The idea that the various Catholic women’s organisations in Australia should work together at the national level first emerged after the 29th International Eucharistic Congress, hosted by Sydney in 1928. With a strong foundation in rural and regional areas, and counting a young Mary Glowrey as the first president of one of its member organisations (the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga), the Catholic Women’s League Australia (CWLA) has long ministered to the needs and dreams of Catholic women around the country.

Almost a century later, the CWLA continues to gather regularly to pray together and discuss key social issues.

The 2024 national conference was no exception.

Nearly 100 league members from six states—Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland—gathered at Rydges World Square in Sydney from 3 to 5 May for the CWLA triennial conference, the first since 2019.

This year’s conference program featured sessions run by the league’s national bioethics and social issues convenors exploring some of the issues associated with gender identity, abortion and availability of online pornography to children.

The league’s international secretary, who attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations (UN) in New York in March, spoke of the advantages of the league’s Economic and Social Council Roster Status with the UN, not only in observing and reporting back to CWLA members on current issues, but also in holding to account governments and organisations who agree to follow specific courses of action that the league either supports or questions, such as banning female genital mutilation or enforcing a right to abortion.

Guest speaker Dr Joanna Howe shared her thoughts on pro-life legal advocacy. Noting that the ‘debate’ is often one-sided, Joanna draws on her legal expertise to share her concerns, and has developed a considerable following online.

Elaborating on the case study of St Paul the Apostle, guest speaker Richard Leonard SJ explored the theme of Christian hope in the context of contemporary mental health challenges—particularly those affecting young people—delivering a timely message of forgiveness and the need for respectful disagreement.

Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga President Jane Munro, who attended the conference, paid tribute to the league’s branch members, describing them as ‘the backbone of each league member organisation’.

‘For CWLA to continue to serve women in the coming decades,’ she said, ‘it needs to continue to grow, meeting the needs of women in their local parishes and communities.

‘Women’s desire for formation, Mass attendance, Eucharistic adoration, prayer, companionship, and bonding over a shared meal draws women to the CWL’s retreats in Melbourne and the regions.’

The organisation’s next retreat will be at St Peter’s Parish, Toorak, on Saturday 1 June 2024, 9am–12.15pm.

To find out more about upcoming events run by the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga, go to

Banner image: Dr Joanna Howe and CWLA President Ann Pereira. (Photo supplied.)