‘Communicating CURA in Changing Times’ Theme of 27th CURA Annual Conference in Sligo
22 FEBRUARY 2004
‘COMMUNICATING CURA IN CHANGING TIMES’
THEME OF 27TH CURA ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN SLIGO
The 27th Cura Annual Conference was held in the Sligo Park Hotel from Friday 20th
February to Sunday 22nd February 2004. The theme of this year’s conference was
“Communicating CURA in Changing Times”.
In his opening address to the conference the President of CURA, Most Rev John Fleming,
Bishop of Killala said:”Communicating CURA in changing times is the theme of our
conference. Good communication always involves the ability to engage the spirit of
those to whom we wish to relate. Our task, therefore, over these days is to reflect
on the ways in which we can better relate our message to the changing culture of
Ireland today and the manner in which we can engage the spirit of those who are
buffeted by the philosophy and the demands of a culture which is increasingly secular
and materialistic. Our news, the message of CURA, must be good news for those who
find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation.
“Those who find themselves in an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy do not have the
benefit of time on their side. As you well know, their understandable reaction is
to give way to panic and in this situation they are tempted to make decisions in
haste, which they may ultimately regret. It is estimated nowadays that about 30%
of those who find themselves in an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy do not consult
any of the supports available to them. An important aspect of the work of CURA,
therefore, is to continue to make the work of our agency known to those who would
otherwise not have the opportunity to think about their situation and the positive
options which are available to them nowadays. This we must do through all the means
which are available to us, both through the means of modern technology, such as
internet and texting, as well as through the help offered to us by the various
agencies such as the Irish bishops and the Government agencies. In the area of
crisis pregnancy it is important to remember that ours is the only organisation
that is nationwide. This is our 27th Annual Conference. CURA, therefore, has been
caring for crisis pregnancies long before any of the other organisations who are
now involved in this work. Ours is a tradition of which we can be proud and this
is both a tribute to the work of the past and a challenge for its continuation in
More than 250 CURA volunteers from all over the country attended the Conference
which was officially opened on Friday evening by Tommy Gorman, Northern Editor of
RTE. Most Rev John Fleming, Bishop of Killala and President of CURA gave a short
address at the opening ceremony. The keynote speaker at this year’s conference was
Ms Oilve Braiden, Chairperson of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency who spoke on Saturday.
The conference concluded with a Celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday morning.
CURA’s annual report was launched at the conference.
CURA (Latin for “care”) was established by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 1977
to provide a caring and compassionate service to women who felt unable to cope with
an unexpected pregnancy.
The CURA Helpline is: 1850 622 626 (Open from 9.30am – 9.00pm Mon – Fri and
10.00am – 5.00pm on Saturday).
22 February 2004
Director of Communications Martin Long 086 1727 678
Communications Officer Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797
Charlotte Keery, PRO, CURA 087 270 1088
NOTES TO EDITORS
The following texts are attached:
Opening address from Most Rev John Fleming, Bishop of Killala and President of CURA;
Homily of Bishop Fleming from Sunday Eucharist;
Keynote address of Olive Braiden, Chairperson of Crisis Pregnancy Agency.
Opening address at CURA Annual Conference
Most Rev John Fleming, Bishop of Killala and President of CURA
Friday 20th February 2004
As President of CURA I welcome you to the 27th Annual CURA Conference, which is
being hosted this year by the Sligo CURA Centre. I welcome this opportunity to
address you and I thank you for being with us.
Communicating CURA in changing times is the theme of our conference. Good communication
always involves the ability to engage the spirit of those to whom we wish to relate.
Our task, therefore, over these days is to reflect on the ways in which we can better
relate our message to the changing culture of Ireland today and the manner in which
we can engage the spirit of those who are buffeted by the philosophy and the demands
of a culture which is increasingly secular and materialistic. Our news, the message
of CURA, must be good news for those who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation.
Those who find themselves in an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy do not have the benefit
of time on their side. As you well know, their understandable reaction is to give way
to panic and in this situation they are tempted to make decisions in haste, which they
may ultimately regret. It is estimated nowadays that about 30% of those who find
themselves in an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy do not consult any of the supports
available to them. An important aspect of the work of CURA, therefore, is to continue
to make the work of our agency known to those who would otherwise not have the
opportunity to think about their situation and the positive options which are available
to them nowadays. This we must do through all the means which are available to us, both
through the means of modern technology, such as internet and texting, as well as through
the help offered to us by the various agencies such as the Irish bishops and the Government
agencies. In the area of crisis pregnancy it is important to remember that ours is the
only organisation that is nationwide. This is our 27th Annual Conference. CURA, therefore,
has been caring for crisis pregnancies long before any of the other organisations who are
now involved in this work. Ours is a tradition of which we can be proud and this is both
a tribute to the work of the past and a challenge for its continuation in the future.
