About us

Aims And Objectives


  • To co-ordinate the activities of women in India, in civic, social, cultural, educational, health, economic, religious and spiritual fields and thus to play a more effective role in the life of the Church and Country.
  • To serve as a medium through which women of India may speak and act as a body on all matters of public interest and specifically matters affecting the life and ideals of women, irrespective of caste, creed and community.
  • To effect co-ordination between different Catholic organizations of women existing in dioceses and different regions.
  • To outline common policies and joint programmes to be undertaken by different organizations either jointly or singly at a local, regional, national or global level.
  • To promote the establishment of diocesan councils under the guidance of the local Ordinaries.
  • To establish contact and relations with other National Groups in the country, with a view to enlist interest in and help in the solution of common moral, educational and socio-economic problems.
  • To establish relations with organizations in other countries whether national or international, with a view to co-operate in problems common to women throughout the world.
  • To be in contact with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) for all matters affecting the Church and the Organisation.

There are 35 active units spread over the length and breadth of the country. The units are known by various names:-


  • Catholic Women’s League
  • Mahila Sangh
  • Diocesan Council of Catholic Women
  • Ladies of Charity
  • Catholic Women’s Fellowship

The projects undertaken by the units focus on awareness building and helping women to empower themselves thus improving the quality of their lives. Units take up projects depending on the needs in their areas. Some examples:


  • Establishment of self help groups (SHG’s) for earning a livelihood and income generation; micro savings and micro enterprise schemes.
  • Political empowerment and training of women for leadership in panchayat raj institutions and municipal corporations.
  • Establishment of crisis intervention centres for women in distress, short-stay homes & counseling centres
  • Gender training programs
  • Girl child programs
  • Health camps
  • Care and support of the aged
  • Non formal education, night schools for underprivileged children
  • Rights education – legal, human, land, minority, women’s rights, etc.
  • Programs for youth on alcohol and drug abuse
  • Programs for youth on alcohol and drug abuse
  • Relief work during natural disasters
  • Work along with diocesan Women’s Commissions and Laity Commissions Interface with ecumenical and inter-faith groups, programs to promote communal harmony & national integration
  • Participate in parish finance and pastoral councils

Most of the units regularly organize celebrations to commemorate important events like Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, Day of the Girl Child, etc.

History of the Council Of Catholic Women of India – PART I


The CCWI had humble beginnings when the seeds of a National Organization were sown by Countless Christine de Hemptinne of Belgium who addressed the Catholic Women of Bangalore on behalf of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization. Encouraged by Archbishop Thomas Pothacamury, the then Archbishop of Bangalore, who was “Secretary General of ‘CBCI’. It was in this capacity that he invited Christine de Hemptinne to Bangalore. The Catholic Women’s League was formed in 1956. This with the DCCW of Mangalore was the nucleus for the later formation of the Council of Catholic Women.

In that same visit, Christine de Hemptine went down to Mangalore. However, this was not her first visit to Mangalore. She had been invited to Mangalore by Mrs. Lizzie Colaco and Mr. C.L Colaco in 1939. She met the Catholic women of Mangalore in the St. Agnes College Hall. Earlier, the Colaco’s had met Christine de Hemptinne in Rome where Lizzie Colaco had the privilege of addressing an International Conference of Women. Picking up the threads, a group of women for Catholic Action was formed, which functioned as such for several years.

Fr Agnoletto, then Professor of the St. Joesph’s Seminary in Mangalore, later formed a group of Ladies’ Catholic Action, which functioned for several years. Then in the early 50’s after the war years, Fr Agnoletto was back in Mangalore. He organized the Ladies’ Social Service League where the late Alice Gonsalves and then Octavia Albuquerque took the lead. Later, as if in preparation for the National Council, the DCCW was formed with the Ladies Social Service League actively involved. This happened after Christine de Hemptinne’s visit in 1958.

In 1964, the Eucharistic Congress was the occasion for initiating the formation of National Organization of Catholic Women. The invitation was extended to all women who had taken part in the Women’s Session of the Eucharistic Congress. A good number of women from different parts of India gathered together in Sydenham College Hall. This meeting was blessed by Archbishop Eugene D’Souza then in charge of the Laity Commission of the C.B.C.I. He appointed Fr. Agnoletto S.J. as the Ecclesiastical Advisor to the convention. In the unavoidable absence of Archbishop Eugene, he requested the Late Cardinal Wright (then Archbishop of Pittsburg) to preside over the meeting. His advice was that a small committee be formed to steer a national organization of women which would be at the service of the Church and Nation. Thus a 14 member committee was formed with Mary Vas of Bangalore at the head. The work of this committee would be to make a survey of existing women’s organizations in the dioceses of India, bring them together on a common platform and motivate the formation of new organization in those dioceses where they existed. This was the task given to the Steering Committee. At the end of 2 years the Committee would report on existing diocesan organizations and stimulate the starting of new ones.

