2016 Annual Report – B.C. & Yukon

August 17, 2017

Evelyn Rigby
B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council President
2016 Annual Report

More than three-quarters of parish councils responded to the new online annual survey, a lower count than in previous years, but with sufficient information to confirm the health of the League in B.C. & Yukon, the most westerly provincial council. Most presidents obtained information about current issues from national, provincial and diocesan websites, provincial and national communiqués, newsletters and The Canadian League, augmented with other ma-terial from COLF, CCCB, EPC, Catholic press, workshops and conventions.

Ninety percent of presidents set aside time at their meetings to dis-cuss and act upon a diverse range of issues, most notably for improved access to palliative care facilities and to prevent medical assistance in dying and euthanasia from being carried out in palliative care facilities and hospices. Some councils took action on youth mental health, home care, Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and warning labels on food and drug products. The problem of abortion, threats to natural death, advanced healthcare, enduring power of attorney, advanced care directives, funeral preparations, hospice care and dementia were also agenda items, as well as support for refugees and the elimination of pornography. Councils either used a guest speaker or the relevant chairperson to present these topics.

The table (below) shows the top priorities generally favoured by presidents, with the number of presidents shown in parentheses:

First Priority                            Second Priority                                                 Third Priority
**Membership (32)                    Support for Parish (14)*                                      **Membership (16)
Spiritual (22)                                Spiritual (13)                                                          Current Issues (9)
Current Issues: palliative
care, medical assistance in
dying, conscience rights (15)     **Membership (8)                                                Community Out-reach (8)
Support for Parish* (8)              Community Out-reach (8)                                   Support for Parish* (8)
Leadership (7)                             Meetings (7)                                                           Fundraising for Charities (7)
Spiritual (7)
Others (7)                                    Others (51)                                                             Others (46)
* Support for parish included financial help and involvement in various ministries.
** Membership covered efforts to increase it, to widen the age ranges involved and to encourage a larger number of members to work on current projects.

As official spokespersons for councils, presidents dealt with many issues. The most notable included the effects of new federal legislation allowing medical assistance in dying and euthanasia within Canada’s healthcare system, the need for conscience rights of healthcare workers to be respected and member recruitment. In some cases they advocated for improved parish facilities. Members spoke to members of the legislative assembly and parliament, pas-tors, parish congregations, pastoral councils, young mothers, and at various social events, from one-on-one situations to very large groups. Presidents represented their councils in Remembrance Day ceremonies, funeral honour guards and receptions, parish pilgrimages, 40 Days for Life and ecumenical gatherings for World Day of Prayer and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. They also attended pastoral council meetings, diocesan events, League celebrations and appreciation events for the religious. Some councils held joint meetings and organized events assisted by a diocesan executive member.

Many presidents met with their spiritual advisor monthly, whereas others commented that they rarely met. Several mentioned that priests new to Canada and to the League would benefit from being educated about the organization and the amazing work members do over and above their well-known fundraising and kitchen expertise. Some councils reported the spiritual advisor’s presence at regular meetings. Most councils (84%) stated their pastors were supportive and that spiritual advisors responded to specific requests.

Most councils (84%) held regular monthly meetings with a break in July and August. The majority of presidents referred to the Constitution & Bylaws, Executive Handbook and Robert’s Rules of Order, while others used their own policy and procedure manual to help them manage their business. Other resources were past presidents, life members and experienced members. Sixty comments acknowledged the tremendous help new presidents received from past presidents and executive members when they transitioned into the presidency. A high percentage of presidents signed banking statements and co-signed cheques but, unlike their diocesan and provincial counterparts, were not fully reimbursed for travel and accommodation expenses incurred.

More than half of the councils compiled their own policy and procedure manual, and sought input and approval from members before revising it. Items that needed changes were funeral protocol and receptions, fundraising for the CCODP, service awards, membership dues exemptions, honorarium amounts, bursaries, expenses, mass cards, social cards, financial support for life members, rum-mage sale guidelines, dates of general meetings and budget revisions.

Most council executives have used the Executive Handbook to learn what should be expected of them and acknowledged its assistance in overseeing the operations of their council. Four presidents suggested there should be a simpler version for smaller councils or for those with vacant chairpersons’ positions, while two requested more detail. Another suggestion was to separate parish, diocesan, provincial and national into their own sections. A great number of presidents were aware of the activities of their executive through meeting reports, executive meetings, e-mail messages and telephone conversations. Other methods were face to face meetings, informal chats after the Eucharistic celebration, WhatsApp (an instant messaging service), texting and video conferencing such as Zoom.

Almost all identified challenges. Several responded that they had agreed to take on the position while lacking knowledge of the League or being unaware of what the presidency entailed. Others did not have a full executive, and those who had full-time jobs or were caregivers found it difficult to give adequate time to their presidential work.

Only half of the presidents provided an annual summary of the council’s activities to their members at an annual general meeting, although some sent a written report via e-mail. In addition to using standing committees, presidents struck committees for special work including funerals, fundraising, birthday celebrations, youth ministry, refugees, gaming grants, Christmas and Easter hampers and dinners. Some parish councils used League letterhead when corresponding outside the League, but not all referenced their member-ship total when doing so.

Councils accessed the B.C. & Yukon Provincial League Development Fund to help finance extra workshops on leadership, palliative care, Catch the Fire! and CWL Boot Camp. Diocesan presidents used conventions to spiritually enrich, educate and hone members’ skills with presentations and workshops on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, letter writing, pro-life matters, diabetes, wills, end-of-life care and visiting the imprisoned. Diocesan presidents added more variety to their whirl of activities by attending celebratory masses, appreciation dinners for the religious, fundraising fashion shows, baby showers, information sessions for refugee organizing committees, potlucks, parish parties and a Birthright International annual general meeting. One was happy to report that she had rescued a parish council that had been on the verge of disbanding.

At the annual meeting with members of the provincial government, the provincial delegation presented concerns about conscience rights and the need for more palliative care and hospice facilities. The delegation asked the government to educate the public further about the enduring power of attorney and the new registration process for organ and tissue donation. In addition it requested bans on neonicotinoids and plastic microbeads.

Shortly after the fun-filled traditional roast to revered retiring B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Pat Deppiesse, members of the new provincial executive initiated projects. They formulated and circulated a petition to support the freedom of conscience motion passed at the 2016 annual national convention, investigated the possibility of a new status for Whitehorse Diocesan Council, and strengthened efforts to eliminate human trafficking and to support refugee resettlement.

In the spring, new Life Member Agnes Geiger (Nanaimo) was welcomed. Towards the end of the year, the provincial executive received exciting news that former B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Connie Hatherton, who added style and substance to so many gatherings, was honoured by Pope Francis with the Benemerenti Medal in recognition of her long and steadfast service to the Catholic church, family and community, most notably in the area of pro-life.

I am privileged to be a part of this great sisterhood of faith-filled and industrious women who, under the 2016 provincial banner of Joyfully Serving the Lord, continued to inspire me with their extraordinary vigour and compassion.