I want to pay tribute, in particular, to you, the volunteers, who give of your time and
your care to so many women in crisis. Your presence in such large numbers this week-end
bears testimony to the pride which you take in this organisation and which we take in you.
In an age when voluntary, unpaid service of each other is becoming an increasingly scarce
commodity, you stand out in our society as witnesses to the care and love of Christ, in
whom you have placed your faith and trust. Your generosity and your witness to Christian
values place you among the outstanding people of our time. Two recent incidents reminded
me of this. I am told that one CURA centre had all its members out fundraising for CURA
on Christmas Eve, when they might otherwise be enjoying the festive season. I am also
told that our telephone service was attended to all through the days of Christmas, when
we received a large number of calls. Without your generosity, all those women would have
had no one with whom they could share their pain at Christmastime.
CURA cares. That is our motto. Ours is the task to help build a culture of care, service,
compassion and understanding in modern Ireland. This we do against the background of our
faith and in the context of an Ireland that is becoming increasingly secular and materialistic.
We care. Yes we care for the woman who has an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy and we care
for the unborn, whose life may be threatened even in the place which should be the safest,
the womb. The culture of care and compassion which we aim to build must be one in which
the life of the child must be seen as inextricably linked with the life of the mother, not
opposed to it. Recently the Pope challenged us to ensure that our efforts are redoubled
so that the right to life of unborn children is not affirmed against their mothers but
with their mothers . God s gift of life, even if it is given in circumstances which are
seen by society nowadays as less than ideal, must be respected, valued and given all the
opportunities it deserves to reach human fulfilment. All of us, all the various agencies
and groups within our society, must work together to ensure that we create in our time
the conditions which give to each person the opportunity to live a happy, fulfilled life.
The decisions which we make as a society, therefore, must be made against the background
of our attempt to build better world for all.
This year Ireland marks the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. When
we take time to think about it we do not need reminding of the importance of the family
in the social fabric of life today. We are all aware of what family means to us as
individuals and we are also aware of the fact that the nuclear family, which develops
from marriage is the basic cell of society. Describing this reality recently the Pope
said In it, as in a reassuring nest, life should always be nurtured, defended and protected.
And yet we are equally conscious of the challenges faced by the Christian vision of family
life today. Ours is the task, therefore, to promote the values of family life in a society
which is in danger of undermining itself through a failure to do so.
I end by thanking you all once more. I thank in particular the Sligo CURA centre for their
welcome, their hospitality and their hard work. On behalf of all the volunteers and delegates,
I say thank you.
20 February 2004
Homily of Most Rev John Fleming
CURA Annual Conference, Sligo
February 22nd 2004
Our first reading today gives us who care for others food for thought. Saul, the King, is
in a wild rage. He sees David as a threat to him and to his role as King. He sets off with
an army of three thousand men to search for David and to kill him. His journey and his anger
make him tired. He sleeps for the night and while he is asleep David and his friend Abishai
steal into the camp. They find Saul asleep with his spear beside him and are given the golden
opportunity to kill him, rid themselves of the man who wants to kill them and then David
himself would become King.
David s friend, Abishai, goads him on. This is your opportunity he says. Here he is, in your
hands. Go for it. David says no. Instead he simply took the spear and the jug of water and
went away. When Saul woke up he realised what had happened and how David had spared his life.
Why did David not take hold of the opportunity given to him? Quite simply because of his
respect for the life of Saul. The reading tells us David answered. Do not kill him, for
who can lift his hand against the Lord s anointed and be without guilt? Then he goes on
to say the Lord repays everyone for his uprightness and loyalty. Today the Lord put you
in my power but I would not raise my hand against the Lord s anointed.
The Lord put you in my power today and I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.
These words are strangely familiar to you who work for CURA. How often do people in a crisis
pregnancy situation come in to meet you and cause you to feel a sense of responsibility for
their welfare together with a sense of having influence over them? In a real sense, how often
do you feel, like King David, that God has put these people in your hands and you too in your
turn, in the listening and advice which you give them, have the opportunity to say to them
do not raise your hand against the unborn, against the one who can be the Lord s anointed when
he or she is born and baptised.
Critics of Church teaching and the mentality of so many people in today s culture of instant
action and easy reaction to almost every crisis or inconvenience, would have us believe that
the Church is outdated in its teaching and belief, especially in the area of morality and
the respect for human life. In an age where animal life can result from cloning and the whole
area of stem cell research is seen to offer endless possibilities for the creation and
prolongation of life, the realisation that human life is sacred and a gift from God is more
and more difficult to promote. However, that is our belief, that is our view on life itself
and that is the God-given opportunity that is ours.
