Catholic Women’s League Presents First Badge for 70 Years’ Service
By Deanna Cawdron – A 70-year service badge was produced for the first time in South Africa, as a Catholic Women’s League member celebrated her historic milestone.
When the congregation’s standing ovation ended, the CWL’s Eileen York, 92, took her seat in the front row at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Westville, Durban, with a tear twinkling in her eye.
She wasn’t the only one. As one of her fellow CWL members whispered, wiping tears from her own eyes, “She touches my heart. She inspires me.”
That was the consistent message of Ms York’s family, CWL friends, and fellow parishioners when they joined her at a Mass to honour her 70 years of CWL membership.
Ms York, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes, is an honorary life member of the CWL. She never sought office and was content to remain an ordinary member living the values of charity, work, and loyalty.
She and her husband raised eight children, and the seven surviving were all present to see her receive her badge at Mass, having travelled from abroad and all over South Africa to be there.
A Privilege to Present Badge
CWL national president Bernice Cocci presented the badge to Ms York, with the support of Elaine Phillips, second vice-president; Loretta Ndelu, Durban diocesan president; Linda Meeson, Durban diocesan vice-president; and Theresa Mjenge, Westville president.
Ms Cocci later told the large group gathered at the post-Mass tea that it was “a privilege to be here and to share this with Eileen”.
“I offer the deepest congratulations to her on her years of service. I want to thank her for always being there,” she said.
“I read the citations, and know from them, and love, the story that even in a grocery shop, if you bumped into Eileen, and shared a concern with her, she would stop to stand and pray with you immediately.
“Being a CWL member is not always easy,” Ms Cocci continued, “especially with a young family. Often potential members say they are too busy, yet Eileen raised eight children while fully participating in her branch. I think of our current theme, which is ‘Here I am, Lord.’ Eileen answered that call, and said, ‘Send me.’”
Durban diocesan president Ms Ndelu commented: “She sets such an example of dedication to the CWL. As a diocese, we are overwhelmingly proud of her. I was honoured to be the president who presented her with her honorary life membership, and delighted to see her at the cathedral last year for the cardinal’s blessing for those members.”
30 Family Members Present
Surrounded by more than 30 family members, and after expressing her thanks to all present, Ms York simply commented:
“When I got married, I wanted to be the ideal wife, mother, and example. Oftentimes I failed, but looking around today I may have succeeded in a small way.”
When asked what she would tell young women considering joining the league in 2019, she advised:
“The lifelong friendships I still enjoy have added immeasurably to my happiness. Along with campaigning and fundraising, and being able to help the parishioners with compassionate work like assisting at funerals, it gives a wonderful structure to support your parish priest.”
Finally, Ms York remarked: “I am so happy to be in this league; by letting me be of service to the CWL, and through the CWL to the parish, they have helped make me a better Christian.”