94th Annual National Convention
Fredericton, New Brunswick
August 10-13, 2014
Report of National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson
Report of National Spiritual Advisor Bishop William MgGrattan (Peterborough)
Report of National Secretary-Treasurer Judy Lewis
Report of Executive Director Kim Scammell
Report of National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Mary Nordick
Report of National Chairperson of Organization Barbara Dowding
Report of National Chairperson of Community Life Fran Lucas
Report of National Chairperson of Communications Cecile Miller
Report of National Chairperson of Education and Health Peggy Roche
Report of National Chairperson of Resolutions Shari Guinta
Report of National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman
Report of National Chairperson of Laws and National Past-President Velma Harasen
Report of Alberta Mackenzie Provincial President Dorothy Johansen
Report of B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Pat Deppiesse
Report of Manitoba Provincial President Monica Brechka
Report of Military Ordinariate Provincial President Shelley De Serres
Report of New Brunswick Provincial President Marg McCallum
Report of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial President Rita Janes
Report of Nova Scotia Provincial President Joan Bona
Report of Ontario Provincial President Betty Colaneri
Report of Prince Edward Island Provincial President Louise Doiron
Report of Quebec Provincial President Suzanne Wiseman
Report of Saskatchewan Provincial President Marge Szabo
The following oral reports were given at the 94th annual national convention in Fredericton, New Brunswick. They may have been edited to remove non-CWL information and to fit the space available.
At the closing mass of the last convention I attended this spring, I had a fleeting vision of heaven. We were gathered around the table of the Lord and He was present, and the beating heart of Jesus was with us. The smiling bishop was the main celebrant; the spiritual advisors were spread out behind Him like wings; the music was angelic, and the faithful encircled the altar.
We were all varieties of people—eager, mothers with toddlers, active children, keen professionals, husbands with shining eyes, the recently retired searching for meaning, the wise and elderly, and all good, sincere members.
There was a beautiful harmony, a hum, to the gathering. The kingdom had come on earth as it will be in heaven, for that instant. Thank you, Lord, for that taste of heaven! That is what we do for each other. Woman to woman, we help make God’s kingdom present among us.
What a privilege it has been to witness the awakening of deep faith in members with the theme We Have Seen the Lord! From coast to coast, enthusiasm, honesty and creativity in art, drama, spirituality and service rang loud and clear because we have encountered Him; we cherish the strength of League sisterhood, and we have been able to reach out in service to our brothers and sisters at home and abroad.
When I reflect on this past year, I think of travel and joy. Monthly, in Be League, I have diarized these visits with members in Hay River (Northwest Territories), Winnipeg (Manitoba), Lorette (Manitoba), Windsor (Ontario), Richmond (British Columbia), Victoria (British Columbia), North Bay (Ontario), St. Catharines (Ontario), Toronto (Ontario), Douglas (Ontario), Woodstock (New Brunswick), Napanee (Ontario), Dartmouth (Nova Scotia), Belleville (Ontario), Toronto (Ontario), Kingston (Ontario), and the Holy Land.
The openness and warm welcome of the bishops of the dioceses to which I travelled affirmed my belief in the importance of the League in the whole picture of the church in Canada. We truly are all in this together, doing our best “For God and Canada,” witnessing to the faith and trusting that God is leading the way.
Peace was the gift I received as we got to know one another, began to trust each other, shared stories and rejoiced over “small miracles.” I travelled by car, airplane and ferry, marveling at the beauty of nature as it awoke from its long winter’s nap.
Congratulations, ladies—we have gotten so many things right in our little corners of the country! Guided by the Spirit, we have listened and discerned the needs of our people. We have put amazing programs in place to bring the gospel to life, to engage members and to reach out in service to the people of God. This is exactly what the Holy Father recommends—encounters, community and service.
I suspect this was the result of the Catch the Fire! workshop. A burning interest and enthusiasm enabled women to cherish the faith, fun and fulfilment of League membership. Members had a taste of the post-Pentecost days and found the courage to go out and utter We Have Seen the Lord! Look forward to the follow-up program called S’Mores and its surprises.
Encounter, building bridges of relationship and being “at the table,” was a benefit as I represented the League:
- in Ottawa in March with the 2013 national resolutions, accompanied by National Chairperson of Resolutions Shari Guinta and National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman
- again in Ottawa at the invitation of the federal minister of foreign affairs for a working lunch with leaders of the Catholic community
- in Toronto for the prime minister’s international summit on maternal, newborn and child health.
