2014 Annual Report – Organization

September 02, 2015

Margaret Ann Jacobs
National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization
2014 Annual Report

National life member liaisons: Glenda Klein, Pat Battensby and Ann Dobie.

Comprehensive reports from all provincial chairpersons of organization proudly reflected the many varied and creative activities undertaken to recruit, develop and affirm members. For the 2014 membership year, the League received 97.6% of the budgeted goal of 89,089 members. Total membership as of December 31, 2014 was 85,706.

Recruit members and maintain membership
“I am a member of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada because I believe that as a human being and a Christian, I have a responsibility to witness Christ to the world, and that membership in the League opens a new vista, helping me to fulfill in greater measure my Christian mission in the community of human kind” (Handbook for Organization Chairpersons).

Personal invitation continued to be the most powerful initiative to recruit and retain members. Ministry fairs, telephone trees, pot lucks, dinner meetings, promotional displays, barbecues, socials, advertising in church bulletins and newspapers and inserting membership envelopes in parish collection boxes were all methods used to entice members to join. Gift memberships were presented to newlyweds, the elderly, sick and shut-ins and candidates for the Rite of Christian Initiation.

The League was actively promoted by presentations at masses by members and the priest, circulation of flyers (in other than English), newsletters, photo display boards, cards, letters (of welcome and to those who did not renew), personal visits, e-mail and Facebook. One council in New Brunswick posted its calendar of events on the parish website. Hospitality teams welcomed new families and promoted the work of the League. Due to the transient nature of Military Ordinariate councils, one council held an annual meet and greet in September. Fellowship activities, prayer partners and outreach to those needing transportation helped retain members.

Women of the parish were invited for special speakers and events, with members encouraged to bring a friend. Catch the Fire! and S’Mores workshops increased membership and orientation sessions and welcome kits were given out to new members.

Recognition and appreciation was extended for dedicated service through awards, service pins and certificates. Installation and reaffirmation ceremonies and welcoming new members through special services enhanced the experience of working together and growing in sisterhood. Several diocesan councils had special awards named after exemplary past members.

Joint ventures were undertaken with the Knights of Columbus. Members increased their visibility by wearing CWL pins, scarves and aprons. Councils exhibited flexibility by adjusting meeting times and locations (to seniors’ homes). Holding draws and financially supporting members to attend retreats and conventions were other avenues investigated to promote membership. Incentives were offered to entice members to join earlier.

Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council wrote personal letters to members of disbanded parish councils inviting them to join a neighbouring council and maintain their membership. Councils in Saskatchewan reported inviting neighbouring parish councils to share fellowship and how they attract new members and what works for them. Over 50% of parish councils were using the online process for submitting memberships, which has improved record keeping.

Leadership development
“In order to stimulate growth and develop skills, talents and personal potential of all members, it is important to provide opportunities for personal growth” (Handbook for Organization Chairpersons).

Catch the Fire!, S’mores, leadership workshops and a variety of development days modified to meet local needs was ongoing. Councils were encouraged to plan these sessions annually and to develop a transition or succession plan. Members noted that workshops and retreats were not only a good way to interact with other members who could enlighten them on new ways to look at old issues but they were also educational and energizing for continued work at parish level.

Life members were used as mentors, guest speakers and workshop facilitators for a variety of training sessions. A constitution, policies and procedures workshop was presented by life members and supported by Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council.

Financial assistance was provided for members to attend development days, workshops and conventions at all levels. Seventeen diocesan and four provincial councils received money from the National Development Fund, representing two-thirds of the budgeted allocation.

Regular contact between executive members from Prince Edward Island Provincial Council with parish council presidents was cited as most helpful for sharing information and keeping abreast of concerns members were experiencing. PowerPoint presentations allowed parish councils to highlight their activities. Ontario Provincial Council facilitated a teleconference for all organization chairpersons as part of its leadership development model. Orientation for new executive members and ongoing mentoring proved beneficial. The Catholic Girls’ League was supported as a means of leadership development for the future.

