Bishop Gerard Clifford addresses 34th annual Cura conference in Athlone

02 Apr 2011


2 April 2011

Bishop Gerard Clifford addresses 34th annual Cura conference in Athlone

People [nowadays] … are independent, vocal and confident. However, this does not mean that if a crisis occurs in their life – such as an unplanned pregnancy – it is any easier to manage today than it would have been in previous generations.  Cura cares” – Bishop Clifford

Cura, the crisis pregnancy agency of the Catholic Church, held its 34th annual conference on 1 and 2 April in Athlone.  Bishop Gerard Clifford, President of Cura and Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Armagh, addressed the conference which was attended by 150 Cura members.

The 2011 conference focused on the strategic review and planning process which is currently being undertaken by the agency.  The objective of this process is to evaluate how effectively Cura has been delivering support and help to clients facing an unplanned pregnancy; and, to identify ways to improve the agency’s effectiveness in delivering these services to our clients in the future.

The process involves three phases: review, planning and implementation.  It began in September 2010 and is scheduled to be completed by this October.

This year’s annual conference provided an opportunity to present the interim findings to Cura members and it facilitated discussion and feedback which can now inform the ongoing review and planning process.

In his conference address Bishop Clifford acknowledged the central role of the counsellors in Cura and thanked them for their work which is offered on a voluntary basis.  Throughout the country Cura counsellors provide a range of crisis pregnancy support services, counselling after an abortion services, schools awareness programmes and support to new mothers in professional and caring manner.

Bishop Clifford said, “The spirit of voluntarism within Cura is to be commended. The professionalism, wholehearted commitment and positivity, which exists to help women at a time of crisis, clearly permeate and resonate every aspect of our organisation.  Irish society is the better for it.

“Sometimes you, the Cura counsellor, are the only person that a woman facing a crisis pregnancy can turn to – and trust. I believe that the passion you have for your work; your availability, the support you lend to each other, and the security in knowing that what you do in your role in Cura is greatly appreciated, not just by the individual client, but by their family and their friends.

“We live in a changing world where attitudes like independence, self expression and freedom are very much part of the changing society. People are generally better educated and informed than in previous generations. They are often more secure in their lives, with greater freedom than in the past. They are independent, vocal and confident.  However, this does not mean that if a crisis occurs in their life – such as an unplanned pregnancy – it is any easier to manage today than it would have been in previous generations.  Cura cares and is here to help anyone affected by a crisis pregnancy.”

Address by Bishop Gerard Clifford, President of Cura

First of all I want to extend a warm welcome to you as members of CURA. For many years I have watched with great interest the development of CURA from its humble beginnings 34 years ago as an agency of the Bishops’ Conference and today a vibrant agency with 16 centres throughout Ireland and 4 outreach centres. I believe it is the caring face of the Church in Ireland in our day.

This year the focus of the programme is different than other years reflecting the crossroads at which Cura has arrived. We have come from a past where Cura was the only crisis pregnancy service provider working in urban and rural areas countrywide providing support to women who were often experiencing isolation and utter despair and fear about their future as a consequence of an unplanned pregnancy. Moving to the future in an ever changing society we know the perceptions have changed but as counsellors you will be acutely aware of the challenge, complexity and pain of making decisions and planning a future for any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. While the number may be smaller there is also clear evidence of the more complex factors at the core of many crisis pregnancy situations.

For a number of years in Cura we have become increasingly aware of changes in wider society and internally which have had an impact on Cura and which pose key challenges. Our job now is to ensure that Cura remains relevant and effective in meeting the needs of clients facing an unplanned pregnancy, in the services we provide and in the way we provide services.

The NEC has embraced this challenge on behalf of the organisation by establishing the Strategic Review and Planning process.

The conference provides a timely and valuable opportunity to share information and consult with you on the work to date and to ensure opportunity for your input and feedback as we move forward.

