminsterfly

    Yes I’m inclined to think it’s all back-slapping, self-congratulatory stuff. You’ve only got to look at the lives of the saints to see that most of them were misunderstood, maligned and had opprobrium heaped upon them throughout their lives.

    August 13, 2015 at 11:35 am
    • editor


      “You’ve only got to look at the lives of the saints to see that most of them were misunderstood, maligned and had opprobrium heaped upon them”

      Tell me about it…

      The saints were also given to self-sacrifice – but I wonder how many of them could have resisted this sunny day up here in Scotland, where, for once, we’re enjoying the sun AND heat at one and the same time.

      So, I’m off to get a good dose of it, mystery thriller in hand although I’ll also be continuing my reading of the life of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. I DO love reading about holy people. It’s just trying to BE one that’s hard work 😯

      August 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm
  • catholicmanoftheyear

    The source Editor has quoted, giving a glowing report about the Catholic Women of the Year event is from Joanna Bogle’s EWTN blog. On that blog Mrs Bogle also gives a glowing report of the ‘New Dawn in the Church’ Charismatic renewal conference at Walsingham, at which she recently spoke. Need I say more.

    August 13, 2015 at 12:32 pm
    • Athanasius


      No, you don’t have to say more. I guess that tells us where Ms. Bogle is at, as the Americans would say.

      August 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm
  • Athanasius

    I agree that this is yet another sign of the Modernist times in which we live. The missionary nuns did for centuries what the first three of these nominated women are doing now, without desiring or accepting human praise. The fourth woman nominated should rather be censured along with her parish priest and diocesan bishop for touching the Blessed Sacrament with her unconsecrated hands. She acts contrary to the teaching of the Church concerning the administration of Holy Communion, most specifically in recent times the clear teaching of Pope John Paul II in the matter of so-called extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

    This modern myth that the Church has not previously appreciated women is insulting to God, to Our Lady, to all the female saints and mystics and to every Catholic with an IQ slightly higher than the average houseplant. We know the reason behind the myth, of course. It is to eradicate all divinely-ordained differences between the sexes, their talents, abilities and limitations. In other words, it’s the devil at work.

    August 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm
  • Christina

    Athanasius’s, can I get in before Ed. and say ‘spot on’ with a whole peal of bells on😁

    August 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm
    • Athanasius

      Gabriel Syme,

      “Its no surprise that these awards are a tradition “dating back 40 years” – they appeared in the wake of you-know-what.”

      Would that be what Gerald Warner calls “The Second Vatican Catastrophe”

      Yes, I thought so!

      August 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm
    • Athanasius


      As long as they’re not “hell’s bells”!

      August 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm
    • editor


      That was naughty – with bells on!

      August 13, 2015 at 3:50 pm
      • Gerontius

        I knew a bloke Bell – he fell in the Clyde, and came oot ringin’

        August 13, 2015 at 5:40 pm
      • Fidelis


        LOL ! I must remember that one !

        August 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm
  • Christina

    See what happens when I try to hurry up?

    August 13, 2015 at 2:06 pm
  • gabriel syme

    I agreee with the comments so far about how absurd these awards are.

    Secular women are very prone to lapsing into self-praise/admiration. I do not mean that as a sexist comment; to see what I mean, google “womens awards”.

    The first page of results alone brings up The First Women Awards, Venus Awards, Inspiration Awards for Women, Women of the Future Awards, Women in Business Awards, Inspiring Woman Awards, Women of the Year Lunch and Assembly, Red Women of the Year Awards,Womens Prize for Fiction and the Women in Sport Awards.

    In the main, all of these events are designed to allow secular women to gather and heap praise upon themselves. Dont get me wrong, there are many brilliant women who do deserve recognition for various achievements – but most of the things listed above are mere self-indulgent fluff.

    And so it is disapointing to see this secular penchant for self-praise creep into the Church. Although its not surprising, as ever since John XXIII had his brain-wave (!) to “open the windows”, all manner of rubbish has blown in from secular society.

    Athanasius makes a great point about the woman nominated for being an “Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist” – she is proposed for an award for disobeying the Popes and profaning the Eucharist. You couldnt make it up.

