2016 Annual Report – National Past President and Chairperson of Laws

August 17, 2017

Barbara Dowding
National Past President and Chairperson of Laws
2016 Annual Report

According to the Constitution & Bylaws, “The past president shall: (a) serve in a consultative capacity; (b) be responsible for archives and history; (c) facilitate the study and implementation of the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B); (d) perform other duties as assigned by the president; (e) be chairperson of laws at national level” (Part XIII, Section 1(10)).

At the national level additional responsibilities included: attending national executive meetings and conventions; reviewing the standing rules of order for convention; reviewing and providing recommendations regarding proposed revisions to the National Manual of Policy and Procedure (P&P); encouraging development and regular revision of manuals of policy and procedure at other levels; being available to provincial past presidents; preparing communiqués, magazine articles and memos; reporting on accomplishments under the standing committee of laws; compiling annual reports from provincial counterparts; chairing the archives committee; and responding in a timely manner to questions and concerns regarding laws and interpretation of same.

Serve in a Consultative Capacity
The provincial past presidents did a remarkable job on their annual reports. It was clear they took their role seriously and did every-thing possible to assist their diocesan (where applicable) counter-parts. Most reported being consulted from time to time, ready to assist. One past president prepared a binder for the incoming president with everything she would need to know for the first year. This included national level meeting dates and expectations, diocesan information and convention dates, and samples of reports and communiqués, as well as other information that would make the incumbent feel welcome, comfortable and prepared. (This is a wonderful gift and a really good idea to be considered). Others indicated they were rarely consulted as distance was often an issue or councils had up to date policy manuals. Most attended meetings and actively participated and contributed as a member of the executive. Past presidents were rarely asked to teach, discuss or refer to either the C&B or the P&P. Some councils met by teleconference or Skype to ensure full participation. One provincial council report-ed that less than one-half of current past presidents consistently attended meetings or council events. According to one past provincial president, “It is evident that a number of councils have presidents and past presidents serving a dual role due to the inability to recruit new leadership.”

Be Responsible for Archives and History
Most past presidents were responsible for archives and history. Some provincial councils used committees while others had the secretary or some other executive member in charge. In all cases there were various ways and means utilized. Files were kept anywhere from a member’s home to the diocesan office. Attention to detail seemed relevant as to how much emphasis each council placed on history.

Past presidents tried to give direction and encouragement with communiqués and resources but felt more needed to be done. Record keeping and virtual history of councils at all levels should be a priority. One recommendation suggested hiring someone who loves this task to bring the archives up to date. Another member wrote, “The biggest part of the past president’s mandate is the archives and history of the League. Our love and knowledge is the legacy that we have to offer our councils.” A further comment observed that archives need to be kept better. “We need a method that would help maintain this important and essential component of our League history.” One diocesan council held a workshop on records retention. Another wanted a review meeting with past presidents with a view to update their archives.

Facilitate the Study and Implementation of the Constitution & Bylaws
Provincial past presidents reported having a copy of the C&B and P&P. While not referred to often, and rarely discussed or consult-ed, they considered it a necessary part of their role. It was noted that all levels were encouraged to write their own policy as it aligned with the constitution, to keep order and to ensure continuity, especially in smaller councils. Reports indicated very few parish councils, if any, gave time for study on the C&B or P&P and seemed content to just continue on with what worked for them.

Perform Other Duties as Assigned by the President
Almost all past presidents reported they were delighted to be asked to serve. In many cases they did the jobs that no one else would do or where there was no chairperson. They chaired meetings in the absence of the president, organized spiritual and social events, chaired the nominations and elections committees, and actively encouraged members to step up to the challenge. One took on the role of monitoring the national and provincial websites, while another represented the president at various events and conventions.

The annual reports highlighted other challenges and concerns. For instance, several commented on the success of the new reporting system calling it fast and efficient, while others felt it was a deterrent to good reporting. One president wrote, “Some councils have become discouraged by the numerous questions online, thinking they are not doing enough, so why continue?” The same person also expressed confidence that it would get better. Another expressed the hope that every level would soon be able to report online.

Several comments and concerns were directly relevant to parish council situations as observed by either diocesan or provincial past presidents based on information reported to them.

This year for the first time, I had a copy of the online survey com-ments for past presidents from the parish level. There were literally hundreds of comments, many of which were to be expected and obvious. There were, however, others that drew attention to con-cerns which every level needs to be aware of if they are not al-ready. It seemed in some cases the parish council remained an enti-ty of its own with little connection to the League at other levels. Some were so small they just rotated executive positions but felt strongly “that despite small numbers are a very active and dynamic council providing services to both the parish and community.”

Some other interesting comments:
• Past presidents felt they weren’t asked for help, however when current co-presidents did ask for their advice, they were told it was never done that way.
• “Past president was unable to attend meetings due to health issues. As the current president was a recycled president she is actually her own past president as she had been president for the past seven years”.
• “We had three acting presidents this year. Our council rotated presidents from previous years to keep our council active. We have no president or president elect”.
• “My successor was elected straight to president without the benefit of a president elect period, so she needed lots of mentoring and support which I have made a priority for the sake of our council”.
• “I would have to say the (six years total) I have spent as president-elect, president and now leaving as past president, my advice is … be true to this beautiful calling, be true to your sisters in Christ, and most of all, acknowledge and be respectful to all the ladies, especially the ladies one minute your senior”.
• “Never feel you are alone. My experience was one of amazement! My journey has just begun. I am proud and honoured to serve my CWL parish”.

As national past president and chairperson of laws, I am very grateful to all those who have, to the best of their ability, undertaken this important role. As the League continues to grow and move forward the lessons learned and shared will be of great assistance.