The Diocesan Links are women appointed by their Bishop to the NBCW. In every diocese the role may be carried out differently, depending on the size of the diocese and the wishes of the Bishop or Archbishop. Here we give a close-up of the role of Diocesan Links.

Sue Petritz, of Arundel & Brighton diocese:

“In 2016 I was asked by my Bishop to take over the role of Diocesan Link. I had no idea what that was and it took me a while to discover the extent of NBCW. The following year I was asked to become a representative for DLs and sit on the Executive, which I did until 2022. I put together a welcome pack for new DLs to offer guidance and I was also involved in updating the Constitution. During Covid lockdowns I started zoom sessions for DLs.

More recently, on the ‘Women in the Church’ committee, I came up with the idea of a book club. It’s been a wonderful way to reach out. I’ve also had lovely opportunities through my involvement with NBCW, going to the Andante Conference in Strasbourg and also a trip to Bucharest. Being part of NBCW really makes you feel part of the universal Church and gives you input at a European level and also to the bishops’ conference.

Women are doing things at a brilliant level, such as making representations to Parliament, to the Bishops’ Conference, sitting on European Committees…. getting involved with what’s happening in the wider Church.

I took as my motto: “to promote the presence, participation and responsibilities of Catholic women” – which is on every email and letter I send.

One key learning point in this role has been witnessing the amount of work women do for the Church that goes unrecognised, sometimes even in their own parish. There are lots of women who do lots of things and take on roles that aren’t seen. In other words, if women in the Church went on strike, parishes would collapse!

A key challenge for NBCW is that people often say “I’ve never heard of it!” I always pronounce, “I’m a diocesan link” to spread awareness. I also send off monthly notices to our diocesan newsletter and additionally I send out a newsletter.

I recall meeting a woman at a gathering I went to and I encouraged her to get involved at some level. I was delighted when she was subsequently appointed as a diocesan representative for an anti-human trafficking initiative. She said it was being encouraged to do so by me that led her down that path…..that’s what I see the role of DL achieving. There are lots of women who belong to groups but there are lots of women in the pews who don’t belong to anything, so I can be that link. Lots of women may feel they’d like to be more active, or feel they have a mission, but don’t belong to any group, so don’t hear about opportunities. So if I can be that link, I love that.

I also make sure that I pursue ecumenical initiatives, particularly with women. We have to share and invite each other to our meetings and events.

I send out a monthly newsletter to all parishes by email and ask them to print it and put it on the noticeboard. This has been REALLY hard to achieve; I’ve found the best way is to have a personal contact and ask that person to print it out and display it.

Ultimately being a diocesan link is about listening, dialogue and about taking part in committee work.

In terms of the future direction of NBCW, my dream would be that every parish would have a representative who would be linked into the DL – who then links in to the NBCW, with women from all dioceses looking to take up roles on NBCW committees and seeing the organisation as a stepping stone to roles in the dioceses. Alternatively, those who have roles in the dioceses already, bringing that experience to the NBCW.

So it would be, ideally, a case of women saying “Oh, we must look and see what the NBCW is doing.” NBCW would be the one organisation that women would look to to see what is being offered….. so in other words, to become a household name in the Catholic Church!”

Susan Longhurst, of Southwark Archdiocese.

In June 2020 Sue met Archbishop John Wilson, who is very supportive of the Link role, and she has regular contact with Bishop Paul Hendricks who is currently working on the Diocesan Spirituality Commission. In September 2020 Susan conducted some research, mapping women’s groups and organisations in the diocese. She sent an online survey to every parish and invited women’s groups to respond with information on their scope and remit, their priorities and their response to the COVID situation. She has now set up a Diocesan Link Facebook page and hopes this will become a useful forum for women to come together and share experiences, ideas and initiatives in Southwark. The more active the network, the more Susan will be able to feed back to the NBCW the voice of Catholic women in Southwark.

Susan works full time for a charity developing programmes to make Christianity accessible and is about to complete a PhD on Contemporary Catholic Conversion in the Archdiocese of Southwark.

Amy Cameron

 works full time for the Catholic Church in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as ‘Faith and Mission Co-ordinator.’ A role that involves strategic planning for the future, and personal faith formation for parish renewal and growth.

She has a passion for empowering women and seeks to do this in her diocesan work and at home with her three teenage daughters. As a long-time believer in the power of women working together she is looking to develop and empower the network of Catholic women in her diocese.

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