2015 Annual Report – Ontario
Ontario Provincial Council President
2015 Annual Report
The emphasis in 2015 was on the culmination of social justice projects. Councils continued supporting local organizations in need of financial support and those requiring more basic needs such as food and clothing. Others made time to journey with individuals for any number of reasons, be it spiritual, emotional or physical. Two specific projects caught the attention of some members, the “Sisterhood Project” in Sudbury and a prayer poster in the Diocese of Pembroke. The “Sisterhood Project” was instituted by one parish to help patients and the families of patients who were in the regional hospital for extended stays and far away from their homes and support networks. Members spent time with them and supported them in varied ways. The prayer poster in Pembroke was produced to encourage members to pray for the six men in its seminary. The poster was placed in each parish as a reminder of the prayerful support these young men need every day.
Membership continued to be a concern for all councils. To that end, membership drives included sending out “missing you” letters to those who had not renewed, acting as membership angels and offering training programs to encourage new members. St. Catharines Diocesan Council celebrated the reactivation of St. Joseph Parish Council in Grimsby, and Toronto Diocesan Council welcomed the newly formed parish council St. John XXIII Parish Council in North York.
Spring was the time for the 13 diocesan councils to gather in convention. Emphasis was placed on the stigma attached to mental illness (Resolution ON.13.01 Reduce the Stigma Attached to Mental Illness), the needs of First Nations peoples, especially youth (Resolution ON.14.02 Feathers of Hope – Empowering First Nations Youth), Resolution ON.11.02 Limit the Sodium in our Food, palliative and hospice care, Catholic education, the Year of Consecrated Life and the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Many included S’Mores modules as part of their League development during convention. Each was spiritually rewarding for participants.
June saw the delegation to the provincial government at Queen’s Park for a day of networking and idea sharing. The launch of a new health and physical education curriculum by the government proved to be of concern to members. Under the guidance of the provincial bishops, members were encouraged to study the revised curriculum, so as to better understand it and its impact on Catholic education.
With the Supreme Court of Canada’s Carter v. Canada ruling in July, members became educated on issues surrounding physician-assisted dying. Forums, symposiums, workshops, speakers series and webcasts were used to keep members informed. Letter-writing campaigns and meetings with members of parliament became the norm.
Technologically, councils have initiated “e-blasts” to inform members of happenings, monthly meetings and special events. Provincial council used teleconferencing more frequently. Standing committee chairpersons met with their counterparts more frequently, and some diocesan executives held meetings using teleconferencing to overcome the time and financial impact of long distance travel. The provincial website and Facebook page continued to be popular. Subscriptions to the ON-Line Newsletter increased and the new format of the Trillium News and Views newsletter was a breath of fresh air.
July saw a new slate of officers elected at the provincial convention in Niagara Falls. The inaugural Social Justice Award was presented to Colleen Martin from Thunder Bay Diocesan Council in recognition of her passion and work for equality of First Nations youth. Colleen was a co-founder of the Mikinakoos Children’s Fund that addresses child poverty on remote reserves. Five resolutions were adopted and sent to the national resolutions committee for consideration, and three of these were adopted at the 95th annual national convention. Another was sent to the provincial councils, encouraging them to become aware of the issue.
The national theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission, combined with the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, was the stimulus for the provincial project introduced at the post-convention executive meeting. Each of the 13 diocesan councils chose a blessed proclaimed by Pope Francis to study and emulate for the year. The good works of councils did not change, the colour and shape of the umbrella did. Included in the good works shared was time spent learning about beatification and the road to sainthood, creating prayer cards and information pamphlets on a chosen blessed, participating in prayer services in honour of the chosen blessed in the hopes that he/she may be canonized, understanding the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and completing at least one activity for each of the works of mercy.
In a similar vein, provincial standing committee chairpersons and officers focused on one of the beatitudes by relating it to a chosen saint canonized by Pope Francis. Their focus was to demonstrate how members’ activities dovetailed with the chosen beatitude and the lives of the chosen saints, imitating the care and kindnesses shown to the elderly, abandoned and vulnerable, and supporting ways to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, care for the sick and dying, evangelize and spread the good news of the gospel.
Members took to heart the need to support refugee families coming to Ontario. Councils provided financial support, hosted clothing and household drives to outfit families and their new homes and made themselves available to help in as many ways as needed. Some held baby showers for expectant mothers. Groups went on shopping trips and gave cooking demonstrations to help women adjust to their new lifestyle. Nearly 100 years ago, the League came into being because of the need for women to support immigrant families. The League has come full circle.
Members in Ontario lived Mother Theresa’s words, “Kind words [and deeds] can be short and easy to speak [do], but their echoes are truly endless.”