2016 Annual Report – Ontario
Ontario Provincial Council President
2016 Annual Report
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy was the catalyst for Ontario Provincial Council’s blessed/saints projects. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy resonated across the province.
Some of the activities included:
• Planned and participated in liturgical celebrations for the chosen blessed/saint.
• Held retreats and workshops to build the League and relation-ships.
• Sponsored food and clothing drives.
• Provided aid to women’s shelters, the needy, sick and shut-ins, including praying and learning together (and indeed they danced).
• Brought comfort to the imprisoned.
• Walked with indigenous peoples.
• Made and taught the rosary to children.
• Organized a “perpetual candle project” to remember those abused and their abusers.
In one diocese, parish councils took turns welcoming visitors to the holy door at their cathedral. In the words of one diocesan president, “A special thank you to Pope Francis for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is an ongoing awareness that will be hard to ignore as he has opened our eyes to the importance of the JOY of our acts of mercy.”
Medical assistancece in dying was the predominant issue of concern. The province is the only jurisdiction that currently does not protect conscience rights of physicians and other medical professionals (Bill 84 Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017). To that end members collaborated with a number of like-minded organizations in their battle to ensure the right of conscience for health care providers. Through letter writing and visits with provincial legislators, members’ unified voices have ex-pressed, without exception, that conscience rights must be upheld.
Diocesan conventions gave rise to a plethora of celebrations and reflections on the year’s focus. Emphasis was placed on ethical palliative and hospice care, spiritual growth, autism, mental health and addiction services, preventing burnout, end of life and the value of human suffering, acting with mercy and kindness and the mystery of the divine indwelling.
In a desire to learn more about the issues First Nations sisters faced, councils participated in the “blanket exercise” and “REDress project”, and facilitated a number of workshops focused on indigenous concerns. Councils continued to host Catch the Fire! and S’Mores workshops. A few diocesan councils held “wisdom tables”, an activity that had members rotating through 12 stations to learn, ask questions and share ideas about the role of each standing committee and executive office.
“12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care”, introduced by the national executive, saw members using their networking skills to ensure that continuous prayer and reflection occurred. On that same day, May 4, 2016, the government delegation was at Queen’s Park and took the opportunity to pray on the steps of the legislature for increased accessibility to palliative care. Included in the 12 hours were wonderful learning, sharing and fellowship opportunities. The “common voice” platform of this event solidified for members the League’s nationwide sisterhood. Members expressed gratitude when they heard the day would be repeated in 2017. Many began planning, confident it would be bigger and better than last year.
Words are not eloquent enough to convey what transpired during the annual provincial convention. Each part of the convention was filled with action, prayer and reconciliation, giving way to an extraordinary encounter with the Holy Spirit. Attendees went into the community to work and sort food items donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Stratford. Nine spiritual advisors provided the near 400 gathered with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Together as one body in Christ, attendees celebrated the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in keeping with the theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission: Palliative and Hospice Care. Four resolutions were adopted, three of which were forward-ed to the national level for consideration. Two were adopted at the annual national convention in August. The third was withdrawn because the resolved clause was satisfied by an act of the federal government. The provincial Social Justice Award was presented to Alice Gazeley of St. Joseph Parish Council (Kingston) for her advocacy in many social justice concerns locally, provincially and globally.
In the latter part of the year, visits were made to St. Augustine and St. Peter seminaries, where members met with and made presentations to the seminarians about the League and the Bishop Bernard A. Pappin Memorial Bursary. This resulted in the receipt of 16 applications for the bursaries, which are given annually to 10 recipients upon their return to seminary in the fall. This bursary is unique to the province and is completely funded by members’ generous donations.
Making the decision to end something as iconic as the provincial newsletter, Trillium News and Views, was not an easy task. Following a year of discernment, the provincial executive realized that for many reasons a change was imminent. The ending of a hard copy newsletter was planned for early 2017. This would lead to a new beginning embracing today’s technology. To quote a member of the provincial executive, “We thank God for the wisdom of those who gifted us with the Trillium News and Views and for the courage of those offering their gifts to help it evolve into the next generation”.
In the fall, the provincial executive entered into a conversation based on Father James Mallon’s talk I Am a Mission on This Earth presented at the annual national convention. It was agreed that in order for members to be fully engaged, they must reach out to all women, find their needs and feed them. The executive recognized this could not be a one-time conversation so discussions would continue at future meetings. It was also determined that, for a sustain-able membership, meetings must change. “Team OPC” embraced the formation of a strategic planning committee struck by the national executive to review where the League is, ask members what they want, and discover ways to get there.
Members in Ontario welcome the opportunity to travel “new roads”, so that led by the Holy Spirit, they will step outside the box “For God and Canada.”