2015 Annual Report – National Chairperson of Community Life

October 01, 2016

Doreen Gowans
National Chairperson of Community Life
2015 Annual Report

Sub-committee Chairpersons:

  • Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace: Life Member Marlene Pavletic
  • Poverty: Life Member Joyce Green

Chairpersons of community life inform, educate and challenge members to take action on the corporal works of mercy. Action was taken as members followed Pope Francis’ invitation in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The reports have shown that time has been given freely and was truly a service to God, Canada and the church community.

Dignity and rights of persons

Daily prayers were said by members leading up to Human Trafficking Awareness Day and concluding with councils hosting presentations on the issue. One council held a presentation on human trafficking given by a law enforcement officer and invited not only the parish but the wider community. Councils promoted letter writing campaigns to government officials on the issue of human trafficking through Resolution 2009.01 Exit Strategies for Prostituted Persons.

Other members supported anti-bullying programs in keeping with Resolution 2002.02 Anti-Bullying Programs. One council held a discussion on the article in the magazine entitled “Helping Women Living in Poverty” written by Life Member Joyce Green.

Guest speakers educated members on the prevention of domestic violence and Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan. Members participated in aboriginal celebrations such as the Walking with Our Sisters march, Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Parliament Hill, walks against racism and First Nations reconciliations. Every Sunday for the past 15 years, one member has visited Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, a federal prison for aboriginal women. Members collected school supplies for backpacks for First Nations youth, as well as supported First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada.

Reports have stated the importance of educating families, members and parishioners on issues relating to the dignity and rights of persons. Letters were written to the government petitioning for an inquiry into murdered and missing women as members took action on Resolution 2011.02 Children of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

Other concerns addressed included issues facing seniors, women’s shelters, aboriginal women’s issues, women’s rights and the rights of the disabled.

Social and economic justice

Members knew and believed that everyone has the right to food, shelter, warm clothing and love. Members helped single mothers with food hampers and parish families in need, and donated to St. Vincent de Paul Society, inner city ministries and transition houses. One member belonged to a program that provides breakfast and lunch to school children. One diocesan council reported members worked to find employment for the needy in their community, including those with disabilities, by recruiting businesses that might be interested in employing clients.

Members provided food for food banks, volunteered at drop-in centers, and collected clothing and hygiene products for street people, inner city children’s centers and groups helping with sex-trade workers. Baskets of hygiene items were made for women in shelters. Donations were made to support youth employment and support services and groups providing housing for young mothers. Members asked government to end child poverty and women living in poverty in Canada, knitted scarves for Special Olympians, and collected backpacks filled with clothes and toilettes for the needy. Councils provided lunches to seniors after morning mass, distributed socks to those in need and adopted foster families. Other councils supported L’Arche communities.

One council raised $1,200 for a family who lost their husband and father, a member of the RCMP killed in the line of duty. The council made 1,200 white lapel ribbons and 100 tree bows in solidarity with the community for the funeral. A Christmas project which included a fancy basket raised $500.00 for a family in need. Members helped by praying together and singing with residents in nursing homes and hospitals. One council received an $800.00 grant from its local health board to provide cooking classes for children to educate them on healthy choices, learning cooking skills and proper cleanup techniques.

Members worked on Resolution 2003.01 Affordable Housing for Low-Income Canadians, especially for those who are mentally ill and developmentally challenged. Financial aid was given to Habitat for Humanity and the Right to Housing Coalition. Members helped to alleviate homelessness by caring for the homeless, working with the marginalized, preparing dinners for the hungry on the street and supporting shelters for homeless youth.

Members were informed of the 211 program of the United Way that specializes in providing information and referrals regarding community, government and social services. The program offers live answering service 24-hours a day. The telephone calls are free and interpreters are available in more than 170 languages. Service was available in most provinces.

