96th annual national convention overview — Tuesday, August 16th

August 17, 2016

Tuesday August 16, 2016 — Mary Nordick

“Then longen folke to goon on pilgrimage…and from every shires ende of Engelonde they wende” (Geoffrey Chaucer, c.1400).  Six hundred plus years after Chaucer wrote about going on a pilgrimage people are still going on pilgrimages. This morning hundreds of CWL members from ‘every province’s end of Canada’ took to the streets of downtown Halifax in a pilgrimage to go through the Holy Door of historic St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in a Year of Mercy pilgrimage. Pope Francis in Misericordae Vultus notes “by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us”.     Once inside the church pilgrims had time to pray and the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, an opportunity that was extended to the prayer room for part of the day.  At 8:30 a Celebration of the Eucharist and Morning Prayer was presided over by Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver.  In his homily Archbishop Miller basically asked two questions; “What have we done?  What have we committed to doing by passing through the door?”  We came with our burdens to present them to the Lord and the Lord is there to meet us with his power and forgiveness.  We enter a new space, the space of God’s mercy which is not an idea but a person, the person of Jesus Christ. Mercy is offered freely not forcefully; Jesus waits for us to open the doors of our hearts.  As CWL we cannot bottle up the gift of mercy but must open the door to those who are on the outside and must have an endless desire to show the mercy we have received.  We are to measure what we do in the League by the measure of mercy found in Matthew 25, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  Mercy is a way of life. The Archbishop concluded his homily thus:  “Ask help from Our Lady of Good Counsel.  The Lord has done great things through you.”

We returned from our pilgrim journey to be stirred up by our speaker for the day Fr. James Mallon, a dynamic speaker with a delightful hint of a Scottish accent.  His topic I Am a Mission on this Earth is a quotation from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium #273.  Father began by saying that the central crisis in the Church is an identity crisis.  We don’t have a mission – We are a mission.  What we do arises out of who we are. The Relationship of the Church and the World has always been troublesome.  Four stances can be taken, accommodation, opposition, withdrawal and engagement.  The first three are bad; the last good says Father.  Accommodation says that the Church ought to embody values of culture it finds itself in.  But Church is grounded in God’s revelation which does not change.  The Church is often at odds with aspects of the culture.  When the primary value of Church is to be relevant to the culture then the church becomes irrelevant.  2. Opposition:  This stance sees everything that is wrong and is a fear filled church that wants to circle the wagons and protect against the outside. We are people of the Good News, followers of Christ who encounters Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, who eats with sinners.  Opposition cannot be the stance of the Church as it is not the stance of God who so loves the world.  3.  Withdrawal: is the stance of no stance; it is self- referential, only in, of, and for itself.  Father claims that this is the most dangerous of the stances.  4. Engagement:  Where the church is in the world but not of it.  The Church engages the culture in engaging people and sharing its greatest treasure, Jesus Christ who calls his disciples salt of the earth and light.  Fr. Mallon says being salt is not a compliment but a responsibility.  Salt goes on things to give flavour, to change and bring to life.  But in biblical times salt was a preservative.  So Christ is telling us “You are my preservative to stop culture from corrupting.  You can’t be salt if you don’t go out to the peripheries of the world.”

The consequences of the engagement stance for parishes are Biblical and clearly found in Matthew 18:12-14 the parable of the lost sheep.  Father’s three points of reflection on this Scripture are:

  1. What Jesus proposes is counter-intuitive.  Bad business:  leave 99 valuable sheep and search for one?  Jesus calls us from maintenance to mission.  Evangelization is not self-preservation
  2. How will the lost sheep be gathered back?  The shepherd does not go out seeking sheep one by one but cares for the sheep in the pasture so that they will bring in others. Often the dominant mode of pastoral care in parishes is therapeutic but the one required is growth.  Disciples must be made “GO make disciples of all”.  We become disciples when we encounter Christ and begin to care.  Evangelization not just catechesis is key. Father quoted our CWL executive handbook “lead others to encounter Christ”. The Alpha program is a good tool to use in parishes to direct them outward.
  3. Celebrate the return of the lost sheep.  Jesus says to rejoice over the lost sheep and tells the story of the prodigal son which ends in a celebration.  Father said that nothing reveals the culture of a parish more than what and how it celebrates.

So what does this all mean for CWL members and councils?  Father asked three questions and gave three observations:  Question 1:  As CWL what do you celebrate most?  Question 2:  As CWL how can you reinforce your stance of engagement to the world?  Question 3.  As you seek to fulfill your mission outlined in your mission statement are you more committed to mission or methodology? That is, how do you do things; what are your structures; how are these applied to evangelization? Do we cling to how we do things rather than why we do things?  Observations:  1.To survive parishes must undergo fundamental transformation from maintenance to mission. 2. Parish based CWL councils will have to show flexibility.  3. CWL members will tip the balance in determining whether parishes will be in maintenance/decline or mission/growth mode.  So Father urged us to go out and change, engage, seek the lost sheep and then throw the best party ever, to embrace change.  You (CWL) are a mission on this earth.

The morning closed with Commissioning of new Life Members.  Today’s was the most prayerful respectful service that I have seen.  Please welcome this year’s new Life Members:  Joline Belliveau  Elizabeth Bortolussi          Shirley Campbell         Rolande Chernichan       June Fuller     Agnes Geiger       Mary Jean Horne               Kathy Huffman            Barbara MacFarlane       Peggy MacNeil     Ann Myers   Ella Nogier                           Donna Provost            Colleen Randall                Linda Squarzolo                        Toosje Van deSande          Margaret Van Meeuwen       Wilma Vanderzwaag    Sandra Wieckowski

Honorary Life and Life Members then enjoyed a delicious lunch and conversation.

Business sessions continued with the remaining presidents’ reports and the reports of some of the standing committee chairs.  Be sure to check out these excellent reports later on the website and in the League magazine.

Honorary Life Member Claire Heron chaired a session on the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation.  Board member of the Foundation Neysa Finnie gave an excellent presentation on the need for the Foundation in developing Catholic Women Leaders, citing compelling statistics on the lack of such leadership, giving a brief history of the Foundation to date, telling her personal story (she is an example of the young Catholic woman that the Foundation hopes to attract to the program), and giving a brief overview of where the foundation goes financially in the near future.  A firm has been hired to raise donations for the Foundation endowment.  A grassroots campaign for CWL members is also planned.  Personally, Nessa’s talk made we want to donate.  Claire announced that the family of  late Honorary Life Member Evelyn Wyrzykowski are making a donation of $100,000 to the Foundation.

A motion was passed to establish a permanent voluntary fund for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).  Melody Gabriel from CNEWA thanked the League for the voluntary fund designation and wished us Merry Christmas from the land of Christ’s birth.  She thanked CWL for the support of Velma’s Dream which helps fund a Shepherd’s Field hospital and a Youth Project.  She invited League members to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land November 10-21 2016.

The afternoon closed with the Prayer Service Called Forth which featured biblical figures such as Moses, Mary, Mary Magdalene and prophets who were called by God.

In the evening convention attendees again took to the streets of Halifax going to restaurants to celebrate their provincial dinners which are characterized by good food and drink, perhaps entertainment, lively conversation and much laughter.  I can testify that the Saskatchewan outing was great and I’m sure the others were too.

Tommorrow:  the final day featuring resolutions and elections!