Today s Gospel, too, gives us an abundance of riches with regard to our work in CURA. Be
compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged
yourselves; do not condemn and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon and
you will be pardoned. Give and there will be gifts for you; a full measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap; because the amount you
measure out is the amount you will be given back
Jesus puts his finger on what we should do in this great work of CURA. Be compassionate,
do not judge, do not condemn and give all those with whom we come in contact the feeling
that they are loved, accepted, respected and acknowledged. For it is through the experience
of being loved and accepted by us that they will eventually be able to put aside their fears,
their feelings of guilt and their worries and come to recognise the limitless, unconditional
love of God for them; the God who, in his mysterious ways, has chosen to give the gift of
human life to another through them, despite the circumstances which seem at that time as
less than ideal.
Our readings end with an image from the kitchen. I know that you don t like half empty
bags or containers around the house. You don t like chaos in your kitchen and so you put
things like coffee, tea, sugar and rice into jars. As you pour them in you wonder if they
will all fit. You press them down, shake them around and breathe a sigh of relief. And if
you poured them out again you d be amazed at how much you got in. That is the image of
generosity with which today s Gospel ends.
It is a good image on which to end this Conference. Your time is often hard-pressed. Your
family schedule is often shaken around in order to fit in all that you have to do for CURA.
But if you were to take a long look at the contents of your CURA jar, you and I and all
those who come in contact with CURA would realise the extent of your generosity. For this,
on behalf of CURA, on behalf of all your clients and on behalf of the Irish Bishops who
founded CURA, I say a simple and sincere, thank you.
22 February 2004
Speech by Ms Olive Braiden, Chairperson, Crisis Pregnancy Agency
on the occasion of the Cura National Conference
on Saturday February 21, 2004 at the Sligo Park Hotel.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. As Chairperson of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency I am
delighted to have this opportunity to speak to you about the work of our Agency and to
share with you some of our goals and aspirations for the future.
Crisis pregnancy is a term that only inadequately conveys the stories of women, and
sometimes their partners who are involved in an unexpected or an unwanted pregnancy.
Each of these stories is unique and colours the lifetime of those who are most intimately
involved. Too often, however, women face this time alone and in crisis. Fear, loneliness,
isolation, and a lack of support too often characterise one of the defining events of any
lifetime. Women may feel forced to deal with what should be a time of joy, shared with
family and with community, isolated from both.
The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was established to assist and improve the reality for women
in Ireland. Much like Cura, we hold a vision that places the woman with a crisis pregnancy
at the centre of our work.
The Agency does not and will not make judgments on the decisions women make. To the contrary
the Agency respects the decisions made by women. For the future the Agency seeks to ensure
that the context in which women make their decision about an unexpected or an unwanted
pregnancy is a supportive and an open one.
Our task, as set out by the Oireachtas, is to lead the research and policy development that
will identify the needs of women and the existing gaps in support. Indeed, the CPA derives
its mission and function from the unanimous agreement from all the party’s represented on
the all-party committee on abortion.
We aim, in partnership with the many voluntary and statutory agencies, to bring systematic
focus to the examination of an issue that is as complex and as rapidly changing as our modern
We aim to go beyond examination and research and to assist in the formulation of practical
solutions that will make a real difference to those involved. We aim to be a resource, a
persuader and an educator for all who are already involved and for those who need to become
We acknowledge the pioneering work of voluntary agencies such as Cura who work for and with
women who have crisis pregnancies. We rely on you to share your experience and knowledge
with us as we in turn seek to give the level of continued statutory support that agencies
like Cura have so long deserved but thus far lacked.
We especially acknowledge the varied sources that contribute to the individual ethos of
agencies, including the Churches, the women’s movement as well as a laudable and deeply
rooted sense of civic responsibility – so evident in your organisation. The Crisis
Pregnancy Agency aims to work with and fully respect the ethos of all organisations. We
also recognise the work done by statutory service providers in this area.
We have taken up the challenge given to us by the Oireachtas. Already we have started to
trace the parameters of the issues and through research and knowledge gained we have begun
to respond to their complexity. We take courage from the courage of women who are faced
not with policy issues but with the reality of a crisis pregnancy.
As Cura front-line volunteers you are keenly aware that women in this situation have little
opportunity at this time for reflection on societal trends or best practice in public bodies.
They need support now.
Those working in the field know that issues relating to crisis pregnancy are complex and
cannot be traced to single factors – no single measure will provide a solution to this
issue. It will take the Agency some time to be able to address all contributory factors
and, as a starting point, much research is needed to understand key issues. However, it
is apparent that certain core areas require to be prioritised.