    (NB – “Extraordinary minister” is a completely erroneous term; “Run-of-the-mill minister of the Eucharist” would be more honest).

    This idiocy obviously helps to strip the Novus Ordo Church of whatever rags of credibility it may have had left, but the more worrying point is that if these practices become vehicles for glorifying lay women, then the Church is not likely to correct them any time soon. And so the tail continues to wag the dog.

    The one consolation is that this seems to be an event organised by a group of lay women on their own initiative – sounding trumpets before themselves – rather than an official event of the Church calendar. (I am open to correction about that).

    I had a mischevious thought that I ought to write to a Catholic newspaper and moan that these womens awards – lacking a male equivalent – is a great example of how sexist / anti-male the Church is 😛 But then I thought – “no, that will just encourage them” and we will have the likes of Timothy Radcliffe up for an award before we know whats going on.

    August 13, 2015 at 3:07 pm
    • editor

      Gabriel Syme,

      “I ought to write to a Catholic newspaper and moan that these womens awards – lacking a male equivalent – is a great example of how sexist / anti-male the Church is…”

      I LOVE it! Priceless!

      August 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm
  • gabriel syme

    I have just posted Matthew 6:2 as a response to the article, on Ms Bogles blog.

    Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

    Matthew 6:2 (Douay Rheims)

    I wonder if it will make it through moderation? 🙂

    (if it does, I bet the response is “its someone else sounding a trumpet before these women, and so this is OK”)

    August 13, 2015 at 3:12 pm
    • Michaela


      I’ve just visited the Joanna Journalist blog and there are no comments there at all. It maybe takes a while to get things published, but I don’t think she’ll post that bible quote. It completely pulls the rug from the whole Catholic Women of the Year project.

      August 13, 2015 at 11:48 pm
  • gabriel syme

    Its no surprise that these awards are a tradition “dating back 40 years” – they appeared in the wake of you-know-what.

    August 13, 2015 at 3:22 pm
    • Fidelis

      That’s their idea of “tradition” – no further back that Vatican II.

      My own opinion is that this Catholic Women of the Year Award is not Catholic.

      I can’t even work out whether there will be only one Woman of the Year of if all four are being given the award/ Anyway, the whole thing is very secular, not at all Catholic. We are not supposed to seek rewards in this world.

      August 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm
  • christiana

    Have to say I feel uneasy about this awards thing, but also about Papal knighthoods etc. doesn’t seem to fit with the Gospel message of humility to me. But then I don’t really like clerical titles ie Your Eminence, Lordship, Holiness. I know it is for the office and not the man but it does not sit well with me.

    August 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm
    • Athanasius


      You’re right, these titles are for the office, not the person, and the office is of divine origin. Hence, they are eminently appropriate. The same is applicable to Papal knighthoods, asuming of course that the honour is bestowed on a Catholic for heroic supernatural work done for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

      August 13, 2015 at 11:16 pm
      • Michaela

        I never use titles beyond “Father”, “Bishop X”, “Cardinal X” or “Pope X” – I really don’t like the “Your Eminence” etc – yes the office may be of divine origin but not the titles. I know this is not de fide so we can have our own opinions, but I have to say I am surprised that any Catholic likes them.

        As for papal knighthoods – there have been terrible scandals caused by them being given to the likes of Rupert Murdoch, a non-Catholic man whose porn industry was rewarded by a papal knighthood (Pope JP II) and also other non-Catholics I wish they’d be stopped – there can’t be any justification for this sort of public praise within the Church. It means we are reinterpreting the Gospel to suit these awards and titles. I think this is a clear example of churchmen (not The Church per se) getting it wrong.

        August 13, 2015 at 11:40 pm
  • morgana

    I would genuinely be interested to know if you wish to offer an explanation on how you would address the clergy if there was no clerical titles

    August 13, 2015 at 9:26 pm
    • Michaela

      I just address them as “Father X / Bishop X” etc. I’ve never found it to be a problem. On one of the few occasions I decided to bother writing to the Vatican, to a cardinal, I checked out the form of address and it said either Your Eminence or just Cardinal (Name) so it’s perfectly acceptable to do that. BTW, I didn’t get a reply, so having fancy titles doesn’t seem to mean they have the good manners you would expect from someone in high office.

