National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW)
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CATHOLIC WOMEN (NCCW)
A federation of some 6,000 Catholic women's organizations representing millions of Catholic women across the United States. The NCCW was founded in 1920 at the request of the United States Catholic bishops who had seen the work accomplished by the many separate Catholic women's groups during World War I and urged them to unite their efforts by forming a federation. The NCCW eventually was a constituent member of the Lay Organization Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. The NCCW is composed of affiliated parish or area women's groups, and diocesan and national organizations, as well as supporting members. The organization acts through these affiliates to support, educate, and empower all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership, and service.
In 1920 when the NCWC's Department of Lay Organizations was divided into the National Council of Catholic Men (NCCM) and the National Council of Catholic Women, the NCCW had only 90 affiliated organizations. In its early days, the NCCW managed the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), 1921–1947, for women, prior to its merger with the School of Social Work, for men, at The Catholic University of America. From 1948–1977, Margaret Mealey led the organization as Executive Director. In January 1963, at the invitation of Pres. John F. Kennedy, NCCW representatives met with interdenominational leaders to examine the role of churches and synagogues in eliminating racial discrimination from their own institutions and communities. The NCCW responded by conducting leadership institutes throughout the U.S. to address the race problem. Since 1982, NCCW's respite program has trained over 1,300 volunteers in 15 states to act as temporary surrogate caregivers for people who are caring for elderly or disabled relatives in their homes. There are programs that assist at-risk women and children, as well as women in prison, and children in foster care. The NCCW's interreligious endeavors include working with Jewish women on environmental concerns in several states. Initiatives have included resolutions to ban human embryo stem cell research, to install internet filtering devices in schools, to reject a nuclear missile defense program, and to increase public awareness of the plight of the world's refugees.
As a federation of existing organizations, the NCCW is designed to unite Catholic women's organizations and individual Catholic women throughout the United States; provide a medium for Catholic women to speak and act upon matters of mutual interest; support social action efforts and train Catholic women to become leaders in many areas of life; represent U. S. Catholic women in national and international organizations and programs; collaborate with other organizations and agencies on issues of common concern; and assist Catholic women to act upon current issues in the Church and society.
The NCCW is a service agency. Its programs are implemented through six commissions: Church, Family Concerns, Community Concerns, International Concerns, Legislation, and Organization. These programs reach national audiences as well as those attached to dioceses and deaneries, parishes and local groups. Special cooperation is afforded the confraternity of christian doctrine, catholic charities, Catholic Relief Services, National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
The NCCW represents U.S. Catholic women at national and international meetings of government and nongovernment agencies concerned with the welfare of women or the moral and religious welfare of humanity. The NCCW holds membership in World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO) and Women in Community Services (WICS). It is a member of the United States Catholic Conference. Its publications vary, but since 1975, NCCW has published the bi-monthly magazine Catholic Woman. The NCCW is required by its constitution to meet in convention biennially to conduct its business and elect its governing board. In alternate years, regional leadership training institutes are held in strategic areas to give women from all 50 states an opportunity to attend.
Bibliography: Archival material for the NCCW is located at The Catholic University of America (1920–1999). Catholic Woman (1975—). r. l. o'halloran, Organized Catholic Laywomen: The National Council of Catholic Women, 1920–1995 (Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1996).
[p. j. hayes]