2015 Annual Report – National President and Chairperson of International Relations

October 01, 2016

Barbara Dowding
National President and Chairperson of International Relations
2015 Annual Report

The role of president is a unique privilege at every level of the League, bringing its own set of challenges and rewards. Presidents reported wonderful opportunities to help League sisters become the best they could be by recognizing their gifts and talents.

Annual reports indicated presidents took their role seriously and endeavoured to represent themselves and the League in the best way possible. Because presidents are a model of what the League believes, people form opinions of the League based on their interactions with others.

Some duties of the president include:

•      informing the membership of the League’s position on current issues

•      fostering open communication

•      presiding at all council meetings and conventions

•      providing active leadership

•      being fully informed on the operation of the League and report annually to the membership

•      being the official spokesperson for the council

•      appointing committees

The reports from provincial presidents were comprehensive and highlighted the work not only of parish, diocesan and provincial presidents but, in great detail, the work that went on in all standing committees. One president put it this way, “Our League members continually contribute to and participate in the ecclesial, cultural, social and economic life of our parish community and allow it to flourish and grow.” Presidents proudly reported innovative initiatives and complimented their counterparts for their dedication in carrying out this role.

Whether elected, appointed, re-appointed or asked to serve, nearly every president had a personal testimony of what the role meant to them. All were extremely proud of members. Presidents credited members for increases in membership, establishing new councils and working as a team on the executive. The president guided the team, but together they decided what was to be done.

The leadership style of presidents varied from person to person, but their involvement in all aspects of the executive inspired others to participate. Some presidents had limited time to spend but took advantage of life members’ expertise and availability to assist on committees and with elections.

Nearly all reported challenges with membership and leadership development, which continued to be the reality. In addition to ongoing good works, presidents reported improved relationships with spiritual advisors when intentional efforts were made to meet on a regular basis. This was particularly helpful at the parish level. Diocesan and provincial presidents reported feeling affirmed and valued by bishops and many of the clergy, and continued cultivating good relationships with all.

Presidents reported trying new things, for instance, meeting via Skype or conference call when distances were great. Looking forward to a new way of doing things rated high for presidents. Councils initiated “e-blasts” for speedy communications and reported using teleconferencing more often.

Spiritual development was reported by all as a priority, but fun and fellowship remained critical to councils. Presidents reported much enthusiasm from members for social gatherings where invitations were extended to neighbouring councils and to women of other religious denominational groups to celebrate with food and sometimes even entertainment.

Presidents lead with confidence and, for the most part, were not content to opt for the status quo. One president wished the standing committees would be revamped to be more in-line with the reality of the League. She was frustrated the League seemed to be slow moving. She felt the League had too many themes at diocesan and provincial levels and would have liked to see all levels using one national theme.

Other new initiatives included annual exclusive meetings for parish presidents at the diocesan level that enabled presidents to share information and problem solve as a group. It was reported to be very successful and was planned to continue. One president makes a point of calling all presidents who did not attend meetings and she takes it upon herself to keep in regular contact either by phone or in person.

Presidents were proud of members and clearly sang praise and thanks. Some presidents used delegation as a means of teaching and training, and clearly mentored future leaders. One president reported the theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission was a call and focus, and diocesan and parish presidents and councils worked diligently and were rewarded for their devotion to God and Canada.

I have seen with my own eyes how presidents at all levels took their role to heart. I have met with parish presidents and attended annual diocesan and provincial conventions where even the newest and least experienced president gave her best efforts to members.

This is what presidents said:

·         “[The members in my councils] are truly ‘women rooted in gospel values’ and live the League prayer to ‘teach us to share at home and abroad the good things you have given us’ doing this ‘For God and Canada.’”

·         “Nearly one hundred years ago, The Catholic Women’s League of Canada came into being because of the need for women to support immigrant families… we have come full circle.”

·         “When I look at the main issues and priorities of our councils, I feel a sense of joy and pride that so many Catholic women step forward to serve the church and the world.”

·         “As provincial president, I am blessed with an abundance of opportunities to celebrate the women of the League.”

·         “As provincial president, I have the honour of serving on the national executive of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Attending meetings with members from across Canada has been an amazing experience for me. It is good to see and hear how the League is visible in every province, and it is good to see and share how our members make a difference as members of our national organization.”

·         “My years (as provincial president) have gone by too quickly…. I have been given wonderful opportunities to develop my spirituality. I have met beautiful women and heard their stories. I have been blessed by this opportunity and for this I am grateful.”

·         “I believe the level of a person’s faith is the openness of being a leader…. [and] knowing your gifts and knowing when to call on someone else who has the gifts you need to get the job done is crucial.”

·         “I am deeply appreciative of the many encounters I have experienced in these past two years. The journey has been full, my cup runneth over, and I express my heartfelt thanks to all who have walked with me. Our theme has made a difference, challenged us to new opportunities and we have responded through thought, deed and action.”

·         “My first year as provincial president was filled with an abundance of learning opportunities and wonderful new friendships. I have given advice and guidance, but more frequently, I sought advice and guidance from the many remarkable women I have come to know.”

·         “It has been a joy and an honour to represent and to work with these dynamic and dedicated ladies and truly an experience I will never forget.”

·         “We need to invite women to become involved in the meaningful work of the League. We must treat the League as a desirable gift that we have and want to share with others, a blessing to share time and service with other women.”

·         “This has been a wonderful and a learning year for me as my first term as provincial president.”

Presidents began preparing for the next year in December by actively finalizing plans with their councils and preparing to celebrate this important year with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the forefront. One president challenged diocesan presidents to focus on a “blessed” and how that person lived the works of mercy. The same president asked standing committee chairpersons to relate their reports in the coming year to the beatitudes. This was forward thinking and will make for interesting reporting next year!

With the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy beginning at the end of 2015, it was clear from the reports that councils at all levels will rise to Pope Francis’ challenge. The national theme has been well used and, for the most part, kept as the theme studied in the context of Evangelii Gaudium and prayed over.