2009 Annual Report – Organization[print_link]
Organization Standing Committee
Velma Harasen, Chairperson
2009 Annual Report
National Life Member Liaison – Shirley Bernier
This report is based on the reports of the 11 provincial standing committee chairpersons and national life member liaison.
Recruit Members and Maintain Membership
Total membership for the year was 95,469 with five provinces showing an increase, three staying virtually the same and three suffering a slight loss. The League welcomed over 6,000 new members and re-instated nearly 2,000! On the other hand, over 8,000 women did not renew their memberships and 1,032 passed away. Six new councils were formed, six were reactivated, 15 became inactive and 11 were disbanded, totalling 1,293 councils.
Councils report many and varied methods of recruiting new members; however, personal contact continued to be the most effective approach. Invitations were placed in church bulletins and fees were collected through Sunday envelopes, CWL Sundays, recruitment weekends, gift memberships, invitation letters, and membership socials. Some parish councils sent a letter to all women in the parish or went door-to-door, and others offered gift incentives for having recruited the most new members or held early-bird free membership draws. Several councils offered to cover all or part of the membership fee for new members, and made membership available throughout the year. Many councils set a goal, not only to maintain membership, but to increase it over the previous year, and one set a goal of promoting the League through sheer friendliness! In January it was common for members to give personal testimonials from parish pulpits encouraging membership renewal and recruitment.
One council invited three different women who had recently arrived from a foreign country to speak and to share information about their homeland and culture at a membership afternoon. This resulted in 11 new members. The new recruitment materials were well received. Welcome kits were presented to new members, and executive members were installed or reaffirmed at parish masses. Raising awareness by wearing the pin or scarf and displaying the banner at parish events was noted. To quote from one report, “Be visible, let people know that the CWL is a great organization, providing a spiritual as well as social content, and members enjoy belonging.”
Parish councils honoured members with appreciation awards, merit certificates and service pins. Scrolls were presented for special milestones, and charter members received certificates. Provincial and parish councils reported giving special service awards. A gift was presented to members having perfect meeting attendance, and council anniversaries were celebrated in various ways. The prestigious Bellelle Guerin award was presented to 20 members.
Methods to assist in retaining members included transportation to meetings, babysitters for young members, birthday parties for milestone years, sending cards and flowers, and paying fees for members in nursing homes. Basic orientation sessions were held for new members and focused on training and development of future leaders. One council sent “miss you” cards to inactive members.
Many councils reported that new members had been recruited after hearing of the League’s influence in matters of service and justice, especially at the provincial and federal levels. Women were interested in joining groups that speak and advocate for those less fortunate. One report stated, “Communication and visibility play a huge role in recruiting and maintaining members.”
Members were encouraged and assisted to attend workshops and conventions by paid registration and mileage. Provincial executive members attended meetings and held workshops to help parish councils increase members’ knowledge. Workshops were held at all levels. It was reported that training is essential, as well as mentorship and support, so members are comfortable taking on a leadership position.
A number of provincial councils reported having funds available for leadership training. Assistance was received by 19 councils from the National Development Fund for a total of $21,489.51. Manitoba Provincial Council accessed the provincial council grant for the amount of $5,000.
League Resource Material
Leading the League was listed as the most used resource and the CWL Day of Peace & Hope Activities Kit was used to educate and motivate, with some councils using excerpts to place in church bulletins. One parish council adopted the kit for its yearly ecumenical ladies’ prayer breakfast.
Colourful, positive, promotional postcards were developed by the national executive to assist in attracting new members and to reaffirm to present members many of the reasons they belong to the League.
Get-togethers were held to prepare annual reports and monthly accounts kept of activities assisted in the preparation. Annual report summaries were published in parish newsletters and church bulletins during the membership campaign and some were circulated via e-mail as a mirror of events sponsored by members. An increase in the number of parish councils submitting annual reports was noted.
There were 13 honorary life members and 324 life members. Ten life members died: Mabel Allen (B.C. & Yukon), Clara Cservik (Ontario), Ruth Hazlett (B.C. & Yukon), Marian Hepditch-Littlepage (Nova Scotia), Yvonne Hurtubise (Ontario), Pollyanna Kilgour (B.C. & Yukon), Kathleen MacNaughton (Ontario), Diana McKenzie (Manitoba), Anne McManus (Ontario) and Theresa Quinn (Ontario). Nine new life memberships were awarded.
National Life Member Liaison Shirley Bernier did exceptional work and kept life members in touch with news of other life members, be it awards received, milestones achieved, prayers requested or notices of condolences for life members or their family members. Life members served at all levels on sub-committees and ad hoc committees and represented the League at conferences. They served as parliamentarians, resolution facilitators, mentors and members of convention committees. They promoted League development by conducting workshops and leading open forums, and they continued to work in their parish councils.
Honorary Life Member Agnes Bedard continued as vice president for North America of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, and life members Eleanor Arless and Glenda Klein served on the Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada. Life Member Mary MacLeod’s Prayer Request: Life Memberswas shared with all life members.
The permanent membership cards were introduced and well received. The cards show the year joined, along with the member’s identification number which is invaluable when a member transfers to another parish council.
New life member’s pin designs were explored and the annual report guidelines were revised. Resource material was updated; new recruitment postcards were designed and the “Why am I a Member?” pamphlet introduced.
Most parish councils maintained or increased their numbers and are active, living out the mission, vision and values of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Members are proud of their accomplishments, growing together spiritually, enhancing their image and continuing their involvement in the church and community. Members are dedicated, enthusiastic and willing to explore new ways to keep the League truly alive.
The responsibility of this standing committee does not change radically from year to year. The committee worked to maintain and increase membership. Councils must also focus on the development of new leaders willing to take an executive position. It is important that the objectives and work of the League are made known. Women are not likely to join, or remain active in an organization they know little about!
Workshops, particularly in leadership development and training, are essential. Life members, diocesan, provincial and national officers are there to help and the National Development Fund is available to provide assistance.
As national chairperson of organization, I attended committee meetings, executive meetings and conventions, prepared communiqués and magazine articles and dealt with matters related to membership, resource material, and the National Development Fund. I was part of the League delegation to Ottawa presenting resolutions to the federal government. I was privileged to be part of the Coady International Institute’s study tour to India and Nepal, an unforgettable experience, where in a land wrought by extreme poverty, I truly encountered Women of Peace and Hope .