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2001 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award Citation

June 22nd, 2001

National Council of Catholic Women

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative gives the Annual Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award “to an individual, group, or institution which has furthered reconciliation and/or dialogue on important issues within the church.”

We proudly present the Award 2001 to the National Council of Catholic Women for the patient, persevering work they have done to encourage dialogue among their membership of more than 6,000 women’s organizations.  Their work is a model of what the Initiative hopes to accomplish.

From the earliest days, Annette Kane, executive director, expressed hope that the Initiative could benefit her membership, and her ongoing leadership has been invaluable.  Julie French was the first NCCW board member to express interest, and we wish to recognize how hard she worked to learn about the Initiative and to garner support among the other board members.

When NCCW Second Vice President Maureen Willenbring met Initiative committee member Sr. Katarina Schuth, O.S.F., the idea of bringing together the leaders of two different women’s groups in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the commission and the women’s council, as a model of what the Initiative could accomplish, was born.  They called together leaders of both groups in the summer of 1998.  By November the council and the commission agreed to co-sponsor an archdiocesan day of dialogue.

The council and commission presidents met with Maureen Willenbring and Sr. Katarina through the winter months to choose themes, decide process, and to plan a program for March 13, 1999.  The success of that day, which had about 50 participants, led Annette Kane to issue an invitation to engage in a similar dialogue workshop at the national convention in Kansas City the following October.  Over 400 women participated in that dialogue, and as a result several diocesan councils sponsored local days on dialogue in conjunction with the Jubilee Year Day for Women, March 25, 2000.

The experience of dialogue also spurred requests from members for a resource packet to those who wished to further dialogue “at home.”  Maureen Willenbring worked tirelessly to develop the packet which was introduced to the membership at the General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, in October 2000.

Clearly, many women collaborated over several years in this project, but there is no question that Annette Kane’s leadership and Maureen Willenbring’s untiring work, along with that of Sr. Katarina Schuth from the Initiative committee, have been invaluable.  The support of the successive NCCW presidents, Joan McGrath, Joann Hillebrand, and K. LaVerne Redden was crucial to all that has been accomplished.  And we also wish to acknowledge the indispensable work of Sheila McCarron in the national office.

The Initiative, in giving this award to the NCCW, is recognizing the vision and the work of all those who have contributed to the “faithful and hopeful” dialogue envisioned by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.