Health care in Nepal and Welsh cakes at home – the unsung heroines of 2015

The 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”.