It was my joy to attend, along with National President-Elect Barbara Dowding, the National Council of Catholic Women’s annual conference in the United States; to be joined in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by National Past President Velma Harasen and National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Mary Nordick for the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization’s North American Regional Conference; to represent the League as an observer at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops plenary session in Mont Gabriel, Quebec; and to be invited to many parish council 90th, 75th, 60th and 25th anniversary celebrations.
The national executive spent time discerning how it might build bridges of friendship with its indigenous neighbours as directed through the adoption of Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. Sr. Eva Solomon provided focus and encouraged efforts.
At another national executive meeting, the expertise of Dr. Josephine Lombardi was used to increase understanding of the new evangelization.
Time flies when you’re having fun! It was my distinct honour and joy these past two years to have served as national president. Thank you for the privilege.
I am completing my first year as national spiritual advisor, so you may consider me a “newbie” as I offer this report. In your convention booklet you have a brief summary of what I tried to accomplish in my first year, and I invite you to read it. I would also like to share some highlights with you.
This morning, during an address, we learned we have two ears and one mouth—a message I will take with me through my term as national spiritual advisor and as I work with the national executive.
Many topics were discussed at the spiritual advisors’ luncheon this afternoon, and some recommendations from that meeting surfaced. Inviting provincial and diocesan spiritual advisors to write an article for The Canadian League magazine was discussed. We also noted the need for workshops at diocesan and provincial conventions to better explain the League and the role of spiritual advisor to newer priests.
Spiritual advisors are willing to assist you with leadership in the League. They can help you with conflict management, succession planning and pastoral challenges. Don’t presume the priests are overburdened—you can call on them when you need assistance.
Where possible, promoting the rite of welcoming and blessing a woman who has joined the League was recommended. This needs to start at the parish level.
The spiritual advisors want to help you with your meetings. It was suggested meetings should follow the principle of 1/3 business, 1/3 community and 1/3 spirituality. Focusing on spirituality transformed a council meeting in Quebec.
Spirituality and prayer are important. It is in times of quiet that the gift of God’s grace fills up our hearts. Rather than filling all our time together with business meetings, we should take the time to celebrate our spirituality and community as well. It was also suggested “CWL circles” be formed at meetings, where younger members meet with older members to talk about the spirituality they share, their lives of faith and the concerns facing society.
The national executive reviewed its 2013 audited financial statement prepared by Scarrow & Donald LLP, Chartered Accountants. The audited report for 2013 was conducted in accordance with Canadian generally accepted auditing standards. As stated in the cover letter dated August 12, 2014, “In our opinion, the financial statement presents fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the The Catholic Women’s League of Canada as at December 31, 2013, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year then ended in accordance with Canadian accounting standards for not-for-profit organizations.”
Revenue totaled $1,366,847 to December 31, 2013, compared to a budget of $1,396,300. The national treasury received fewer memberships than anticipated in the original budget, and the convention registration was expected to be 1,000, however 784 attended. Product sales revenues were higher than anticipated due to an increase in prices to cover credit card and postage charges.
Net investment income was $168,340 compared to a budget of $59,300. Investment income benefited from growth in the market, especially in the area of socially responsible investments.
Expenditures totaled $1,203,747 compared to a budget of $1,397,900, an under spending of $194,153. Annual convention costs were lower than anticipated due to less expensive audio/visual costs, and no requests for convention advances were received. The development monies made available were not fully accessed by councils. International relations expenditures decreased by $1,537 due to one member not being able to attend the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization’s North American Regional Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Circulation of the magazine declined by 2,700 members, and one issue of the magazine was smaller than anticipated, which created some savings in printing and design costs. Savings gained in conferences and national committee expenses were used toward a 10% increase in mid-year meeting costs, primarily from travel expenses, increased costs of meeting rooms, and presidential travel where designates were asked to attend on behalf of the president. Product sales almost met the target margin (38%) at 41%. Staff costs were slightly higher than anticipated but lower than last year ($3,479 over budget) as group benefits rose slightly, and a small amount of the recruiting budget was used to place an ad for a vacant position.
The total difference between revenues and expenditures from operations was $331,440, compared to a budgeted amount of $57,500. The Statement of Revenue and Expenditure reflects the activities which were undertaken during 2013 in comparison to what the League had planned for the year. In summary, revenues were approximately two percent lower than budget. However, unaccessed development monies and contained spending accounted for expenses approximately 14% below budget. In conjunction with a better than planned investment income, the League was able to achieve a surplus at the end of the calendar year.
