2016 Annual Report – Newfoundland and Labrador

August 17, 2017

Ruby Sharpe
Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council President
2016 Annual Report

There is no better way to remind oneself of the many wonderful works “For God and Canada” than to review the annual reports from parish councils and provincial officers. It is a clear demonstration of the variety and magnitude of how Catholic women of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council have come together to help others, promote spiritual development and live out the theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission: Palliative and Hospice Care. One easily becomes proud to be a part of such a great organization!

There were 552 members, 22 of them new members. While recruitment and aging demographics posed significant challenges, councils honoured active membership with years of service pins, award nominations, various ceremonies and celebrations, and presentation of the Mary Goss Award for the highest increase in membership. The first presentation of the new Wake Up the World Award was witnessed, given in honour of the two women religious congregations in the province. One life member was called home to God, but members continued to be blessed with the knowledge, expertise and support of 11 others.

The number of presidents and chairpersons completing annual reports through the online system was significantly lower than in the pilot year. However, the highest usage group was the parish presidents. There were a number of highlights from the parish presidents’ online summaries, some of which were echoed in the written reports.

Medical assistance in dying, pornography, refugee crisis, palliative care, youth mental health, home care and warning labels on food and drug products were issues in which councils were actively involved. Medical assistance in dying, palliative care, spiritual development and social justice were identified as the main priorities for councils.

While there was a high percentage (88%) of presidents feeling support from their spiritual advisor, approximately 50% reported spiritual advisors attending meetings. Parish presidents consistently represented their councils at conferences, provincial meetings and conventions, workshops and special masses. Despite much encouragement from the provincial executive, only a small number report-ed being able to attend national convention. Parish councils continued to hold monthly executive and general meetings.

Parish presidents reported the Constitution & Bylaws, council, provincial and national procedures books and the Executive Handbook as the most frequently used resources when presiding at meetings. Approximately 80% of councils maintained a council policy manual. The Executive Handbook was reported as being 100% effective in helping presidents understand the duties of the executive team. The greatest source of assistance for new presidents was consistently reported as the past president of the council.

Communication methods among members were largely in person, telephone, e-mail and meeting reports. Church bulletins were also used widely to announce events within the larger parish community.

The greatest challenges reported were assuming the president’s leadership role with its many responsibilities while facing recruitment issues in filling executive positions and general membership. Some reported challenges in time management, obtaining all necessary information and developing their own confidence as leaders. The transition to the new online reporting system and the reliance on computers and technology was also highlighted as a major challenge  given the demographics and the lack of computer access.

In keeping with the national focus, medical assistance in dying and the pursuit of quality palliative care were priority issues for councils. There were countless efforts to educate members for both issues, inclusive of information sessions, guest speakers and palliative care conference participation. All councils reported participating in applicable petition and letter writing campaigns. There were several reports of education in the area of advanced health care directives. While the national lap quilt challenge was planned for 2017, several parish councils had already donated homemade quilts to palliative care units.

The provincial prayer wave, as part of the national executive’s “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care”, was a huge success. Members and their families, parishioners, residents of long term care and palliative care, and other service groups and denominations, prayed for palliative care from 8:45 a.m.-9:30 p.m. A schedule was developed to ensure that each council had primary responsibility for a designated hour.

Councils were actively involved in activities stemming from resolutions adopted at the annual national convention. Educational over-views were provided on all resolutions. Members and councils consistently reported letter writing to government on issues of warning labels on food and drug products, promotion of healthy eating in accordance with Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and participation in the youth mental health campaign.

Social and economic justice remained ever present in the minds and hearts of members. Members supported parish initiatives to assist refugee families. There were countless examples of aid both monetary and in kind: to seniors, those with disabilities and the homeless; knitting projects for premature babies; donation of prayer shawls; hosting of social functions for seniors; and donation to school breakfast programs and church poor boxes. One council collected 600 pounds of food for the local food bank. Members supported a letter written by the provincial president to the provincial government expressing concerns about the budget which placed undue hardship on many seniors as they tried to cope with fewer funds and rising costs. Many councils donated to the 1% Program for the CCODP. Councils continued to be God’s hand.

Spiritual development of members remained a priority for all councils. Executive and general meetings began and ended with prayers and spiritual programs. Councils regularly hosted Lenten and Advent spiritual celebrations that were inclusive of their parishes. Members lead the recital of the rosary during the months of May and October as well as the stations of the cross during Lent. Memorial services were regularly held for deceased members and hon-our guards were provided by family consent at funeral services. Many councils provided spiritual gifts (prayer books, rosary beads, etc.) to children receiving the sacraments of first communion and confirmation. Some councils paid special honour to parents during mass on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Many members participated in reflection sessions on Laudato Si’.

In light of the many and varied great works “For God and Canada,” members faced some challenges. Recruitment of members and into leadership positions continued to be a struggle. Meaningful discussions were engaged regarding this issue in order to identify barriers and solutions. It was noted there is much that could be done through education and mentoring to foster confidence and readiness. However, there was a common theme of many feeling they did not have the time to commit in the midst of very active lives with other volunteer work and family commitments.

Writing this report, I reflect not only on this past year but rather the past two years as I approach the end of term as provincial president. What an amazing experience this has been! One can expect some bumps in the road when working with a group of strong, passionate women. However, together we always held firm to the goal and mission. Inspired by the many wonderful women and friends that I have worked with in the past two years, I extend heartfelt appreciation to the provincial executive and to all members who have been a great support in this journey. I firmly remain a proud member of the League.