Cathy Woodman

Cathy Woodman will be awarded the Cross of St Piran because of her  understanding of community. All through her life, Cathy has known its value and how to make it happen.

She moved to Par from Cardiff in 1988 with her husband and two children, Suzanne and Richard. Sadly, just over a decade later, Cathy’s husband died unexpectedly, and she had to find a way to make life feel more ‘normal’ for her young family. She did that by responding to the help offered in her local community. Children’s groups, brownies (of which she was a leader), sharing lifts to football, activities and joining a church home group.

How sadness led to joining a home group and finding a deeper sense of community

“I’d had a difficult conversation with a young girl in a bank when paying in a larger than average cheque. It was something to do with my husband’s work, and she asked if I’d won the pools. I said, no, I’d lost my husband. I left and went to cry in the chapel.” Another woman befriended her and invited Cathy to a homegroup with the church.

“It was good to get to know people outside of the short time spent with them on Sundays. Talking over things and praying together really made us feel like a family.”

That feeling grew and is how Cathy feels today about church. “Going into the building I feel loved. Like I’m part of a big family.”

“Going into the building I feel loved. Like I’m part of a big family.”

A family not limited to who sits on the pews

It’s a family that isn’t limited to who sits on the pews. Cathy spent many years volunteering at STAK – Supporting the vulnerable, needy and homeless in St Austell. “Everyone is welcome and deserves a chance. People who come want the hot food, but they also want to feel included and to chat. They don’t want to be preached to, they just want to be heard.”

Cathy values the sense of community, not just with and for the people who come to groups like STAK, but because she likes to be part of a team. “Everyone pitches in, from welcoming people to cooking and chatting – I used to cook but it could be a little daunting sometimes when more than twenty turned up!” Cathy continues to help where she can but also helps to support the work of St Petroc’s who have developed some halfway houses in St Austell.

Showing God’s love by being kind

Helping is something Cathy enjoys and has always done. “I trained and worked as a nurse, so I suppose it’s just something in me, although I prefer to be behind the scenes.  I’m a Christian, baptised at 15, but I believe you show people God’s love by being kind, leading by example. It makes me laugh when people say don’t swear in front of Cathy – but I do hear them sometimes!”

Cathy understands community because she is interested in people. She does a lot things, including helping to get the carnival back up and running in Par, but it’s spending quality time with people that interests Cathy. Like when she used to take the Brownie pack away on holidays, it was hard work, but it meant she could spend time with her young charges and really understand their lives. “I learnt a lot too, as they were learning about life, so was I.”

Embracing the new after lockdown

For someone who is so connected to community, the lockdowns were hard for Cathy. She had a hip replacement just two weeks before the first lockdown and found the enforced separation from all the activities she had been involved in very difficult. But she is embracing the new, and really enjoying life as it begins to open again. It certainly helps that a new grandson, Albie, was born on Boxing Day, a very welcome little brother for four-year-old Elliott.

Being nominated for the Cross of St Piran is the icing on the cake, “I feel so honoured. It’s a real privilege and I’m very grateful.”