I’m pleased to represent the eight capable employees of national office at this convention. I will focus on staff changes and duties.
There is a new member on staff—her name is Ingrid Taylor and she has taken the role of office assistant. She answers telephones, opens mail, administers the national bursary fund and general insurance program, assists the archives committee, compiles the Book of Life from information shared by provincial chairpersons of spiritual development, and assists diocesan councils with local parish council activations, disbands and amalgamations.
Diane Havens, the membership coordinator for ten years, has passed the torch to Amanda McCormick. Diane will continue to be available during busy season to process the membership lists received by mail. Amanda is processing the membership received online and taking care of the monthly membership reconciliations and reports. She has also been delving more deeply into the perennial issue of address inaccuracies. Because the addresses do not come directly from members, there are at least two instances where errors can occur—at the parish council or at the office. It would be wonderful if national office had enough information to be able to contact the member whose magazine is returned due to an address error, but unfortunately, the database most often does not contain member telephone numbers or e-mail addresses, making contact with members by any other means than the post impossible. It would be ideal to have at least two methods for contacting members so they can be reached in the case of error.
Valroy Anderson and his seasonal assistant Larry Peters were really put to work this year taking orders for and shipping the new Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) and National Manual of Policy and Procedure (P&P). Larry’s hours were increased to accommodate the demand, and for this he was most grateful. Five-hundred nine P&Ps were sold; unfortunately, this is only about one for every three parish councils. Hopefully this means members are downloading and printing copies from the website rather than purchasing hard copies. Six thousand nine hundred twenty-six C&Bs were sold, so there are about four C&Bs circulating in every council. Given the importance of the changes to these documents, please encourage members and councils to purchase them and have them on hand. Some of the changes made are quite significant, and it is important that members come to know what is new.
Erica Johnson has settled into her role as communications coordinator and has the assistance of corresponding secretary Diane Kelln on a part-time basis. Between these two, the website, magazine, Be League, all advertisements, Facebook and Twitter are managed, as well as meeting minutes transcribed, conference and meeting arrangements made, and invitations and crest permissions handled.
All staff love their work, and they love to hear from you!
“We Have Seen the Lord!: go tell everyone.” What a rich theme this has been and hopefully will continue to be in our lives.
Have we become more aware of our call to evangelization through our lives and witness? This does not necessarily mean preaching to people, though it can, but more on how our lives reflect what we are called to by the gospel: the joy of knowing ourselves as loved by God and the desire to share that joy and love. I am grateful for this theme and the challenges of the spiritual development standing committee. Note it is spiritual development not accomplishment, therefore a work in progress, an ongoing journey and an unfolding chapter. However you wish to think of it, it is anything but completed. In order to grow, we must change, be open, and be willing to try things we never have. Pope Francis encourages this approach to spirituality when he repeatedly challenges us to go out into the world and encounter our brothers and sisters, to bring and receive Christ’s love in the busyness of our lives and the messiness of human interaction. How does this translate into our councils? Have we tried different forms of prayer, of spiritual nourishment? Or are we content to stick with the League Prayer and perhaps mass before meetings, excellent as these may be. How about delving into the riches available in our own resources: CWL Prays, Women of Peace and Hope and other prayers and workshops? How about using materials from Catch the Fire! or liturgy booklets from conventions and meetings?
Have we reached out to our communities beyond our council, parish, neighbourhood, city or province, even if simply to pray for concerns found?
Do we pray for justice and peace in our world and reflect on how our actions in our own lives impact justice and peace in the world?
Have we evolved in our spiritual practices as our church has? The church certainly has evolved to show a compassionate face to parents in their loss of a pre-born child. Was this, years ago, the experience of parents who lost a child in utero?
I would like to announce this year’s donation to Catholic Missions In Canada was $39,370.62, an increase from last year. I ask you, shall we try for $40,000 next year? Also, please get your creativity going and submit a Hymn to Our Lady of Good Counsel, as noted in the spring parish council mailing. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2014.
One way of knowing whether the theme has borne fruit can be found in the words of Fulton J. Sheen, “Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?”V
I remember clearly a grand day: gorgeous sunshine, a breath only of breeze, a roaring campfire and me, sitting alone with my thoughts.
The fire calms me, reminding me that all is His. Even with my dithering and impatience, my angst and my fear, I know He has a plan!
The fire grows and watching the flames reaching skyward with the smoke swirling around, I began to think about Catch the Fire! I think of the glory of it and the success, the positive accolades and personal testimonies. Everyone has some recollection of seeing the Lord during those workshops and of openly sharing beautiful encounters and life-giving experiences.
