WHEN Margaret Fletcher, daughter of an Oxford clergyman, became a Catholic, something was started which was to have a great influence on thousands of Catholic women through many years.
I-Icr conversion took place at a time when there were many startling changes being made in England. The suffragette movement had begun, and although Margaret Fletcher was a great believer in equal opportunities for women and had fought her own battles for these, she could see that the movement could let loose a semi-pagan crowd, ready to destroy our old beliefs. Communism was also coming to the forefront and gaining way with the working classes.
Margaret Fletcher felt that the Catholic secondary and convent schools were sheltering their pupils too much and that they were not preparing them for the difficult times ahead, and so she obtained permission from the hierarchy to edit a magazine aimed at alerting schools and teachers to the needs of the time.
The Crucible magazine ran for eight years and had many famous people among its contributors. It was in one of the last editions that the proposal for a formation of a League for Catholic Women was made. Its purpose was to unite and organise Catholic women of England, not only for their own spiritual welfare but also for the welfare of others.
The clergy generally were hesitant at accepting this proposal, but women were eager to have something organised. They wanted to press on with this new-found freedom for women, and so the Catholic Women's League was born in 1906,
The Faith, to the children, is protected by Our Lady's Catechists, founded by the League in 1923. Members are trained to give religious instruction and guidance locally or by postal course to those who are deprived from getting it by living in lonely country areas.
An extension of this work is done by the CWL Summer Camps, where groups of children are given a happy . Catholic family-life holiday, at the same time learning to love and live their Faith.
The CWL is non-political, but on many occasions delegates have been sent to interview their MPs about matters offending Christian principles.
Members have become judges, mayors, JPs, and speakers arc available from Women's World Days of Prayer. Some have risen to greater heights, representing their parish or the league on the various commissions, and even going abroad as the hierarchy's representatives.
But of course not all can aspire to this or have the time or opportunity to be more than a humble member of a section, Even here they do their little bit, by hospital visiting, caring for the elderly, etc.
Many priests now rely on their section to provide sacristans, to keep the church clean and to repair altar linen.
The spiritual side is never forgotten. The annual conferences begin with a concelebrated Mass, a wonderfully inspiring Mass this is, with more than 1,000 women taking part with their spiritual director and other clergy in singing and praying the Mass,