In 1964, the Eucharistic Congress was the occasion for initiating the formation of National Organization of Catholic Women. The invitation was extended to all women who had taken part in the Women’s Session of the Eucharistic Congress. A good number of women from different parts of India gathered together in Sydenham College Hall. This meeting was blessed by Archbishop Eugene D’Souza then in charge of the Laity Commission of the C.B.C.I. He appointed Fr. Agnoletto S.J. as the Ecclesiastical Advisor to the convention. In the unavoidable absence of Archbishop Eugene, he requested the Late Cardinal Wright (then Archbishop of Pittsburg) to preside over the meeting. His advice was that a small committee be formed to steer a national organization of women which would be at the service of the Church and Nation. Thus a 14 member committee was formed with Mary Vas of Bangalore at the head. The work of this committee would be to make a survey of existing women’s organizations in the dioceses of India, bring them together on a common platform and motivate the formation of new organization in those dioceses where they existed. This was the task given to the Steering Committee. At the end of 2 years the Committee would report on existing diocesan organizations and stimulate the starting of new ones.

It was possible to call together the women’s groups that had been contacted for a conference in September 1956. The conference was held at Nagpur which was then the Episcopal seat of Archbishop Eugene D’Souza, Chairperson of the Laity Section lf the C.B.C.I.

Fourteen dioceses were represented at this convention. It was a momentous event, for at this Convention, the National Council for Catholic Women saw the light of a day. Significant decisions were taken on this occasion. This involvement of the local women and the delegates led to the formation of the National Council.


History of the Council of Catholic Women of India - Part II


The National Council of Catholic Women was founded in Nagpur in September 1956 with Dr. Mary Agnes Saldanha as its first President. The then Secretary, Muriel D’ Souza was also from Nagpur. The delegates present took active interest in the formation of this national network. Delegates from Bombay, the late May Khan and Dulcinea Rodrigues were among those who spearheaded the formation of the organization. Fr. Agnoletto S.J. was the inspiring figure. Locally Archbishop Eugene D’Souza and Msgr. Stan Monteiro, the Vicar General, were the spirit behind this great happening.

A temporary contact centre functioned at ‘Roshini Nilaya’ in Mangalore, from where too a quarterly newsletter, later entitled “Neythri” was launched. This became a useful link between member units which were being established in different parts of the country. The only criterion was to find a group of Catholic Women who would be willing and interested to work with the permission of the local ordinary, as a representative group on the National Council.


History of the Council of Catholic Women of India - Part III


Developments and Events

In between the National Conferences there were regional conferences in Secundarabad, Bangalore and Kerala. Each year the Mahila Sangh of N.E continues to hold Regional Conferences of the North East Area. The spread has been rapid and steady. A Leadership Course was held at the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore. Norah Vaz was the moving spirit. Bl. Mother Teresa inaugurated this course. Bl. Mother Teresa had brought her missionaries of Charity to Bangalore. She was lodged in the house of Mary Vaz who also arranged a little chapel for them till they found a place for themselves in the vicinity. Norah Vaz, was then

Constitution and Elections

Writing up a Constitution for the CCWI was an important task. One who was instrumental in getting this on the table was Sr. Ella M.M of the Catholic Nurses’ Guild India. Sr. Ella had the single honour of conducting the CCWI election each year in a competent and neutral manner. Incidentally she had the CNGI affiliated to the CCWI since the CCWI was formed. Sr. Ella will always be remembered for her inputs in the constitution and setting up a procedure for the elderly.

Change of nomenclature

The organization was named NCCW - National Council of Catholic Women. After a few years an important fact was brought to our notice – that the term “National ‘’ is reserved for Governmental organizations. Hence we decided on Council of Catholic Women of India – CCWI – nomenclature not yet used by any other group.


History of the Council of Catholic Women of India - Part IV


EXTENSION WORK

Regional formation and extension work were given priority. In time too, the need was felt for the CCWI. Our prayer was answered when Archbishop Lourduswamy of Bangalore invited us to set up a National Secretariat in Bangalore. To our disappointment Archbishop Lourduswamy was called to Rome to be at the head of Propaganda Fide. Before he left however, he installed us in St. Mary’s Orphanage building where we set up a Secretariat in 1971. With special permission Dr. Olinda was permitted by her Superiors to put this Secretariat on its feet and remain in Bangalore for a year. Mabel Castelino, sister of Norah Vaz was the first and efficient Office Secretary. Later we had to shift to the Catholic Centre for a while till the present building came up and we had a room on payment of Rs 40,000/- in 1976 which amount Archbishop Lourduswamy sent us through Dr. Dulcinea Rodrigues.

In 1987, after father Agnoletto’s demise the Jesuit Province of Karnataka donated to the Secretariat Rs 60,000/- which was raised by Fr. Agnoletto for a camp. Later in the year 1992 on the demand of Archbishop Arokiaswamy, Lorna Fernandes, then General Secretary, obtained Rs. 6,00,000/- from MISSIO to pay to the Archdiocese for the office accommodation which would stay in our possession unless the Archdiocese decides to sell the premises!

The Mahila Sangh in the North East from the Chotanagpur belt to the Himalayas continues to spread and holds annual regional assemblies, We feel the strength of their presences in the CCWI.

At the International level, CCWI has been an associate member of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization (WUCWO). Dr Dulcinea Rodrigues was a member of the WUCWO Board for two terms. (four years each) out of which she was Vice President for one term. Averil Stone has been the most recent CCWI member to be elected a Board member of WUCWO.

At present CCWI has 35 active affiliated diocesan units in India.