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Next Gen attracting younger CWL members

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In a positive sign for the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), there has been a boost in the number of younger members participating – albeit in a slightly different way.

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For the past two years nearly 20 women have been meeting regularly as part of the Emmaus parish’s CWL Next Gen group, the first of its kind in the Adelaide Archdiocese.

Established with the blessing and support of the CWL State Executive and Kingswood CWL branch, Next Gen is enabling women – predominantly in their forties and fifties – to follow the League’s mission of sharing their faith and doing good works in the community. However, the format of the gatherings takes into account their current life circumstances and their inability to always commit to a monthly meeting.

“The ethos of the group is the same as the CWL but we make it more accessible and relevant to our lives,” said Next Gen president Michele Coolahan.

“A lot of the women have full time jobs, are busy parents and they have loads going on, so it’s great being so flexible and not putting demands on people.

“They are part of something and they can come whenever they can, but we’re all still really connected through emails.”

Ms Coolahan said the motivation for establishing the group came after she attended a Kingswood CWL meeting.

“I had been a member at Kingswood CWL for about 10 years at the time and I really love the group – the members have been incredible and have really inspired me with my faith journey. After this particular meeting I thought how great it would be to get young women to do exactly the same thing,” she explained.

Ms Coolahan enlisted the help of Hazel O’Dea (treasurer) and Karen de Sousa (secretary) and they approached the Kingswood branch and the State Executive with their proposal.

On August 13 2018 the inaugural meeting was held at the Prohibition Liquor Company in the city and since then the group has met on a monthly basis, with varying numbers depending on what the women have going on in their lives at the time.

Despite COVID-19, meetings have continued this year, virtually and in person. Some of the activities have included a family barbecue, pizza night, cooking demonstration (via Zoom), a Zoom quiz night, family walk at Morialta Conservation Park and last month the women made felt hearts that will be distributed in the Backpacks 4 Kids program.

Members in the group are from Emmaus and other parishes in the Archdiocese and as Mrs de Sousa outlined many, like her, were originally from overseas and now living far away from their extended families.

“We have British, Nigerian, New Zealand, Korean and Indian women, so it’s like finding another family and we are all connected with our Catholic faith,” she said.

“One of our members who is from India had her mum die suddenly recently and because she couldn’t get home (due to COVID) we did a memorial service at the church.

“That was our biggest turnout and the proudest moment, even though it was such a sad occasion… that we could have a service to honour her mum and let her know that she is loved in the community.

“It was women pulling together and supporting each other and it was such a privilege to be able to do this. If we have only achieved that in our two years, well that is just amazing.”

The success of the group has filtered throughout the Archdiocese and members of CWL Next Gen have already been asked to speak with the Glenelg parish which has indicated it may be interested in establishing a similar group. They expect other parishes may follow suit.

CWL State president Cecilia Quigley said the establishment of the group and what it offered ‘younger’ women was “amazing” and a boost for the CWL.

“It is exciting and promising to see this younger group of women alongside other women of faith at Emmaus Catholic community,”
Mrs Quigley said.

“The motto for CWL is ‘Loyalty, Work and Charity’ and there is no one way to practice this. We do need to find new ways to support women of all ages in our daily lives.

“I feel very privileged as State president to have attended two of their meetings and witnessed the fun, laughter, community support that emanated from this group. As a member of the Glenelg CWL branch, I look forward to the visit of some of the Kingswood Next Gen CWL members to our parish and pray that an inspiring chat over coffee or a glass of wine will be the catalyst for a new model.”

Established in 1914, the CWL had about 2500 members in South Australia at its peak. Seven years ago this number had dropped to 1000 and today there are about 330 members in branches across the State.

For more information about CWL Next Gen contact Michele Coolahan at michelecoolahan@gmail.com. Details about the CWL SA available at www.cwla.com.au/cwl-south-australia/

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