I was thinking of the joy and exuberance, as well as the laughter, at those of us who can hardly make a paper chain without help. There is something very special in Catch the Fire! that touches us.
The fire burns steadily. It is mesmerizing. I watch the flames dance, feel a gentle but cool breeze on my face and move a little closer for more warmth.
The steady influx of freshly chopped wood keeps it burning steadily. When the logs are used up the fire will go out, leaving nothing but smoke and ash and a little warmth, but for how long?
Keep in mind there is a lot of heat in the burnt wood. The white hot ash and glowing embers will easily ignite and stay hot for a long time.
How’s your fire? Have you neglected your fire? If you have neglected it, it is not too late to get it roaring anew. Who are your embers, flames and breezes? Who is tending this precious and life-giving fire? Who is being warmed by it? Who needs to be invited to come, get warm and sit awhile? What kind of (m)ember are you?
It is clear to me that Catch the Fire! is not only alive and well but must continue. It is too early to measure its success by numbers, but its success in stories is evidence it is working.
The fires burning across Canada need fuel and care if they are to continue to burn brightly. We need to be the breath of air that ensures the flames stay hot and be the fuel that replenishes the burnt out wood, lest we be left with only a distant memory and cold ash.
If every member who was inspired, renewed or re-enthused by Catch the Fire! commits to one action, we will indeed revive the spark that was our beginnings 94 years ago.
Catch the Fire! is the first step toward the future, a future that sees Catholic women empowered and confident in their faith and in their lives. The future is upon us, and our call is to be that light, that fire, that flame of faith that propels us forward to be the best we can be.
The Holy Spirit is in the fire and in us. Let the flames, like tongues of fire, reach to the ends of the earth.
We need to enkindle and empower one another. We are called to holiness—let the flames begin! V
CHRISTIAN FAMILY LIFE
I believe that Christian family life is the most challenging standing committee. It is challenging because it touches the lives of everyone: youths; the single, married and divorced; the elderly; and the disabled. It touches us in our lived faith experience, calling us to respond to God’s loving, merciful call—often without the tools we need. This is our challenge—to provide the tools necessary to make wise and informed decisions reflective of the gospel message, facing a world often hostile to our countercultural beliefs.
To respond to the commitment as Christian family life chairpersons, I encourage you to address the four most important aspects necessary to reflect the teachings of the church and the Objects of the League.
Firstly, it is essential for us to educate ourselves about the teachings of the Catholic church. We need to read and research what the church’s actual positions are on issues surrounding: marriage and the family; the sanctity of life; and ministry to youth, the disabled and seniors, the widowed, the separated and the divorced. How can we encourage people to respond with open hearts to God’s call to ordained life? At the very heart of Christian family life is the conviction that all human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage of development. However, we need to educate ourselves about new technologies that may pose ethical questions and threats to this sanctity.
Secondly, we are challenged to inform members about what the Catholic church does teach. We must promote the use of church documents, publications and papal encyclicals. There are amazing resources available through several approved organizations that are most beneficial. Catholic Organization for Life and Family resources are co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and promote respect for life and dignity, and the essential role of the family. Be careful to provide a well-balanced perspective on all issues. We must know current church positions on life and family.
Thirdly, we are challenged to empathize with those suffering in human weakness because of failed relationships and life experiences—broken marriages; youth seemingly denying the faith; a lack of sensitivity for the disabled, seniors, widowed, and women who are separated and divorced. While we must always be steadfast in our convictions, we need to see the face of Jesus in each wounded soul, offering them mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
Lastly, we are called to live gospel values and to reach out to others in a faith that is firm, a love that is unconditional and genuine, and a hope fueled by the courage, wisdom and guidance that only God can provide.
Christian family life is facing social and spiritual challenges in today’s world. Pope Francis has called an extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October where pastoral challenges to the family will be addressed. Do follow the proceedings carefully. Let us take the time to educate ourselves, empathize with those who are suffering and live our gospel values.
We must be confident of a future where we are fully convinced that God loves us and is with us at all times. Then we may have the courage to say, We Have Seen the Lord!V
An issue that continues to be an area of concern is poverty. It was good to see a recent article in the Prairie Messenger where bishops urged leaders at the annual G8 leaders’ summit not to forget the poor by doing their part at home and abroad.
