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Religious sister, NFP tutor, catechist and mother: Catholic Women of the Year announced

The annual awards honour women who have ‘made an outstanding contribution’ to the Church in Britain

A religious sister, a mother, a Natural Family Planning tutor and a trainer of catechists are among those honoured in this year’s Catholic Women of the Year awards.

The awards will be presented in London in October.

The youngest of the winners is Catherine MacMillan, a writer, speaker and musician (and daughter of the composer Sir James MacMillan). She became unexpectedly pregnant at 18, and resisted pressure from doctors to have an abortion.

Her daughter, Sara, was born severely disabled, and died earlier this year aged five. Catherine has spoken and written about Sara, saying the pain of bereavement is “worth it to have those almost six years of joy, love, heartache and extreme pride … What we had is the alternative to the guilt and the pain of being pressured to end something that is not our choice to end."

The other winners are: Olive Duddy, director of the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association; Caroline Farey, a trainer of catechists currently based at the School of the Assumption at Buckfast Abbey; and Sister Jane Louise, a former Anglican sister now leading the Sisters of Our Lady of Reconciliation based in Walsingham.

This year’s lunch takes place on Friday 28 October, at the Amba Hotel in Marble Arch, London.

Sister Jane Louise told the Catholic Herald: “I have to say I am very surprised that this has happened, there are so many other women out there who are far more deserving of this award. However, I accept it on behalf of the other two Sisters who came on the same journey as myself, Sister Wendy Renate (RIP 23rd March 2016) and Sister Carolyne Preston.

“I am grateful that our journey has been acknowledged, and so it continues in ways none of us could have predicted, but that is just the way God is, He has kept us on our toes, or should I say on our knees! A big thank you to all concerned."

Dr Duddy was nominated by committee members of the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association, of which she was chair for six years. It pioneered the Symptothermal method of NFP, which Dr Duddy says is “effective in helping couples become pregnant 30% and to avoid pregnancy 99.96% which is much better than any other method of family regulation".

She has also taught the method in Kyrgyzstan, where it has since been developed into a widely-used school programme, and developed a 12-week online course. Dr Duddy, who has five children and eight grandchildren, worked as a GP in Prestwich, which, she says “was 80 per cent Jewish and a wonderful experience of family life". Since retiring she has run marriage preparation courses.

Dr Farey is currently Director of Studies for the School of the Assumption at Buckfast Abbey, with special responsibility for training tutors. She has written and taught for many years, especially in Thomism, sacred art and catechetics. Dr Farey was also one of three lay women experts at the 13th General Synod of Bishops on New Evangelisation in 2012.

The annual Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon began in 1969, with the aim of honouring women who have served the Church, and providing a discussion forum. It also raises money for charity.

The organisers say: “The occasion is an opportunity to celebrate women within the Church who have made an outstanding contribution to the Catholic Church in Great Britain.

“Within our dioceses, many women are working hard behind the scenes to catechise, evangelise and foster the faith of those within their parishes. There are also women in positions of great authority who act as representatives of the Church in an ever more secular environment."


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