Barb Dowding hopes 'Catch the Fire' will make it clear the organization does more than bake cookies
By Nathan Rumohr
If you open yourself up to God, He will use you for His works. That outlook permeates Barbara Dowding's life. The vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Vanc
ouver now appears to be rising to the top of the Catholic Women's League.
"I've only taken the moments as they come," she said. "My motto is 'Here I am Lord; if You ask, I'll try.'"
Dowding was elected president-elect at the CWL's national convention Aug. 12 to 15 in Edmonton, which means in two years she will become president. "I thought to myself, 'Imagine,' because it was so far away from where I had ventured."
Dowding sees the CWL as an important component of the Catholic Church for women. She hopes a program she will be spearheading as president-elect called "Catch the Fire" will enable women to see that the CWL does more than bake cookies and assist at funerals.
"This is intended to invite people to come and see what the CWL is about in a one-day workshop," she said.
Dowding hopes the program will inform people that the CWL is an organization that also lobbies government about social-justice issues and tries to improve the lives of Catholic women within the Church.
She thinks that a lot of younger women would be interested in social-justice issues like fighting sex trafficking, helping refugees, and battling poverty.
"If they want to get involved in their Church in any way they can find a way to serve in the CWL," she said.
Dowding joined the CWL in the 1970s as a young mother. A friend at her parish, St. Stephen's in North Vancouver, invited her to an event called "Stitch and Coffee," where young mothers would gather to talk while their kids played.
"I met some women there that I discovered were just like me," she said. "The things they talked about were things that I never thought other people thought. It was like a bonding group of like-minded women."
Many from that group joined the CWL chapter at St. Stephen's. Dowding went to the meetings, usually contributing as the secretary, but never thought of herself as a key mover and shaker.
In 1988 Dowding received her first invitation to the CWL's political realm, and the rest is history.
"I laughed and asked, 'Can't you find anybody else?'" Dowding joked. "It was the best thing I did, and I loved it."
She gives credit for a lot of her success to her husband Alan and family. "I have great support and a fantastic husband, because it's a big commitment for him, too," she said.
She said one of the great things about the CWL is the "sisterhood" that develops, adding her CWL "sisters" continue to push her on to greater things.
Those sisters also provide an incredible support network. "When my dad died in April we had so many cards from across the country," Dowding said. She counts on the support of the archdiocese as well.
Paul Schratz, communications director for the archdiocese, has worked with Dowding on numerous projects. He said her talents range from organizing to people skills.
"Barb has a calm demeanour that just brings people together on projects, and she leads by example. I've seen her pull together celebrations small and large, from the Archdiocesan Synod to the millennial jubilee to our centennial celebration. You name it, you'd always find Barb in the thick of things," he said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what she brings to the Catholic Women's League."