96th annual national convention overview — Monday, August 15th, 2016

August 16, 2016

MONDAY August 15, 2016 — Mary Nordick

“Woke up; it was a {WUCWO} morning and the first thing that I saw” (experienced) was the moving prayer service centred on Mercy.  Readings from Isaiah, 55:6-9 and Matthew, 25:34-40, show a merciful God who calls us to works of mercy.  The reflection exhorted us to “Let us go then and show our merciful hearts to the world and in so doing, spread the loving Gospel message of Christ”.

The theme of mercy continued with the speaker Sr. John Mary Sisters of Life who spoke on Women of Mercy United in One Heart, One Voice, One Mission.  Did you catch it on live stream?  Sister shared with us her call to vocation with the Sisters of Life, a 25 year old order of sisters who in addition to the traditional three vows take a fourth vow, Protection of Human Life. Their charism is protection of life in a culture that no longer recognizes the sacredness of life.  Her work in Toronto is rooted in prayer life and involves walking with pregnant women and those who have suffered the wound of abortion.    Sr. John Mary told of her journey to the sisterhood with candor and humour, sharing the story of a little boy who asked “what did your Mom say when you came out {i.e. were born} and she saw you were a nun?” She remarked that one is not born to vocation but rather vocations are nourished in family, parish and community and she gave credit to the League as one of the nourishers in her parish while growing up  and as a continuing support to her community in Toronto. Her vocation is rooted in an individual story of love, of finding peace with the sisters-“Happy Hours turned to Holy Hours.”  Vocation is a love story humbled by mercy and the gift of maternity.  Mercy is a free gift not earned in perfection but freely given by God in the messiness of life.

The gift of mercy is connected to motherhood; motherhood is an analog of mercy.  Sister shared stories of women that she has worked with and spoke feelingly of the womb as a place of strength and mercy where the weak are given shelter, but in the world the womb becomes a place of fear and violence.  The Visitation, which is the Gospel reading on this Feast of the Assumption, is a model for Sister.  Just as Mary conceived Christ and then immediately reached out to another pregnant woman in difficult circumstances, so too we receive Christ in our hearts and then go out to share His love and mercy with others.

To be women of mercy means to receive like Mary at the Annunciation; to delight in the presence of others; and to persevere, seeing people as sons and daughters of God not pieces of work. She urged us not to be discouraged by recent events around assisted suicide but “ to do, in Blessed Mother Teresa’s words,  small things with great love”, to change one heart at a time and to become instruments of mercy to cast light into darkness.

There will be a sudden demand for the movie Marie’s Story which Sister used to great effect in her presentation.  Later I asked her what would be one thing that she would like us to take away from her presentation.  She replied  ”That’s a tough question but I would stress the importance of Prayer, a chance for repose in in the busyness of life.”  Buzz in the hallways and around tables after her presentation showed that delegates were pleased and uplifted by her talk.

After a break the floor was opened to questions.  In response to a question about adoption Sister replied that it is a rarely chosen option.  Asked how we can help, she asked for prayer, continued financial and other support and for spreading the word of the sisters’ work to those who can benefit from it. She said that the sisters’ challenge is to be known to those who need them and said that the way to the young is through social media which the sisters are exploring.

The audience was asked to share personal stories of an event in their lives that was life-changing.  Responses were deeply felt and included conversion to Catholicism, joining CWL, becoming  divorced, adopting a child, caregiving for a dying parent, a nursing student witnessing birth for the first time,  the joy of conceiving a child when she had been told it was impossible, and the pain of a daughter’s abortion.   A Nigerian priest told of his being booted out of seminary and turning against God for many years.  His mother (a CWL) member never gave up praying the rosary for him and after an encounter with another prisoner when he landed in jail he was led to return to prayer.  He encouraged mothers in pain over children and grandchildren’s turning away from the Church to persist in prayer.

The morning closed with the celebration of the Eucharist with Bishop Brian Dunn of Antigonish as celebrant.  His homily for this Feast of the Assumption focussed on the special place of Mary in the church and our place as CWL.  The Visitation is a story of women who recognize signs of God in each other and both give praise to God.  They put aside personal agendas and give of themselves to each other. I was especially touched by Bishop Dunn’s reference to ecumenism, to Jesus’ desire for unity.  He mentioned a document from the official Anglican/Roman Catholic Dialogue Mary Grace and Hope in Christ. Marian dogmas and Marian devotional practices have often been problematic in ecumenical dialogues.  The document gives due attribution to Mary, to her place in Scripture in the framework of theology of faith and hope.  Mary is our best example of relationship and service and of our goal of union with Christ forever. The Mass collection of $3,650.83 will be split between the WUCWO well project and the Halifax Hospice.

The WUCWO luncheon featured a delicious meal and a most inspiring talk by Rita Janes on Laudato Si, which she described as an invitation to change our hearts.  Her lively and humorous style gave us an excellent overview of the encyclical.  She mentioned the WUCWO Fatima resolution on water which came two years before Laudato Si and said the Pope heard the women’s voice from Fatima.  She reminded us of the disgrace of boil water orders in her home province and the appalling prevalence of such orders in First Nations communities across Canada.  The encyclical calls for a change of heart, an ecological conversion and sends an urgent message that the most affected by indifference to our earth are the poor.  We are responsible as we are called to till AND CARE for the earth.  In the encyclical we have a religious vision in connection to an ecological issue, a challenge not a text and the important reminder that “The cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor are one.”  Rita spoke about a conference on climate change involving scientists, economists and theologians which recognized that this encyclical based on science adds a moral theological dimension that transforms it from a mind issue to a heart issue. The Pope does not make people feel guilty but gives reasons for hope and optimism.  “Humanity still has the ability to work together to build our common home”.   We are capable of the worst but able to do the best if we allow God’s grace to work.  We need to trust young people who are ecologically sensitive.  Rita posed the question:  “What kind of world do we want to leave to our grandchildren? The encyclical issues an invitation to us to take action to care for our common home, to experience a change of heart and asks how can we develop the relationship with creation that St. Francis had as witnessed in the beautiful Canticle of the Sun sung at our opening Eucharist.

The afternoon session opened with the traditional Memorial Service for deceased Members and Spiritual Advisors.  Later a special memorial tribute was given to recently deceased Honorary Life Members, Mary Matthews 1974-76 and Lucille Cullen 1990-92.

Honorary life members present were recognized and given a yellow rose corsage.

The convention was declared open for business and the first item after greetings, correspondence, approval of agenda, minutes, and rules of order, credentials report, introductions of executive and committees, was the Provincial Presidents’ reports.  8 of the 11 Presidents reported.  The Reports were concise, informative and each had some items that would spark interest in members.  Have I roused your curiosity?  Read these great reports at your leisure on the website or in the fall League magazine! The session closed with the prayer service “Merciful like the Father” based on the prodigal son story from Luke.

The evening was given over to fun with a delicious Lobster dinner at The Shore.  Members heeded a speaker’s advice given at the opening ceremonies, and ate lobster (two each) or chicken and enjoyed what Nova Scotia had to offer.  We ate; we listened to entertaining music; we sang; we danced (some of us) and we enjoyed talking with friends at dinner and on the bus ride to and from The Shore.

Tomorrow our pilgrimage of mercy.