A resolution was adopted in 1978 entitled Know Your Candidate for Office and it reminds us of the continued relevance of resolutions from the past. Now is the time to write letters to your member of parliament and use your “influence in the selection of nominees to run as candidates for election, having first ascertained the conviction of such nominees as to the value of human life.” Please be reminded that if you end your letter with a question you are more likely to receive an answer.
National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson sent a letter to the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada urging the federal government “to propose legislation which upholds the dignity of all persons and eradicates the exploitation of the vulnerable who feel there are no other options than prostitution.” The new law, scheduled to be in place by the end of the year, is anxiously awaited.
Attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) event in Edmonton was an educational and emotional experience. I learned there are over 1.4 million indigenous peoples in Canada, saw archived photos of smiling students and listened to stories both sad and encouraging. I was further heartened to hear that many diocesan and provincial conventions included a component tied to Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. The TRC mandate was given an extension of one year with a wrap-up in Ottawa in 2015. Look back at how your council made inroads with the resolution. What more can be done in the months ahead? An excellent resource of peacemaking ideas, recommended by Sr. Eva Solomon, is a pamphlet called Paths for Peacemaking with Host Peoples.
Dreams do come true! Velma’s Dream, projects with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, are making a difference in the Holy Land by helping the church change the lives of the poorest families and, in turn, strengthen their communities. The Infant Welfare Centre in the Old City of Jerusalem and Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour, Palestine, have been making great strides. With your prayers and generous contributions, 80% of the goal has been attained.
Marty’s Dream has been fulfilled! Our goal to contribute $30,000 was reached and the residence for the young girls is being built in Kete Krachi, Ghana. The projected completion date is September 2015. Archbishop Martin Currie (St. John’s) sends his personal thanks for the donations made to benefit the project.
In a short time, two dreams have become glowing examples of the League in action. Not only have we seen the Lord in these actions, so will the recipients of your generosity.
Our partnership with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) continues stronger than ever and is now helping women and children through Fanm Deside in Haiti, the Afghan Women’s Resource Centre in Afghanistan and the Development and Exchange Centre in Nigeria. The League’s 1% Program collection of $68,873.50 from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, allowed aid to further ensure the success of these projects.
This time last year I commented on the “strong pull” I felt in the area of development and peace. Much time was spent following CCODP activities, reading Community Life Subcommittee Chairperson Diane Lemay’s information gatherings, and forwarding on initiatives to provincial community life counterparts. Having recently been asked to join CCODP on a nine person mission to the Philippines is nothing short of remarkable! Preparing myself for what will be seen in Tacloban City, the region hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan, has made me remember the devastation of nine months ago, where Filipinos were stripped of everything they had—everything except their hope and faith in God.
Let us pray that one year, in the not-too-distant future, the need for a Marty’s Dream or a Velma’s Dream is diminished because countries will be better able to take care of their people’s needs. Let us leave this convention knowing we each have been gifted with the power from God to help someone fulfil their dream. V
EDUCATION AND HEALTH
Pope Francis stated in his address to students of the Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania at the Paul VI Audience Hall on June 7, 2013, “Educating is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being.”
I would like you to check out the information on mental health and youth that was presented to us by former senator Michael Kirby. Mental health has finally come to the forefront, and we are getting much better at decreasing the stigmas attached to it. Good news from the Canadian Nurses Association—undergraduate students are now encouraged to take courses teaching hands-on experience in psychiatric mental health nursing. This will give them the skills and education needed to provide appropriate care to patients who have mental health issues.
According to a recent report in The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s most pressing health issues is climate change. Public health experts say the effects of climate change, from poor air quality to severe weather events to new airborne diseases, are harming Canadians. Members should continue to encourage government to act now and support researchers and scientists.
In 2013 the League funded four recipients from the Coady International Institute national voluntary fund. All were graduates of the Diploma in Development Leadership Program. I am happy to report that as at June 30, 2014, donations to the Coady International Institute national voluntary fund totalled $30,989.33. A cheque has been issued to Coady.
On December 31, 2013, MaterCare International ceased to be a recipient of national voluntary funds, which was in accordance with Motion G.2010.10 adopted at the 90th annual national convention in Ottawa. Members can still support MaterCare by sending their contributions directly. On April 27th of this year the MaterCare Maternity Hospital in Isiolo, Kenya, was named after Pope John Paul ll, probably the first hospital in the world to be named in his honour.
In a recent letter, Executive Director Dr. Robert Walley thanked the League for an unexpected donation of $17,595 and for members’ generous support for mothers in sub-Saharan Africa where MaterCare has been working. Keep up the great work!
