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Catholic Women Commit to Peacemaking

Reflections by Susan Porrovecchio – Missoula

November 21, 2010

These past two months have been busy for Catholic women through our nation and the world. It has been my pleasure to preside at both the 2010 Centenary World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) World Assembly, October 5 thru 11, 2010, in Jerusalem and the celebration of 90 years since the founding of the National Council of Catholic Women (NNCW) at their convention in Washington, DC, November 15 thru 16.

As members of NCCW prepared to travel to the Holy Land, we were sent greetings by the WUCWO Ecclesiastical Assistant, Father  GianMaria Polidoro in September, urging each participant to bring to the Lord of Jesus a strong lived spiritual experience that belongs to all the People, the announcement of the kingdom of God, so that the Church may grow in harmony and not in conflict, that the world may believe in the Power of God.

Over 500 women from 60 countries gathered at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center directly across the street was the Old City, opposite the New Gate. Our opening liturgy was celebrated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal at the Cathedral of the Latins.

The theme of our gathering was. “You will be my witnesses, Act 1:8.” Here is a snapshot of the presentations by selected speakers—Ludmila Grygiel speaking on marriage and family. Florence Gillet, French theologian and writer, speaking on Mary; Ana Cristina Villa de Betancourt, who is responsible for the Women’s Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, speaking on Jesus and women; Marguerite Peeters, Director of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogu Dynamics, addressing how to witness to Christ in a globalized world; Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer and president of the Alliance for the Family, speaking on the importance of formation.

Panel discussions included: Catholic women from the Holy Land—a professor at Bethlehem University, the Director of Caritas Jerusalem and the Director of the Franciscan Family Center, as well as youth from the Focolare Movement representing Catholic, Muslim and Jewish youth working together, along with their families, to build a unified Holy Land.

We enjoyed close encounters with members of the community as we attended Mass with them and were able to better appreciate the cultural/religious/political struggles that continue to divide the Holy Land.

Sightseeing and shopping opportunities were included—500 women made for a significant economic windfall! At the Pontifical INstitute, we enjoyed getting acquainted with all the staff, religious as well as laity, and marveled at the unique circumstances it provided to train Catholic youth in all aspects of hotel management and the culinary arts—we were treated like royalty.

Karen Hurley of Harrisburg, PA, President General of WUCWO, ended her 4-year term in office at this gathering, representing the first woman from North America region to ever serve as Presidential General. Much beloved and admired, she will be remembered for her tireless efforts to “increase educational opportunities, poverty reduction and the advancement of human rights beginning with the fundamental right to life.” In their centenary statement, the union members underlined the need for the “universal recognition of the dignity value and genius of women for the attainment of a more humane, just and compatible society.”

In the assembly, the union elected as its 14th President General Maria Giovanna Ruggieri of Italy. Selected as the theme for the next 4 years was, “Love in Action,” underlining their commitment to peacemaking, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, to the study of the Word of God, and to the social teachings of the Church.

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