Return to Edition Index

In Memory of Jan Webb

23 April, 2024
Jan newly elected State President of CWL with her executive at The Mackay State conference in 2022. L-R: Margaret Butler, Ronaldah Gorring, Jan Webb, Shona Cobham, Therese Sturgeon, Gemma Courtney

Last month, Jan Webb, of Mackay, passed away unexpectedly.  She was beloved of her family and friends and well known not only in Mackay but across Queensland for her service within the Church and various community groups.  We share here extracts from the beautiful eulogy given by her daughters Tonia and Sara.  The full eulogy can be read via the link.  Bishop Michael presided at her funeral and has kindly shared his homily.  Cathy Leitenberger, a friend and fellow member of the CWL, recalls the service she gave within that organisation.

Eulogy of Tonia and Sara – Jan’s daughters

Today we gather to celebrate the life of our Mum, Jan Ellen Webb.  Wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend to many. Jan was born in Mackay on 30 July 1946 the second child to Ernie and Beryl Randell.  The only girl in a family of 5 children she quickly learnt to stand up for herself. She loved her brothers and was proud of them.  She would talk for hours with her sisters-in-law showing her genuine interest in staying connected with them and their families.

Mum met her soulmate, Dad, more affectionately known as Webby, at Sarina High School.  Mum and Dad enjoyed almost 55 wonderful years of Marriage (with their 55th Wedding anniversary coming up in May). Their relationship was a shining example to many and in particular us their daughters and their grandchildren. Mum and Dad were not ones to sit idle. As a young married couple, they travelled to Darwin (where Sara was born), shortly after joined by Doug and Glyn. They owned a milk run, moved house a number of times and involved themselves in their community.

In a time when it was not the done thing for girls to obtain a qualification and have a career, mum left her life in a small town and adventured to the big smoke attending Teachers college in Brisbane.  It was here that she met Viv and her love of travel began when they journeyed to New Zealand together. Her thirst for knowledge and her love of learning was a constant feature throughout her whole life. Mum had a long and distinguished teaching career which culminated in her winning a Premier’s Award for her work with Indigenous Students.

Her greatest gift to her three daughters along with making us strong independent women was the gift of teaching us to be Mothers and how to give unconditional love to our husbands Scott, Richard and Tony, our children and families. She taught us the value of family and of keeping them close.

Mum’s grandchildren were everything to her.  She travelled the length of Queensland, to attend every performance, sporting match and awards ceremony she could.  One year she undertook what is affectionately known in family circles as the East Coast Qld Dancing Tour, where she travelled to Brisbane to watch Daisy dance, Rockhampton to watch Milla and back to Mackay to watch Mikinley, all within a three-day period.  She was our children’s greatest cheerleader and was so proud of their outstanding achievements, perhaps a few of you have heard of some of those.

Many of you would know Mum and Dad lived for extended periods in the Aboriginal Community of Balgo in remote Western Australia. It was here that they were able to live their Ministry in their role as volunteers for the Church. They have many fond memories of their time in this community.

Many of you are here today because of Mum’s selfless ministry. The organisations she was involved with were numerous and her work with them gave her great satisfaction. She was passionate about her work with RCIA and Baptism preparation, believing that her God was always open to welcoming everyone into his loving arms as he did her when she became a Catholic early in her adult life. The Church owes a great deal to Mum’s roommate at that time, Marg, whose deep faith inspired Mum to become a Catholic herself. Marg and Johnny remained dear friends of Mum’s for the rest of her life.

Her work with the Catholic Women’s League and her role as State President allowed her to connect with likeminded women all over the Country and she loved nothing more than planning or attending a conference with the aim of fighting for Social Justice issues.

She enjoyed her role as the secretary of the Regional Council of St Vincent de Paul and was a member of the St Jude’s conference. She particularly enjoyed volunteering at the St Vincent de Paul shop.

It was through the Church and these organisations that Mum made many beautiful friends, as is evident from the number of people here today and the overwhelming support we her family have received in the last week.

Though she may no longer walk among us, her spirit will continue to shine brightly through the lives she touched and the legacy she leaves behind. We will take comfort in knowing that she now rests in the loving embrace of her Creator, her work on earth complete.

May her memory be a blessing to us all, inspiring us to live with the same faith, love and compassion that defined her life.

Bishop Michael’s Homily

I am grateful to Father Matthias, the pastor of the Parishes of the South Mackay cluster for all his good work among you and for welcoming at this funeral Mass.

As Bishop, I extend the sympathy of the diocese and my own to you Doug, and your family gathered around you, as we pray the prayers of the farewell rites of the Catholic Church for your wife, a faith companion and a mother, and a grandmother.

To the Christian family gathered here in St Michael’s Sarina, we join our prayers together and listen and pray with the Church as it honours one of its faith-filled people.

I bring the prayers of the province, the five dioceses of Queensland and their bishops as we pray for the State President of the Catholic Women’s League.

Jan was a woman of faith

The sage of three millennia speaks the wisdom of God;
She is more precious than a jewel, brings only good, feeds the household, reaches out to the helpless and gives to the poor. The sage invites us to reflect on a woman of character, and then asks the question, where is she to be found?
Today at St Michael’s, we reflect on Jan who was a woman of faith and responded in faith, as one who reached out to those who were searching and looking for a place to belong. Jan herself came to the Catholic faith as an adult and she knew the precious gift of the faith. She reassured those who sought God in their journey and Jan treated them with respect and gently guided them into the mystery of our faith, the Catholic faith. What drew Jan to the Catholic Church was her love for God and Jesus Christ. I experienced her beautiful relationship with God when I have been in Mackay on many occasions for my pastoral visits. As we honour her with the Rites of the Church, we honour her faith and her living the faith.