As part of the action plan for a resolution in 2013, national council was urged to acquire a national identification number through Canadian Blood Services. Provincial presidents were given kits to bring back to their provincial councils to inform members about the program. Members interested in registering for the Partners for Life Program may complete the registration form online or at their local blood clinic. The League ID# is CATHO11269. Please consult with your provincial council to make sure your province is taking an active role in this partnership.
The national executive recommended four proposed resolutions be forwarded to the education and health standing committee for education and awareness: Ban the Addition of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) from Processed Food (B.C. & Yukon); Expiry Dates on Prescription Labels (Manitoba); Pharmacy Dispensing Fees (Manitoba); and Mandatory Labelling of Genetically Modified Foods (Ontario). You can expect to see more information on these critical issues in communiqués and future issues of The Canadian League. V
Think of the many times you communicate during a day—to God when you pray, to family members, to yourself if you are like me and like to keep a running conversation with yourself when you are alone, to friends who drop by or call and to those you e-mail or text. The list goes on.
We have spent almost two years with the theme We Have Seen the Lord! Have we taken the time to pause and reflect on the many times we have encountered Jesus in our own being, others and creation? How do we communicate these encounters to others? I recently read the following in a daily reflection, “May we seek the good in the life of each person we encounter and so discover God’s reflection.” How would others respond if they knew we saw Jesus in them?
The Joy Prayer accompanied our theme, and I hope you have experienced joy as you embraced it.
In his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis implores us to live out our baptismal call to be missionaries and to be joyful, not sourpusses. What a blessing we have in the League to share our joy, the joy of the gospel with sister members and others. I believe Pope Francis is speaking to us when he says, “And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ.”
As you are aware, we have our e-zine Be League. Let us ask ourselves, “How are we ‘being League’?” How well are we communicating who we are and what we do as members? I was filled with awe and joy over and over again as I read the accounts of activities by the many members across Canada and by the response of the provincial councils to submissions for their respective months. I pray that members will continue to share stories.
The Lord has shown himself to me in the many submissions I received for League publications, through works of mercy, spiritual and corporal. In our actions, we communicate what we believe and what is of value to us. St. Francis exhorted his followers to preach the gospel and told them to use words if necessary. What do our actions say?
In our speech, it is so important to remember it is not only what we say but also how we say it. What do we communicate with our body language? Take the example from Catch the Fire!—saying the same phrase three times in three different ways can have three different effects on the person listening. How can we best communicate that We Have Seen the Lord! to the people around us?
We are called to witness the God-given dignity of every human being and, in particular during this past year, those abused by pornography. Members responded to the call to speak up for the voiceless in the “Pornography Hurts” campaign. Members need to continue this battle by communicating with letters, postcards, phone calls, visits and e-mails, so that someday, the hurting will stop.
The following from the message of Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day in June affirmed the decision to embrace social media, and I quote, “Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.” Continue to visit the Facebook and Twitter accounts.
A powerful way to communicate joy to others is to share stories of faith and encounters with the Lord. We can encourage the media to highlight the good that is happening in the world rather than concentrating on all the evil, and when they do, they should be commended.
We can strive to be leaders in promoting joy in all encounters, which will make us happier and the world a better place. Then others will be able to say with us, We Have Seen the Lord!
When a request for submissions was received regarding the newly proposed prostitution law Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson asked National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman and me to prepare a submission.
It was gratifying to read in provincial reports the number of workshops presented on resolutions. The number of resolutions dialogues held at conventions has increased. There is a profound interest in the resolutions process and the quality of resolutions submitted this year was exceptional.
The national resolutions committee met in June in Toronto and again in August in Fredericton to review proposed resolutions submitted by provincial councils for consideration at the 94th annual national convention. The committee consisted of myself, Betty Anne, Anne, National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization Barbara Dowding, Life Member Anne Madden and Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Chairperson of Education and Health Judy Look. National Spiritual Advisor Bishop William McGrattan (Peterborough) was also consulted and attended the August national resolutions committee meeting.
The task of the committee is the preparation of a disposition for each resolution submitted. Ensuring the resolution complies with the criteria outlined in the Resolutions Supplement to the Executive Handbook, the committee reviews each line of the resolved clause(s) and whereas clause(s) to make sure the intent of the resolution is communicated clearly. The committee also ensures the resolution requires action by the federal government or a national organization and is on topics about which the League has not already set a position.
The process of reviewing and refining the resolution continues until it is presented at the annual national convention. The resolutions dialogue gives the committee further input to consider before the resolution is presented. The committee can continue to strengthen and refine the wording of the resolution, without altering its original substance or intent, until it is adopted by motion. The goal of the resolutions process is to develop the best possible product for presentation so healthy debate over the issues can occur.
