2009 Annual Report – Community Life
Community Life Standing Committee
Mary Nordick, Chairperson
2009 Annual Report
Women of Peace and Hope
This beautiful theme resonates with the community life standing committee. Through the myriad services to others at home and abroad, members offered hope and brought peace to the most vulnerable in this troubled world. It is overwhelming and humbling to learn of the countless hours of prayer and service given by members. While the charity footprint continued to dominate, there was more activity in the justice area, thanks to emphasis on human trafficking and renewed interest in the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).
Dignity and Rights of Persons
Human trafficking, in the months leading up to the 2010 Olympics, was a major concern across the country and especially in British Columbia, where councils circulated petitions against brothels and legalizing prostitution. Members wrote letters to government regarding Resolution 2008.01 Preventing Human Trafficking at 2010 Olympics. Many councils had speakers, such as members from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and immigration officers, or participated in ecumenical presentations to raise awareness of human trafficking. Members attended workshops, seminars, discussion groups, town hall meetings and other gatherings with expert presenters. One council made human trafficking its community life focus for the year. Members had the opportunity to hear Victor Malarek, author of The Natashas and The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It , speak at public forums. Councils held prayer services for victims of trafficking. In one province, each diocesan council was assigned one week of the month to e-mail, write or phone all levels of government and the Vancouver organizing committee for the 2010 Olympics to keep the issue of human trafficking in the forefront.
Another ongoing concern was violence against women. Councils had speakers on the topic and supported women’s shelters and programs through donations of money, food, personal items, clothing and time. Some members worked with Our Lady of Good Counsel Society – Domestic Abuse Services. Others explored the prevalence and reality of sexual exploitation of children. Action was also taken in regard to poverty, affordable housing, dumping practices, rights of live-in caregivers, racism, women’s rights, First Nations support, tenancy rights, Special Olympics, pensions and transition houses.
Social and Economic Justice
Members participated in social justice groups and attended KAIROS workshops. In Moncton a member served on a restorative justice committee. Prison ministry grew across the country and members donated clothing, treats, bibles and prayer cards, provided money to support art programs and visited inmates. A parish council in Ontario wrote to its mayor to protest the dump proposed for the community. Some councils participated in the Sisters in Spirit Campaign for missing Aboriginal women. Parish councils in New Brunswick were encouraged when the provincial government announced initiatives to reduce the number of desperately poor by the year 2015 through increased social assistance programs and plans to raise the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour.
Interest in locally produced food and sustainable local markets grew across the country. Members supported local farmers’ markets, became involved in community gardens, and organized and participated in seed, plant and garden sales. On a global level, councils promoted and supported fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate. At Christmas and Thanksgiving, members were involved in providing hampers.
Councils continued to support food banks and shelters, feeding programs in the community and in schools and clothing depots. One council supported income tax preparation service for the needy. Some councils collected footwear and other goods to send to Afghanistan. Many members put their knitting and sewing skills to work making Teddies for Tragedies, quilts, receiving blankets, and mittens, scarves and toques for the homeless and for the Warm Hands Warm Heart project.
Councils and members volunteered, supported and donated to organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Inn from the Cold, Out of the Cold, Habitat for Humanity, Chez Doris, Karing Kitchen, Ray of Hope Needy Kitchen, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Okanagan Gleaners Society, Nazareth House, Dans la rue, Sun Youth Organization, Passage House, The Navy League of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion, The Salvation Army, Chrysalis House, Home of the Guardian Angel, The Gathering Place Community Centre, Hope Mission, Catholic Social Services, safe houses, Covenant House and ministries to street people.
Refugees, Immigration and Citizenship
Councils were involved in refugee sponsorship by assisting in the parish and community. Members tutored immigrants, including immigrant priests, in English as a Second Language, aided in teaching daily living skills in Canada and donated food, furniture, household supplies and clothing. Councils hosted welcome gatherings and potlucks. Quebec councils worked with Refuge Juan Moreno, a shelter for women and children and unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in Canada. One council in Saskatchewan set up an apartment for a nurse newly arrived from the Philippines. Other members opened their hearts and homes to foreign students and provided support to immigrant priests. Councils gave money and supplies for a “Refugee Bag Program” distributed by social services. Refugee families received food and gifts at Christmas.
Members attended Citizenship Court, hosted receptions for new Canadian citizens and acknowledged new citizens in the parish bulletin. In terms of education, refugees and immigrants were invited to meetings to speak of their experiences. Immigration officials were invited to speak on topics such as sponsorship and the trafficking of women for prostitution. Parish councils in British Columbia and the Yukon wrote letters on the plight of migrant workers in agriculture and participated in an annual Walk Away from Racism.
Councils took part in Remembrance Day services and assisted with socials for veterans. Members volunteered on election days and took part in Canada Day celebrations.
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
A visit to the African countries of Zambia and Burundi as part of the CCODP bishops’ mission was afforded to me. I returned even more convinced that the League must support CCODP in its grass-roots development projects. The people in the communities know and decide what needs to be done and CCODP provides support, the most effective way of providing sustainable aid for development.
Councils supported CCODP through the 1% Program. They assisted and participated in parish activities such as poverty suppers, soup and a bun on designated days in Lent and Solidarity Sunday. They led the Solidarity Way of the Cross. Members took part in and promoted the fall activity campaign (signing postcards). Councils used study materials at meetings on topics such as food sovereignty, mining issues, and the use of land and water resources. Councils also reviewed the recommendations in the bishops’ report on CCODP activities.
A common activity for members was sponsoring children through organizations such as Chalice and Save a Family Plan. Councils provided funds for projects overseas such as raising $6,000 for pews for a church in India and donating card game proceeds to help the Sisters of Mercy dig a well in Africa. Members saved stamps and eyeglasses, and raised funds for wheelchairs, Fr. Roland Dubourt’s schools in Africa, and projects to help orphans and mothers afflicted with HIV/AIDS in Africa, sometimes through the collection of pennies. Support was also given to many organizations and relief funds such as Project HOPE, Wells of Hope, an orphanage in Peru , Buy-a-Net Malaria Prevention Group, and the Mustard Seed Project for disabled children of Jamaica, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most popular were the various Christmas shoebox programs such as Operation Christmas Child.
Councils learned about developing countries through speakers such as a parish priest from Nigeria, guests from the Congo and Kenya, and a member who worked in Calcutta with the Missionaries of Charity. Councils learned about the culture, religion and history of Burkina Faso, reintegration of child soldiers into society in Uganda and the struggles of Palestinian women. Letters were written about farmers’ right to save seeds and access to clean safe water.
Activities, Comments, and Concerns Raised by Chairpersons
Provincial chairpersons sent out communiqués which were passed on and read, and attended and spoke at meetings and conferences.
National Chairperson’s Activities
The highlight of my year was the trip to Africa which was an incredible experience, as well as a difficult one. Through speaking to the national executive and many councils, and writing reports and articles for The Canadian League, I relived my experiences.
I attended meetings and conventions, gave oral and written reports, wrote several communiqués, spoke on community life at the Saskatoon Diocesan Council’s annual convention, hosted a community life luncheon at the annual national convention, and attended a presentation by Victor Malarek on trafficking and the hearings on nuclear power in Saskatchewan.