Chief among these is Crisis Pregnancy Counselling. As voluntary counsellors in Cura many
of you will be aware that crisis pregnancy counselling plays an important role in assisting
the decision-making process so that the woman has ‘time and space’ to make an informed
You will no doubt share the CPA’s concern that over a third of women do not contact any
doctor or agency in Ireland for counselling and information before they go to the UK.
Research tells us that a woman’s decision to have an abortion is often made very quickly.
As you are aware the Positive Options campaign, which Cura participates in, is seeking to
remove many of the barriers women feel exist in accessing counselling. These include: cost;
waiting list, refusal of information and the perception of counselling agencies and counselling.
The Positive Options service has had over 130,000 enquiries for information via text message
since its establishment only a year ago. This campaign is contributing greatly to raising
awareness of the range of options and services available to women.
Given the critical role counselling can play, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency has committed
€1.17 million annually to set in place a 50 per cent increase on the current level of crisis
pregnancy counselling services.
We also plan to develop a specialised training module to ensure, in the shortest possible
timeframe, all State-funded crisis pregnancy counsellors are adequately trained.
Cura is one of the key agencies involved in helping us to achieve this goal. The Crisis
Pregnancy Agency has made available increased funding to assist Cura to expand its counselling
service throughout the country, to support Regional Officer Posts and improve access to
information over the internet.
Indeed, I would like to take this opportunity to commend Cura on the excellent and
comprehensive service provided through your telephone helpline, face-to-face counselling
and educational services all largely possible through a committed volunteer base.
I am aware that maintaining this standard and level of services is a challenge given the
dramatic drop in the number of volunteers across all sectors. Recruiting and retaining
trained volunteers is a difficult task for any organisation. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency
is sympathetic to this and will endeavor to assist where possible.
Crisis pregnancy counselling requires a specific kind of skill set and those of you who
have historically provided counselling, in a voluntary capacity, have delivered an
unquantifiable service. Indeed focus group research, conducted by the Crisis Pregnancy
Agency, indicates that some women find the prospect of attending a voluntary counsellor
a less daunting and more comforting option.
The long term aim of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency is to assist organisations to up-skill
crisis pregnancy counsellors, to standardise delivery and to promote best practice in
the field. I might also add that the CPA is working to ensure that an appropriate mechanism
exists to regulate crisis pregnancy counselling agencies.
The prevention of crisis pregnancy is a primary challenge and key objective of our Agency.
Prevention issues include the education of young adults as well as the development of
services appropriate to their needs and lifestyles.
A further priority is the need for more and for better education. Education and research
based information is a key focus. It will be the cornerstone of future prevention of
unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.
In our recently published strategy the CPA highlighted the need for a strong commitment
from boards of management and the Department of Education itself in driving and supporting
Relationships and Sexuality Education in schools by the provision of proper funding,
development of support structures and accreditation of teachers if necessary. The Agency
also believes it is critical that both parents and schools play a joint role in the delivery
Cura has for many years played its role in supporting schools and the Agency reflects its
support for this work by funding the re-development of your resource materials for school
The Agency is also working to develop strategies to enable women experiencing crisis pregnancy
to be more aware of their options, and to improve the supports and assistance available to
them in this situation. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency cannot and will not have value judgements
on how women choose to deal differently with their pregnancy.
Research indicates that the decision making process of many women who have had an abortion
centres on the woman’s assessment of her ability to care for the child. Some of the main
reasons for making this decision included: the child’s needs, stigma of lone parenthood,
career and job related concerns.
A challenge ahead for all of us is to change the current feelings of many women in Irish
society who are made to feel ashamed and very isolated. Raising awareness of existing
support networks, such as Cura, is of paramount importance.
Research tells us that unmarried and separated lone mothers have considerable lower
education levels than the average for all mothers. Nearly a third of all female lone
parent households have been assessed as being at risk of poverty. A further challenge
is to ensure that those opting for parenthood will feel encouraged and supported to
perhaps continue in employment or education, should they wish, and in doing so reduce
this potential risk of poverty.
For the future the Agency will also strive to ensure that the particular needs of women
who have had an abortion, either recently or some time ago, are appropriately met. This
will involve working towards the development of quality services that meet women’s physical
and emotional needs and treat women with compassion and understanding.
Reducing the Irish level of abortions – 6,673 last year – is just one aspect of our work.
The actions being undertaken at present by the CPA and service providers such as Cura are
having an immediate and positive impact on women currently accessing help services. A wider
and more long-term challenge for us all is to address the serious social stigma of unplanned
pregnancy outside of marriage. We will have to change attitudes in order to build a culture
of care, service and compassion.
21 February 2004