Josephine Siedlecka, the founder and editor of Independent Catholic News, is one of three women honoured as ‘Catholic Women of the Year’ for 2012. They attended an award ceremony and luncheon on Monday 8 October in Central London, along with around 260 women, largely representing women’s organisations such as the Union of Catholic Mothers, Catholic Women’s League, and the Association of Catholic Women. The other two ‘Catholic Women of the Year’ are Bron Soane, who founded the charity Aid to the Children of El Salvador, and Maureen Meacher, who has given steadfast service to Catholic education and to addressing social concerns.
Josephine began Independent Catholic News (ICN) in 2000, as a response to the Millennium call of Blessed John Paul inviting lay Catholics to play a greater role in evangelisation. She was working as a journalist in the mainstream press at the time and felt there was a need for more coverage of Catholic and Christian issues in the media and for better use to be made of the internet. This new technology is so powerful” she says, “and as Christians with Good News I felt we had to make good use of it!” She also hoped a Catholic internet news service would reach a wider audience than just church-going Catholics. Finding professional website designers too expensive, she sought help from friends, attended evening classes, learnt the skills, and built the site with a group of volunteers. The design has been kept simple so that people in the developing world, with older computers, are able to access it. ICN was the first daily on-line Catholic news service in the UK and has built up a worldwide following over the past 12 years.
Josephine uploads six to eight stories every day, even when she is away from her London base. ICN now receives more than 4.8 million visits a month, boosted by links to Facebook and Twitter, which Josephine uses to draw readers to the website and to signing up to receiving the daily news by e-mail. As well as running ICN, Josephine is also a Deputy Editor of the Westminster Record and one of the UK-based writers of the Messenger of St Anthony magazine, International Edition, which is produced in Italy.
Bron Soane founded charity ‘Aid to the Children of El Salvador’ following a visit to the country where she was moved by the suffering of children made homeless and destitute by the civil war. She taught herself Spanish, lodged with some sisters, and established a home where 100 children found a refuge. She later sold her own property in Wales to fund a project for street-children, in which volunteers contact children who are being sexually exploited or involved in drugs or glue-sniffing and welcome them to a day-centre where they can receive education, help, and training so that they can enter a mainstream school. Her other ventures include setting up a refuge for girls where they can live as a family while attending school.
Maureen Meacher, former head of Religious Studies at the Marist School in Sunninghill, is a stalwart of the Union of Catholic Mothers, and a worker for a number of charities including ‘Crossroads Caring for Carers’ of which she is a Trustee. She was nominated by former teaching colleagues who valued her dedication, competence, and kindness to her pupils, and a number of local people in her parish for her support of people with disabilities and for the friendship and support given to many people facing personal difficulties.
The ‘Catholic Women of the Year’ Committee has organised an annual luncheon and presentation to honour exceptional Catholic women, particularly “unsung heroines”, for the past 44 years. This year, the guest speaker after the presentation of the award certificate and luncheon was Edmund Adamus, Director for Marriage and Family Life at the Diocese of Westminster, who spoke on ‘Blessed John Paul’s legacy: love and life’. In addition, nearly £2000 was raised at the luncheon, which this year will go to the Maryvale Institute to develop its work training catechists.
See also: Text: Edmund Adamus at Catholic Women of the Year 2012 www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=21212