2014 Annual Report – Newfoundland and Labrador

September 02, 2015

Rita Janes
Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council President
2014 Annual Report

As I write this annual report at the end of my two year term, and reflect on the provincial level and how this position afforded me the privilege and honour to serve on the national board, I am now, as I have been so many times over these past two years, in awe and admiration of all the fantastic women I served and represented provincially and those I met and worked with on the national board, all striving to serve and live the gospel values in today’s world. Pope Francis references the church as being a place of mercy. This was certainly evident in parish councils and also experienced on the national board, where everyone was welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged in so many ways.

The annual reports that I incorporated into this report provide clear evidence that the parish council voice is heard at the national level. As I read the reports, I was reminded how important the League is to the church in the province. The Catholic faith and the church are hurting in many parishes and the women of the church are the one strong consistent voice and servants rebuilding the faith and church. It has been challenging, but members were tenacious in their commitments to the council and the church. Many members were motivated by the talk given by Archbishop Martin Currie (St. John’s) at the annual provincial convention titled, “Why the Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador Needs the Catholic Women’s League.” However, most presidents still struggled with how they could encourage their own parish spiritual advisors to become more engaged and be more enthusiastic promoters of the League in the parish community.

Mainly as a result of the decline in people attending church, stagnant leadership within councils, and not being able to attract new members, three parish councils disbanded. The provincial executive sent letters of invitation to each member of the disbanded councils to join another council and was hopeful that many would accept the invitation to do so.

It was obvious from the reports that councils held the League Object “to achieve individual and collective spiritual development” as a very high priority. This was witnessed by the many prayer services and reflections on the national theme, We Have Seen the Lord! The provincial council hosted a very well attended and appreciated evening of reflection facilitated by renowned Catholic theologian, Sr. Elizabeth Davis, on the topic “Women in Mission.” A focus this year for the provincial council and followed up in many parish councils was forming groups to read and study Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). Besides formal prayer services and guest speakers on the theme, councils led their parishes in praying the rosary during October and May, stations of the cross during Lent, Advent celebrations, memorial services for the deceased, days of awareness and reflection, services to honour Our Lady of Good Counsel and services for peace in Syria. Councils hosted workshops on the Nicene Creed, the Beatitudes and the discernment module in S’Mores. Increasingly, councils invited and welcomed parishioners and the community to join them for these events. Members were active missionaries in their parish and communities.

Members were very involved in activities promoting the sanctity of human life, recognizing that respect for sanctity of life extends to people of all ages, witnessed by the concern for issues related to abortion, children who are abused and not cared for, euthanasia and medically assisted dying. Letters were written to government. Members attended pro-life demonstrations and walks, supported pro-life groups financially and in kind, and hosted speakers on the topic of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Of special concern was the bill introduced in the Quebec legislature that sought to legalize medically assisted dying. It was agreed to study the matter, and the writings of bioethicist Dr. Margaret Somerville were shared with all councils. The need for high quality and accessible palliative care became evident. Talks with the Newfoundland and Labrador Palliative Care Association led to the provincial chairperson of education and health attending a one day meeting. Subsequently, the provincial president was invited to be part of a special task force on quality end-of-life care.

A resolution adopted at the annual provincial convention, “to request the government to establish the position of senior’s advocate for the province,” led to the adoption at the fall meeting of a provincial theme, Our Seniors: We Honour Their Wisdom and Presence. Many councils became very active in enacting the theme, witnessed through such activities as sending minutes of meetings to those unable to attend and making home visits, along with cards and baskets of fruit and flowers for special occasions. Many members brought the Eucharist to the sick and elderly, especially those living in nursing homes, where often they also lead sing-a-longs or sponsored socials. Councils increasingly became advocates for the elderly, showing concern for adequate home and long term care, and affordable housing. They helped to prepare wills, including living wills, and became aware of health issues more likely to be experienced by seniors.

Councils were very supportive of organizations and groups that provided services to the poor and the vulnerable. They supported them with their donations of time and treasure, but also became advocates for them. They asked why people at home and abroad lived in poverty. Monetary donations were made to Catholic Missions In Canada, Coady International Institute, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Marty’s Dream and Velma’s Dream. As a result of Resolution 2103.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, councils reported efforts to get to know and start a dialogue with indigenous people in their community.

Councils became more enthused about following up on resolutions. They published in their parish bulletins a list of all resolutions adopted at the annual national convention, along with those recommended for provincial action. It was done to promote the League among parishioners and to build awareness of the work the League does. Councils reported active campaigns to have members write letters to appropriate government members. The provincial council was successful in having a resolution on the need for a senior’s advocate approved by the national resolutions committee for action at the provincial level.

Based on a motion passed unanimously by provincial council, a letter was written to the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada objecting to his edict that the party exclude as candidates for election anyone who was not pro-choice on abortion. Also, acting on a resolution presented to provincial council, letters were written to the provincial minister of natural resources endorsing the government’s decision to call a moratorium on fracking on the west coast of the province and to set up a committee to study the issue. Individual members wrote letters in support of both letter-writing initiatives.

Four parish councils celebrated their 40th anniversary, the first four councils in the province. They were a time of celebration, of reminiscing and especially of honouring founding members, executives and bishops who supported the League’s establishment provincially in 1974.

The provincial council flourished in so many areas, however, it also faced challenges. Many councils are in small communities where populations are dwindling or residents are getting older and this affects membership. Parishes are not close enough together to consider amalgamation. New and innovative ways have to be considered, as the League is sorely needed in these parishes, many of them without a permanent parish priest. Members have great trust that Our Lady of Good Counsel will continue to protect the League.