      August 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm
      • Athanasius


        Ours is an age of disdain for hierarchical structure, not altogether unmerrited, as your examples demonstrate, but dangerously close to anarchy nevertheless.

        With the spread of Communist principles into every aspect of modern life, not to mention the poisonous anti-authority tactics of the anti-establishment Modernists themselves, we have to be very careful not to fall into their error of misinterpreting the Gospels to suit our own inclinations.

        Clerical titles such as “Holiness” “Eminence” “Lordship,” etc., to distinguish between the various offices held in the Church has been in place for a very long time. The saints didn’t have any problem using them, so why should we? I think all arguments against such titles are red herring arguments that ultimately degrade the honour due to those who hold various high offices in the Church.

        You say it is not a matter of faith and you’re right. It is, however, a matter of respect for those whom Our Lord has raised above men to govern His Church. If we can, and should, pay due honour to civil hierarchs, then how much more those who hold divinely-instituted offices.

        You’ll notice that immediately after Vatican II the Pope and bishops abandoned the various rings of office that identified their dignity. They now all wear plain gold bands. There is a dangerous undercurrent in such displays of equality. The lay person is not equal in dignity with the priest, the priest is not equal with the bishop, the bishop is not equal with the Cardinal and the Cardinal is not equal with the Supreme Pontiff. They all compliment each other, but they are not equal. That’s why we have title distinctions that define the honour and dignity of honour bestowed by God. We must respect and defend such titles, regardless of those who may abuse them.

        August 14, 2015 at 12:25 am
      • morgana

        I agree with what you say regarding clerical titles.It is a matter of respect and in the unlikely event of me ever meeting the pope personally and despite him not carrying out his vocation as lay down by God I would still address him with the title that the church has always used.If awards for Catholic women are so important I’m sure they could easily find many Catholic housekeepers who would be willing to through their name into the hat thinking they are worthy of an award in recognition of their work.

        August 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm
      • Michaela


        I agree with you that our age has a disdain for hierarchical structure, but I don’t. And I have every respect for the offices of the bishops, cardinals and for the papal office, of course I do. That doesn’t mean I have to like the more formal titles – I think some are of quite recent origin. I forget which but I think it was “Eminence” which was only introduced in the early twentieth century by, I believe the holy Pope Pius X. He being a saint doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything he did and said – this is one thing that he introduced that I don’t feel attracted to, and I don’t think that is a sin. I don’t even think it’s a big deal, as long as I am able to show respect for the office, which I think I do by always using one of their titles – I’d never address a bishop by his name without saying “Bishop” first. I wouldn’t call anyone “My Lord” – it just grates. It’s not because I do not respect hierarchy in the world and church, I just don’t feel comfortable speaking like that.

        I hope that makes my position more clear.

        August 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm
      • Athanasius


        I don’t suppose there is any sin involved in just using “Bishop” or “Cardinal” instead of ” My Lord” and “Your Eminence,” It’s just that the Catholic faithful never had any trouble with these latter titles until after Vatican II.

        I personally prefer to stick with the titles Catholics used when the Church was in a healthier state. I like the old ways of addressing people of rank, whether ecclesiastical or secular, it just fits better with respect and orderliness. But, as I say, I don’t think there’s any sin involved in not using such titles.

        August 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm
    • leprechaun


      Where I live (Leicestershire) the standard form of address whether clergyman or what, seems to be: “Eh up miduck, a yawlright?”. Not that any candidates for Catholic Woman of the Year are likely to want to be seen addressing leprechauns anyway, especially Traditional ones.

      August 14, 2015 at 10:23 am
  • Helen

    Editor, I bet you launched this thread because you were never nominated! I’ll nominate you next time…………..

    August 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm
    • spudeater


      I strongly resent your totally unfounded allegation that Ed. had an ulterior motive in raising a thread on this award. Nothing could have been further from her mind.

      (Ed., or as you now insist, Your Glamorousness, please see my post as discussed. They won’t suspect a thing and it will almost certainly ensure not only your belated nomination for this year’s award but your eventual success. In fact, your momentum may be such that you’re a shoo-in for next year’s contest as well).