League resource material
Warmly welcoming members and providing the tools and knowledge of the workings of the League allowed members to work effectively and take pride in the League. Councils reported the use of the National Manual of Policy and Procedure (fully revised in 2014), Executive Handbook (updated in 2014) and the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B, adopted in 2013). Many councils purchased copies of the C&B for all of their members. Other well used documents were Leading the League and the Handbook for Organization Chairpersons.

Catch the Fire! and S’mores were touted as excellent resources, with S’mores available to be downloaded and used as printed or modified as needed. National brochures and pamphlets were displayed and distributed. Provincial and diocesan councils reported producing these for their members as well.

Honorary life and life members were noted as being one of the greatest resources the League has and should be accessed more often.

Annual reports
“Reports are an important means of communicating with others in the parish, community and the world at large. It is a means of communication by which the CWL organization is created” (Handbook for Organization Chairpersons).

Provincial chairpersons of organization noted the importance of completing annual reports as a means of preserving the history of councils, revealing where program planning may be needed and reflecting the dedication, enthusiasm and love of members for the League.

The most rewarding way for parish councils to complete annual reports was to meet as a group, using the minutes and/or an activity chart or calendar. Some provincial councils held workshops on completing the annual report forms. Some councils distributed annual report forms ahead of time for study, and others provided written resources that established provincial standards.

Nova Scotia Provincial Council formed a focus group to look into possible changes in their reports for 2015. One council held a “Come Wine With Me About Reports” where members shared the task of creating a list of activities under specific headings as indicated in the C&B. Quebec Provincial Council created and initiated a set of simplified reporting forms that would be extensively evaluated after the next convention.

There was an increase in the use of technology in completing the reports. Only two councils in Manitoba reported volunteer hours with the chairperson noting that, “Many organizations would be unable to exist without their volunteers.”

Life membership
“In The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, life membership gives the recipient, in addition to the honour, a permanent place on the national council, the same voting privileges as accredited delegates at an annual meeting or convention, a voice in its affairs and eligibility for a national appointment” (Handbook for Organization Chairpersons).

As of December 31st, there were 324 life members, of which 16 were honorary life members. Members mourned the loss of Agnes Arsenault, Rejeanne Beaulieu, Diane Curley, Anna Downing, Ann Dube, Lottie Gorski, Rita Hemmings, Madeline Kurjata, Bernice (Bunny) Leahy, Vivian Malouin and Rita Souliere and celebrated the approval of new life members Verna Lynn Bergeron, Cathy Bouchard, Zita Cameron, Bev Drouin, Theresa Duann, Annette Kelly, Ann McGray, Theresa McGuire, Albertine Moran, Jacqueline Nogier, Linda Marie O’Hagan, Marie Rackley and Hazel Robichaud.

Some life members remained active on provincial, diocesan and parish executives, served as sub-committee chairpersons and parliamentarians, assisted with convention committees and archives and acted as mentors and workshop presenters where their knowledge and enthusiasm were much appreciated.

Honorary Life Member Velma Harasen was elected as the regional vice president for North America for the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. Life members Eleanor Arless, Margaret Ann Jacobs, Glenda Klein and Donna Shaddick served on the Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada.

A total of 42 messages were filtered down from national life member liaisons Glenda Klein (January-August) and Pat Battensby and Ann Dobie (August-December), to provincial level and then to diocesan level. All provincial councils and most diocesan councils had a life member liaison that kept in touch with members “providing a much valued service of sharing the joys and sorrows of this faithful band of women who have contributed so many years of devoted service to the League.” (Evelyn Rigby, B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council)

Challenges
The League faced some of the age old challenges―declining membership, inability to attract new members, shortage of women willing to take on leadership roles, inability to meet deadlines with membership, and compiling and gathering annual reports.

Recommendations
Do not be discouraged! The League has amazing resources that can be easily accessed, adapted, streamlined and used. Choose leaders and facilitators for workshops and development days whose energy, enthusiasm and passion for the League will inspire others to experience the magnitude and empowerment of working with other like-minded Catholic women to expand their vision and loudly proclaim, We Have Seen the Lord!