2015 Annual Report – Newfoundland and Labrador

October 01, 2016

Ruby Sharpe
Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council President
2015 Annual Report

The 2015 annual report incorporated summary reports of online surveys as completed by 12 parish council presidents and five written annual reports. Two annual reports were not available at the time of this report. An online survey for annual reports was piloted in Newfoundland and Labrador and revealed many councils have significant struggles and issues not easily resolved.

Parish council presidents reported the most common methods of seeking information to share with members were communiqués, The Canadian League, provincial websites and newsletters. Information was shared largely through use of e-mails, meeting reports and telephone trees. Only a small percentage reported using social media to share information.

Almost all councils reported meeting on a monthly basis. At least one council avoided meetings during the winter months due to concerns of aged members traveling during inclement weather. Many councils possessed copies of the various national resources (Constitution & Bylaws, Executive Handbook). National, provincial and parish council policy and procedures manuals were used as a resource regularly in conducting meetings.

A multi-year effort to encourage more active participation from spiritual advisors continued. While a high percentage of presidents indicated their spiritual advisors were publicly supportive of the League, there continued to be a relatively low participation by the spiritual advisor at council meetings and/or meetings with him. This continued to be a challenge for councils as well as the spiritual advisors, many of whom were not residing on a permanent basis within the parishes and, thus, were not always accessible.

Parish council presidents had been very diligent in their efforts to ensure they attended provincial conventions and meetings and various workshops. Attendance was problematic for a small number of presidents due to geographic distance and travel. Cost was sometimes a factor in smaller councils with very limited financial resources.

Consistent themes emerged among councils’ identification of priority issues. At an organizational level, presidents reported concerns with membership recruitment, the number of aging members and the inability to recruit members who were willing and/or able to accept leadership positions. All presidents reported the spiritual development of its membership as a priority. In the areas of legislation and education and health, presidents identified priorities as opposing access to physician-assisted death, the need for quality and effective palliative care, advocating for seniors, the protection of children and those marginalized in society (e.g., the poor, the disabled) and, most prevalently, welcoming and assisting refugees and new Canadians.

Advocating for seniors continued to be a multi-year priority for councils. A resolution adopted in 2014 to promote the appointment of an independent seniors advocate for the province was actioned. The provincial council was pleased when a commitment from the government was made to implement the same, and the council closely monitored progress, remaining steadfast in ensuring this became a reality.

Members were enthusiastic in their pursuit of educating themselves regarding priority issues. Numerous members attended multiple education sessions and presentations on topics of physician assisted death, palliative care and the refugee situation. Some of these sessions were hosted by parish councils, while others were hosted within the church or by community agencies. The League had a visible presence at these various forums.

Parish councils performed many acts of mercy, some of which were not able to be reported in the online surveys. Presidents had countless stories of charitable acts—donations, monetary and in-kind (clothing, school supplies and books, food) to a multitude of individuals and organizations including the Centre for Life, The John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, women’s transitional housing, social outreach programs for the homeless, The Gathering Place, food banks and other parish related groups.

Fun and fellowship remained critical to councils. Presidents reported much enthusiasm from  members for social gatherings including potluck suppers, spring luncheons, Advent celebrations and other socials where invitations were extended to neighboring councils and, in some situations, women of other denominations. These gatherings often included entertainment and, in at least one council, the occasional fashion show!

There is sad news to report with the disbandment of two parish councils. This continues to be a challenge given recruitment and leadership issues. While the two disbanded councils have been struggling for sometime and they were small in numbers, the provincial council remained grateful for their many contributions over the years and hopeful that the members will join another council in their area.

The provincial council was thrilled to produce its first cookbook, Cooking With Love. This book was a compilation of favourite family recipes from members, their families and friends. It was beautifully bound and was met with tremendous zest and quick sales.

As the calendar year came to a close, all councils participated in the opening celebrations for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Members attended the mass and opening of the holy door as celebrated within their parish or diocese. Presidents actively finalized plans with their councils to commemorate this most wonderful year.

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, across Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. To all of you, I am eternally grateful. God bless you all!