Jan was a woman of the Church

At the end of this funeral Mass, there will be a guard of honour by the Women of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and the people of St Vincent de Paul. These two apostolic groups represent the Church in action, the Church envisaged by Vatican II, a Church in action and in the world.
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ… United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man and woman. Guadium et Spes

This, brothers and sisters, inspired Jan and her work. In St Vincent de Paul, as it espouses the Catholic Social Teaching first principal of respecting the dignity of every human being and taking care of them here on the streets of Mackay, just as the society’s ancestors in faith looked out over the streets of Paris and bandaged their wounded.

The very foundation of CWL in this state by my predecessor, Bishop Duhig, saw the great potential of a group of women of the Church, with a great sense of social justice and looking out over Queensland, through the Catholic Daughters, supporting the mission of the Church beside their bishop. This tradition has continued here in Mackay, and we pay tribute to the great work of the CWL on a parish, diocesan and state level.
Jan generously gave of her time for the honour and glory of God.
This woman of the Church, Jan, gave her time to the work of the parishes through her journeying with people wanting to know Christ Jesus, catechesis in the State Schools, charismatic renewal, Holy Communion to the sick and cleaned the church. As the parish priest remarked, Jan would quietly go about fixing up whatever needed to be done without a fuss. And if that wasn’t enough, she assisted with the washing and mending the clothes of the clergy, and resuscitated a mitre and a cassock of the bishop.

Jan was a woman of the family

To you, Doug and your children, Sara, Tonia and Melody, our prayers go out to you as we honour the faith of Jan – Mother, Wife, and a companion of faith.
Doug, I will not forget the night we sat in the dining hall of “the Church’ with Angie and Vic and you both spoke about extending your family to Western Australia to take in a new group of people to care for as a missionaries to the Kimberley. The apostolic outreach from your family to those who needed a little love and care and knowing that they were all on God’s radar was extraordinarily generous.

As the sage speaks from across the centuries, we listen as God speaks;
She keeps an eye on her household and is never idle.
Our sister Jan is now in a new household, the household of God, and with the Risen One who gave the gift of himself, the bread of life.
This gift of the bread of life was at the centre of her devotion at the Eucharist, and many years ago led Jan into full communion with the Church.
With Jesus, the words are so clear. The words Jan embraced and lived: whoever believes has eternal life.
This is the gift awaiting all of us.
Like Jan, we are all invited by her example and commitment to the Church and its mission.

Jan Webb: Valued Member of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL)

The loss of State President of CWL, Jan Webb has left the members in a deep state of shock. Jan’s passion for CWL began many years ago when she joined the Sarina Branch. She soon discovered that CWL was not just about fundraising and supporting the parish by providing hospitality at functions, important as those activities were.  It was to become a driving force in her life. Always one to fight for Social Justice issues and for the needs of women and children, she found in CWL a place to further those causes. As she took on more and more responsibilities with her various roles in CWL, she continued to learn more about how CWL provided opportunities and avenues to take a proactive approach to the many social issues that have arisen over the years. She always kept an eye out for such emerging issues and was quick to organise members to write to politicians, to move motions at conferences and to sign petitions relating to those issues. She also helped members to take action to provide help through fundraising through State projects to help with issues like Mental Health, Domestic Violence or Kids in Crisis.

Jan was well known at all levels of CWL and has over the years held positions as President of Branch, Diocesan and State levels. She has also been a delegate for the National level. The esteem she was held in was obvious from the number of messages of condolence the Diocese received from interstate and National presidents of CWL.

Jan was a great believer in attending CWL conferences and urged members to do so whenever they could as she thought that it was through listening to the various guest speakers and meeting with other like-minded women and hearing about the different projects they were involved in would enhance their understanding of the work of CWL. Jan attended Branch, Diocesan, State and National Conferences and was a driving force behind the State conferences held in Mackay over the years.

Jan did not just restrict her travel to CWL activities in Australia. Some time ago, as a proactive member of WUCWO (World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations), she travelled alone to the Philippines to participate in one of their conferences. She was so impressed with the way thousands of women from all over the world came together to come up with Resolutions and ideas for practical actions women could take to make the world a better place for women and children. Not able to attend the most recent WUCWO Conference in Rome and Assisi where members had the chance to meet with the Pope, she organised a Bouquet of Masses where members from throughout the State offered Masses for a few weeks before to pray for the success of the Conference and this resulted in our State members who attended to take with them thousands of Masses, and of course the conference was a huge success.

Jan was always looking for practical ways members could help the underprivileged and when she and her husband went to the isolated community of Balgo, she sent out a call for clothing for the Aboriginal people living there so the clothes could be sold very cheaply in their OP shop which provided much needed funds for the community.

Jan also encouraged members to take on roles that at first they may have been reluctant to do, but with her mentoring they soon not only took on the roles but excelled at them.

Jan was the perfect embodiment of all CWL does as members strive to always work “For the Honour and Glory of God”

Cathy Leitenberger