September 8, 2014

After almost 40 years of involvement with the Catholic Women's League, Barbara Dowding has reached the top.

The dedicated woman, vice chancellor of the Vancouver Archdiocese, was installed as the CWL's national president Aug. 13.

"I am honoured, thrilled, humbled, and grateful for this wonderful opportunity," Dowding said after her installation in St. Dunstan's Church in Fredericton during the league's 94th annual convention.

Also elected to the national executive was Fran Lucas of Edmonton. She will serve as second vice-president. Margaret Ann Jacobs of Elmvale, Ont., was elected national president-elect.

Dowding was elected president-elect at the 2012 league convention in Edmonton.

Since she joined the CWL in 1976 at St. Stephen's Parish in North Vancouver, Dowding has moved up through the ranks, holding positions as president at parish, diocesan and provincial levels, as well as community life chairwoman and resolutions chairwoman.

Dowding received a standing ovation when she unveiled the theme she had chosen for her term: One Heart, One Voice, One Mission.

"I pray I can help Catholic women across Canada stand up and take their place, speak for those who cannot speak, and fulfill their baptismal call by accepting and affirming their many and varied gifts."


Lately the CWL has been taking up initiatives on hot topics like prostitution and relations with aboriginal people.

Dowding said the league's connection with the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations and other networks means their resolutions have a worldwide reach.

One of her goals for the CWL is to have 100,000 members on its 100th anniversary; membership has slipped two per cent in the last year.

"Barb is the leader that we need at this time," said Pat Battensby, a CWL life member who attended the installation.


"I think one of Barb's greatest accomplishments will be her gift of meeting with government. Her background in resolutions that we present to government is thorough and well-researched, so she is adept at presenting the situation."

While Dowding doesn't intend to rebrand the CWL, she does hope to spread the word that the CWL does more than cook.

"Even in the smallest of places with the smallest number of members, the work is being done. People are fed, money is raised to support charities, letters written, spirituality deepened and so on."