Councils helped the Elizabeth Fry Society, The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, outreach programs, donated diaper programs, prison support programs and community living centres. Members assisted the poor by paying for their heating bills, medication, groceries and household supplies. They supplied knitted hats and mittens for newborns or premature babies, as well as distributed hats, scarves and mittens to schools during the winter months. Councils provided speakers on a wide array of topics including prison ministry, homelessness, poverty and L’arche.

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was promoted and supported at national convention and by councils at all levels. Member contributions helped the Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem to provide critical support to at risk teenagers encouraging them to remain in school and Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour to provide healthcare to the poorest mothers and babies.

Refugees, immigration and citizenship

Members welcomed many refugees and supported them by contributing to their welfare with clothing, furniture and money, and helping them integrate into society. One council collected small change at each meeting to donate to refugees. One diocesan council reported sponsoring a young mother and her son from an Ethiopian refugee camp. One provincial council reported 31 parish groups sponsored a total of 184 Syrian refugees, while another provincial council was involved in settling 2,500 refugees. Others reported helping refugees through donations to the Canadian Red Cross and helping to find affordable housing.

Many parish councils worked on Resolution 2014.01 Restoration of Health Care for Refugee Claimants by writing letters to the federal government urging it to reinstate health care for all refugee claimants comparable to coverage for Canadians on social assistance, an action that has since been accomplished.

Besides volunteering for and attending citizenship ceremonies, many councils hosted speakers to help raise awareness of the needs of refugees and immigrants by educating people as to the issues immigrants face. Some members participated in an interdenominational program to provide financial and spiritual support and assistance to immigrant families in their community. One woman was honoured by her council as she received her Canadian citizenship. One diocesan council reported financially assisting temporary foreign workers. Father’s Day gift bags were put together and given to migrant workers.

Prior to the federal election, action was taken on Resolution 1978.06 Know your Candidate for Office asking members to make sure they knew their candidates’ positions before voting.

Councils supported current and past serving military members through donations of money and goods for care packages, supporting the Military Family Resource Centres and sending cards to deployed soldiers. Veterans were remembered as members attended Remembrance Day services and placed wreaths in their memory.

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP)

Most councils donated to CCODP through the 1% Program to help in the global south. At the national convention, items made by women in Afghanistan were sold with the proceeds going back to them, and 1% Program brochures were distributed to every registered member. Sub-committee chairperson Marlene Pavletic attended CCODP’s orientation assembly, held every five years to determine strategic priorities dealing with major global and social issues. Her report was published in the magazine.

Some councils distributed 1% Program brochures or held an auction, soup and bun lunch during Lent, “Poor Man’s Meal” or card party with the proceeds given to CCODP. Councils continued to participate in Share Lent and THINKfast and by collecting postage stamps. Some councils reported they had met the challenge of donating 11 cents per member to help increase donations to CCODP.

Members were informed about the 1% Program through slide presentations and talks by CCODP representatives. They signed postcards for the climate change campaign and became actively involved in the CCODP committees in their parishes.

Developing countries

Countries were supported through Operation Christmas Child, Operation Eyesight Universal, Save a Family Plan, Canadian Food for Children, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Jamaican mission projects, Missionaries of Africa and The Mother Teresa Foundation. Also supported were orphanages in Guatemala and the Philippines, a girls’ school in Honduras and Syrian families in refugee camps abroad. Members travelled to help in missions in Peru, Costa Rica and Honduras. One council supported two students who went to Honduras with Global Brigades.

Councils adopted children in India, Ghana and Nigeria, as well as distributed shoes in Haiti. Four councils supported free trade coffee and chocolate. One council gave microfinance loans to women and supported providing clean water to communities. Another council organized a project to make sleeping mats for the people in developing countries.

Members were educated on issues such as child soldiers by The Honorable Roméo Dallaire, retired lieutenant general of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Community life standing committee chairpersons are to be commended for their work over the past year. May Our Lady of Good Counsel guide members as they work together “For God and Canada”.