Britain’s Catholic Women of the Year

Back in the late 1960s, when there was much confusion and dissension in the Church over Humanae Vitae, a group of Catholic women in Britain decided to do something to boost morale. They founded the Catholic Women of the Year event, designed to honour Catholic women who serve the Church and the community, especially the normally unsung heroines.

The 2009 Luncheon – the 41st – took place on Oct. 9 in London and was a terrific success. The three Catholic Women of the Year, chosen by secret ballot from nominations sent in from across England and Wales were:

Mrs. Margaret Mizen, who gave inspiration to all of Britain by her courage, faith and dignity following the death of her son. Speaking after Sunday Mass on the day following the attack, Mrs Mizen said: “People keep saying ‘Why are you not angry?’ There’s so much anger in the world, and it’s anger that’s killed my son. If I am angry, then I am exactly the same as this man. We have got to get rid of this anger, we’ve got to…” The Mizen family are active members of their local parish in London, where Jimmy was an altar server. Jimmy was one of nine brothers and sisters, including a sister who has Down Syndrome.

Mrs. Maureen “Mo” Baldwin, who works on projects for young people in Lancashire. While teaching at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic High School in Preston, Mrs Baldwin was attacked by a young intruder. Her injuries meant that she had to retire from teaching. Despite this, she has dedicated herself to helping young people, works with “ROOTS,” an ecumenical publishing project, and has been active with “Just Youth” and the Lancaster diocesan youth service.

Miss Margaret Mason of the parish of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, who works as a volunteer for a wide range of groups.After working for many years as a probation officer, Miss Mason has dedicated herself to the cause of anyone in her area who needs help. She gives assistance to families in difficulties – including ferrying their children to and from school, supports a Lunch Club, helps with transport to pilgrimages and other outings, and is always available when some need arises.

Speaker at the luncheon was Father Emmanuel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who spoke about people’s need for Christ. The Friars run a soup kitchen in the east end of London, and work with young people, going to schools, and running retreats and youth events. He gave a rousing call to preach the Gospel in all its fullness.

“Today there is an epidemic of loneliness,” he said. “Large numbers of young people in Britain are on anti-depressants, and feel that their lives have no meaning. People feel unconnected with one another. They need the message of Christ, of human solidarity, of neighbourly love. We cannot give them a watered-down version of the Faith. They need the truth, in all its fullness and beauty.”

Funds raised at the luncheon will go toward the Friars’ work and that of the “Loaves and Fishes Centre,” a Manchester-based ecumenical youth project.