      August 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm
      • Athanasius


        Being a Traditional Catholic, editor will automatically be ruled out of shortlisting for an award. Tattie Munchers are to be kept down!

        August 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm
  • Therese

    I’ll second that, Helen! ‘Course she’d never get it because she’s too Catholic a woman….

    August 14, 2015 at 5:54 pm
  • editor

    Well, folks, you made me smile and after the day I’ve just had, that is some achievement.

    In fact, I’d told a friend in an email (a reader of this blog) that I was heading off to visit a sick friend, would he take note, as he might be able to use it in his nomination of me for next year’s Catholic Woman of the Year award. I smiled a giggly smile to myself, as is the wont with us slim, glamorous types, as indicated above by Spudeater… and then set off to visit said sick friend.

    No more smiles for the rest of the day, hours of which I’ve spent sitting in traffic queues only to have my journey lengthened by diversions here, there and everywhere. Result: I’m just home and in not the best of moods. In fact, if there were 30 commandments instead of a mere 10, I’d have broken them all by now. Where was I when the sunny natures, cool and calm temperaments were given out? I heard that !

    Anyway, thanks for the fun. I’m now off to recover from my journey. I mean, it wasn’t a million miles away. I kid you not, I could have been half-way to Newcastle in the time it took me to reach Coatbridge today – and as for the journey home…. let’s not even go there (well, I’m back, but you’ll get my drift…)

    August 14, 2015 at 6:40 pm
    • leprechaun

      Madame Editor,

      I am sorry to hear that your journey to Coatbridge turned out to be a penance.

      I am sure your arrival will have lifted the spirits of Jacinta.

      Might you earn yourself some points towards a nomination for CWotY by giving us an update on how would-be blogger Jacinta is faring these days?

      August 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm
      • editor


        There is really no change in Jacinta’s condition, sadly, so she is always grateful for our prayers. I read out bits and pieces from the August newsletter which pleased her and underlined what she already knows, that her resignation to her great suffering is very much needed and undoubtedly winning graces at this time of crisis in the Church. Please do continue to keep her in your prayers and be assured that if there is any change in her health, I will post it here without delay.

        August 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm
  • Helen

    Try public transport.

    August 14, 2015 at 8:04 pm
    • editor

      You kidding? There were a million buses in the traffic queues, as well. No thanks. I’ll just brush up on my patience…

      August 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm
  • Constantine

    I nominate Catherine Deveney.

    August 14, 2015 at 11:08 pm
    • editor

      I don’t think she’d like that. Mzzzzz Deveney doesn’t DO “Catholic”.

      But what about these Catholic women?

      A glimpse into what it was like before THAT Council… what it was like before the “renewal” (cough cough) took place 😀

      August 16, 2015 at 6:47 pm
      • Constantine

        She’s a wordsmith, like you. But her pen is mightier than the sword.

        August 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm
      • Athanasius

        But it is a poison pen, Constantine, and therefore more deadly to Catholics than the sword.

        August 16, 2015 at 11:38 pm
      • Constantine

        Pure poison. No one will recover.

        August 17, 2015 at 12:10 am
      • Margaret Mary

        I don’t understand how “no-one will recover”. Mrs Deveney didn’t give the names of the Cardinal’s critics, so I don’t see how they won’t recover.

        August 17, 2015 at 10:26 am
      • Constantine

        I mean the Church in Scotland will not recover from the scandal she exposed; its down, like Ireland now. The editor only ever expressed sorrow and disappointment over the years, but Deveney simply swept the Cardinal away with a flourish of her pen.

        August 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm
  • Julius Hevia

    Above all else we have marvelled at the depth of faith and love epitomised by our elected Catholic Women of this and every other year. Thanks also to those who have been unsuccessfully nominated.

    September 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm
    • Margaret Mary

      Julius Hevia,

      How can you tell the depth of anyone’s faith and love? At least one of those women was showing terrible disrespect for the Church’s ruling on lay people not touching the Blessed Sacrament. One of them was an extraordinary minister, and that’s pride not faith at work, IMHO

      September 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

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