Resolutions can be channeled through a national standing committee for action and awareness or the provincial presidents for information. This year, 18 resolutions were received from seven provincial councils for consideration or information. Five resolutions were recommended for presentation.
It was incredibly humbling and gratifying to work with such a committed and intelligent committee. The quality of resolutions submitted is also improving.
Resolutions are an enormous amount of work, both for the national resolutions committee and the members developing them. We Have Seen the Lord! in the members who spend hours at their computers reading, writing and researching resolutions and in the people these resolutions are designed to help.
If resolutions adopted by convention delegates represent faith in action, then legislation represents the fulfilment of all the actions of members throughout the country, as represented in federal legislation. 2014 has seen some fulfilment.
Imagine the wonder, the trepidation, the fear and the disbelief of the first women who uttered “I have seen the Lord!” When they left the tomb, do you know how their lives changed day to day? Well, honestly, probably not much. The difficulties of a new way of experiencing the world, where to go from there and the expectation of the immediate realization of Jesus’s return never materialized. What they had forever, though, was the knowledge that God was personally with them and that there was hope that had not been there previously.
This translates well two thousand years later, as we expect legislators to see the need to make laws that reflect this hope. We continue in the knowledge that our witness can and will make the difference.
In my two years as national chairperson of legislation, I focused on two areas:
1) Letter-writing campaigns to parliamentarians and whether such initiatives effect change; and
2) Change, which is a fundamental part of life, and how the League moves into the future with this knowledge.
Letter-writing campaigns can, and do, make a difference depending on the subject, the intended result and the ministry to which one writes. This has been described in the article “How to Move an Iceberg” in the winter 2014 issue of The Canadian League.
Current legislation that marries with League resolutions includes Bill C-33 First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act; Bill C-13 Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act; Bill C-17 Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act; Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act; Bill S-201 Genetic Non-Discrimination Act; Bill S-206 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Protection of children against standard child-rearing violence); and Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.
All are in various stages of the legislative process at present. They still require action to bring them to fulfilment for the most vulnerable among us. However, before simply supporting those bills I named, it is important that members read and decide if they support the Canada in which we live.
On the side of Royal Assent, there have been some past successes—Bill C-36 Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act and Bill C-49 Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act.
Private member’s Motion 456, to create a pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy, was presented, debated, amended and agreed upon on May 28, 2014. The Holy Spirit moved MPs across party lines to reach agreement. God is good.
The second area regarding this standing committee is change. Knowing we are the hands, voices and ears of God in the world, we also accept that the world will change, Canada will change and the church will change, but the fundamental principles will always remain. I respectfully submit the League may see more fulfilments if there were legislation sub-committees under each standing committee. While a small change, it may mean catching legislation under community life, education and health, and/or communications, for example, which may be overlooked by one chairperson trying to cover all areas.
May God continue to be with legislators, as we have seen God with them attempting to create a Canada more equitable for the poorest, the most socially unaccepted and the most vulnerable. May we continue, like the women coming away from the tomb, to be women of hope, and may those whom we have the most opportunity and hope of helping realize it through this awesome organization we simply call the League. V
Dreams do come true if you believe! Reflect for a moment on Bellelle Guerin and her amazing dream! Her dream was for a national organization uniting Catholic women—The Catholic Women’s League of Canada! We are nearing 100 years and her dream lives on! In her address in 1921, Bellelle commented, “We clasp each other’s hands impelled by one desire: the glory of Christianity and the benefit of our fellow beings. Catholic women cannot escape from the mentality of the century they live in, nor can they break from the spirit of the times. We must not isolate ourselves; we must rather come in contact with the reality of the present state of things.”
How timely that is for us today! The pope of the day said, “The changed conditions of the times have made it possible to attribute to woman functions and rights which the preceding age did not confide her, they have broadened the field of women’s activity.”
Pope Francis was clear in an interview on behalf of Jesuit journals around the world when he said women have a unique role in the church. “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church…. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”
It is clear we have a role. Each day, we all face the choice to use our God-given talents, to pursue a dream or to be indifferent travelers passing by.
