Britain’s Catholic Women of the Year
It’s a tradition established now for over 40 years… after requesting nominations from every diocese in England and Wales, a committee drawn from a range of Catholic groups and lay movements votes by secret ballot for the Catholic Women of the Year. There’s no cash award or impressive medal, but the four women honoured each year are guests at a celebration luncheon, and are given flowers and a commemorative card offering congratulations and prayers. The Luncheon also raises funds for charity each year.
The Catholic Women of the Year for 2014 are:
Leonie Caldecott, author, playwright, and editor of Second Spring magazine and the popular monthly devotional manual Magnificat. She has contributed to newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, created “The Rose Round” youth group for girls, and organised summer schools on a range of topics including John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Her play “Divine Comedy” was performed in Oxford to mark the visit of the relics of Therese of Lisieux, and “The Quality of Mercy” was performed at the Oxford University chaplaincy by a young drama team to mark the beatification of John Paul II. Her husband Stratford Caldecott, with whom she launched Second Spring died recently and Leonie is continuing the work that they began together.
Maura Lydon helps to run the Open House at St Patrick’s Church in London’s Soho Square, feeding some 60-70 homeless people every week. The work involves arranging for deliveries of food, and preparing vegetables, potatoes and rice in large quantities. A member of St Patrick’s parish for the past 25 years, she has taken responsibility for organising donations of gifts for the parish bazaar, washing the altar linens, helping with the refreshments after Sunday Mass, visiting sick and housebound parishioners, and supporting the many projects of this busy inner-city church.
Sheila McAllister has given over 30 years of service to the Union of Catholic Mothers in the Shrewsbury diocese, and is a leading figure in her local parish, St Anne’s, Rock Ferry. Her activities have ranged from helping to run the parish lottery – raising over £131,000 for local charities – to launching a social group for older people, helping to organise celebrations for the parish’s 150th anniversary, supporting the Women’s World Day of Prayer, and running Lenten groups and Scripture study circles. She was nominated by several members of the parish who wrote that “Sheila puts her heart and soul into anything and everything she does for her family, church, and community.”
Helen Williams has been a leading figure with the Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust in Wales since the 1980s, and has journeyed to Lourdes with over 150 sick children and their helpers. As secretary for the Welsh group of the HCTP, she has befriended families across Wales, helping them to take part in pilgrimages, organising fund-raising, and sorting out legal and administrative needs with goodwill and sympathy. Through her encouragement, kindness, and enthusiasm, strong bonds of friendship have been forged and many families have shared in joyful and unforgettable pilgrimages to the great shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes.
The 2014 Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon will be held on Friday October 10th at The Thistle Hotel, Marble Arch, London WIH 7EH. Funds raised this year will go to the Ten Ten Theatre, especially for its work with young people.