Over 40 years ago the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon was first mooted. Its two main objectives were to pay tribute to Catholic women who gave outstanding service to the Church and to raise funds for the Jinja Group. Since 1987, different charities have been chosen every year.
The theme of the luncheon is changed annually to reflect the concerns of Catholic women around the world and is presented by our keynote speakers each year with the intention of providing a forum where Catholic women can meet and discuss issues that affect them deeply.
The organisation would never have got off the ground without the determination, drive and contacts of our dynamic first chairman, Pamela Weisweiller. The first committee meeting took place in January 1969 and the first Luncheon on May 13th of the same year. Over 100 women attended and this success led to today's 300 guests.
In recent times 28 charities have been chosen and we have been able to distribute in excess of ?52,000 which has been raised from donations, a raffle and the Luncheon itself.
From its small beginnings, the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon has flourished, providing a unique opportunity for Catholic women to meet and discuss issues such as the Abortion Act in 1969 and the Human Embryology Bill of 2008. Among others we have listened to Cardinals Hume and Murphy O'Connor, in addition to being spiritually refreshed and laughing with The Two Fat Ladies and Professor Paul Williams. 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. We thank God for the opportunity to hear and be inspired by our fellow women.
The survival and growth of the Catholic Church in this country down the ages has often depended on the faith and determination of women. The original objectives of the Luncheon 40 years ago were to honour Catholic women for their work in the Church and to raise money for charity. Those objectives are as necessary now as they ever have been. Ad multos annos.
The four people chosen as this year's Catholic Women of the Year have been announced. The quartet are Mary-Jane Butler, who found the charity WORK, (Widows and Orphans in Rural Kenya); Dr Margaret Ann Burgess, who founded the charity Promise Nepal; Monica Cleaver, who organises and leads youth work in London; and Yolanda Fletcher, sacristan, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and all-round helper in her local parish in Wales.
The annual event dates back 40 years and this year's celebratory luncheon will be held on Friday October 23 at the Thistle Hotel in Marble Arch, central London.
Fr Alexander Sherbrook of St Patrick's Soho will be the speaker.
This year's recipients have all the served the poor and underprivileged down the years. Ms Butler has helped 500 widows and orphans, and run six schools and two rural health centres, while Dr Burgess's charity helps people suffering from leprosy in Nepal, treating 200 patients a day and running a 15-bed hospital.