In your role as a counsellor in Cura you are a friend, a helper, a listening ear, a support person to a woman who calls at the CURA centre. It takes a lot of courage for a woman in distress to make that first contact and you are that privileged one to share her confidence.  You are a confidante for a woman at the most critical point in her life. You may be the only person who knows of her secret You are indeed a friend in need.

The broad sweep of caring included in the work of CURA is a testimony to the good will, co-operation and professionalism of the members of CURA.  I have had the privilege of seeing your work, the day to day commitment of the volunteers and the executive members of CURA. Many of you are experts in your own right, some of you new members on the block. As new members I extend a special welcome to you and I wish you many fulfilling years in our midst.

In today’s world it is wonderful to see the wholehearted commitment of members in the challenging work that faces you on a daily basis.  The spirit on voluntarism within the CURA ranks is something awesome. We see the wholehearted commitment to helping women at a time of crisis. Sometimes you are the only one they can trust. Your work is challenging but it is also rewarding.

I think of the other outreaches of your work; the friendship you share with your members, the trust, the camaraderie, the support. We see the outreach through the Schools Awareness programme; the confidence you share with young people, the trust they place their trust in you and you see the relief in their face when you explain your work and promise your support.

I think of the passion you have for your work; your availability, the support you lend to each other and the security in knowing that what you are about is appreciated not just by individual clients but by their family and their friends.

As members of CURA you are in a privileged position to extend the hand of friendship and confidence to young people.

We live in a changing world where attitudes like independence, self-expression and freedom are very much part of a changing society. People are generally  well educated. They are better informed than many in previous generations. They are often more secure in their lives, with greater freedom than many in the past. They are independent, vocal and confident. That does not mean that a crisis in their lives is any easier than it was for previous generations. With new found freedom the expectations from home, school and community are even greater. All of that makes its own demands on your work.   The demands on you can be difficult at times. It is precisely in those situations that you do your best work. When nobody else cares, CURA cares. When nobody else has time, CURA has time.  When nobody else is ready to listen, CURA listens. Yours indeed is a challenging but also a privileged position.

Tonight I congratulate you on your commitment. As President I thank you for the energy, commitment and dedication you give to your work. There is a saying in Irish “ni neart go cur le cheile” There is strength when people work together. There is strength when people are committed to a common goal in life. There is strength when volunteers, executive and support people work in harmony to achieve their common goal. There is strength when we draw on the experience and expertise of others.

I am proud to say that is an integral part of the ethos and working ethic of CURA. You are a people with a mission and you work extremely hard to achieve that mission. Today I salute you. I salute your work and I wish God’s blessing on your continued work in the years ahead.

I invite you to participate and share as fully as possible and to take this opportunity to inform the future of the organisation.

Most of all my wish is that every one here will leave this Conference with continued or renewed energy and commitment to the future of Cura, the work we do and the clients we serve.

May God reward you generously for your commitment and your work.

Rath De oraibh agus ar bhur saothar.


Notes to Editors


  • The 34th annual Cura conference was held in the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone, Co Westmeath on 1 and 2 April 2011.  The conference was attended by Cura 150 volunteers from 16 centres and three outreach services which are based around the country.  See
  • Cura, established by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in 1977, is a crisis pregnancy counselling service offering help and support to those affected by a crisis pregnancy. Cura  is funded by the Crisis Pregnancy Programme of the Health Service Executive
  • Cura services include:


– Pregnancy counselling and support at any time during pregnancy (telephone helpline and face to face).  Cura also provides information on social welfare, other rights and entitlements; making links with agencies providing accommodation and other support services as required; support to mums after the birth of a baby.

– Counselling after an abortion.

– Crisis pregnancy counselling for the baby’s father and other family members; schools awareness programme.




Further information:

Charlotte Keery, CURA PRO, 00 353 (0)87 6486360 or 042 9322571; Noreen Keane, CURA PRO, 00 353 (0) 87 7781777; Martin Long, Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, 00 353 (0)86 1727678.