Dreams of reality in the League this past year saw the completion of the new Constitution & Bylaws, as well as the totally revised and streamlined National Manual of Policy and Procedure. While updating the archives, pages of history revealed the dreams of so many. Presidents shared their talents and their dreams to bring us to today. For the future, we dream that leaders will come forward, and councils at all levels will enjoy a full executive, along with increased and vibrant membership. In the words of Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
I’d be remiss not to mention “Velma’s Dream”, the League’s projects in the Holy Land – the Infant Welfare Centre in Old Jerusalem and Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour. I visited the projects last year and again recently this July. Our support is needed and much appreciated. It is heartwarming to see the work being done by many dedicated people. Visiting these projects, i can truly say: “I have seen the Lord.” Please pray for these people and those that they serve, as well as all Christians in the Holy Land.
As I move from the national executive table to the honorary life members’ table in front of me, I will continue to dream. As Perry Como would sing, “Dream along with me, I’m on my way to a star…We can wink at the moon as we hold each other tight. And if we go in the right direction, heaven can’t be very far.” V
I am delighted to represent the more than 9,500 members in the Province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. We are blessed to have the theme We Have Seen the Lord!
Revisions to the provincial convention planning manual and the provincial policies were approved at the winter executive meeting held from January 24-26, 2014, in Leduc. The meeting featured speakers on establishing “angel cradles” in more areas of the province and a preview of the advertising campaign that will be placed on buses and light rail transit in the City of Edmonton to inform everyone about the cradles’ locations. There was also a presentation on the Sisters of Life, a contemplative/active religious community established for the protection of human life. It is going to be established in St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta.
The executive welcomed provincial spiritual advisor Fr. Andrew Bogdanowicz of St. Thomas More (Edmonton).
The winter executive meeting included a discussion of possible new resolutions and resolutions re-submitted based on previous years’ recommendations from the national resolutions committee.
The executive was able to attend three of the five annual diocesan conventions this year. The annual provincial convention was held at St. Joseph Church (Grande Prairie) and had speakers on lyme disease and on Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. A S’Mores workshop was also held.
The executive attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s sessions at the end of March in Edmonton, and many councils worked on prayer shawls and lap quilts for the event, as well as raised money for the residential school survivors’ birthday party.
Many submissions were made to the Be League February edition. The Calgary Diocesan Council flood relief initiative distributed $100.00 gift cards to 86 families. At the request of the membership, this initiative remained open until June 2014.
Information and a survey were sent to parish council presidents to share with their members to allow for active participation in the preparation of the extraordinary synod of bishops. The 90th anniversary of Calgary Diocesan Council was November 9, 2013, and celebrated at the 92nd annual diocesan convention in High River on May 2-4, 2014.
Edmonton Diocesan Council is still coordinating the display of centennial panels throughout the province and, to date, there have been 53 bookings. The decision for the disbursement of the Centennial Gala Funds took place at the winter meeting. The Catch the Fire! course was piloted March 7th-9th at Mother Margaret Mary Catholic High School. It also held an annual poster-essay contest, open to children of all ages. The themes this year were: Grades K-6, “We have seen the Lord in the beauty of God’s nature around us”; Grades 7-9, “We have seen the Lord in our interactions with family members and friends”; and Grades 10-12, “We have seen the Lord through acts of kindness and love towards our fellow human beings.”
Grouard-McLennan Diocesan Council planned the 2014 Faith Rally, the annual diocesan convention in mid-April and the 2014 annual provincial convention. Mackenzie Diocesan Council is supporting the construction of the $4.8-million BETTY House, a transitional home for women and children.
In St. Paul diocese, there is a new diocesan spiritual advisor, Fr. Jose Chirappanth. The annual diocesan convention was held in Bonnyville, April 25-26, 2014, with Fr. Mark Cramer as the guest speaker.
B.C. & YUKON
We have experienced an amazingly wonderful year in B.C. & Yukon. I was honoured to be installed as provincial president in June and, thanks be to God, was blessed to receive what I consider my “dream team” of incredible officers and chairpersons, who, along with six diocesan presidents, make up the provincial executive. We will, together with God’s help, represent B.C. & Yukon’s members to the best of our ability.
We were very pleased to hear that two provincially inspired resolutions were gifted by national council to the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations for consideration at its upcoming assembly in Fatima, Portugal, in October. They are Resolution 2011.01 Prohibiting the Practices of re Human Reproductive Material and Resolution 2012.01 Criminalization of the Purchasing of Sexual Services. Clearly, both initiatives were very timely!
The provincial executive visited members of the provincial government and the opposition party, the director of women’s and maternal health and the seniors’ health promotion directorate about provincial resolutions. Also discussed were the prevention of violence against women and hospice palliative care. Diocesan presidents and chairpersons of resolutions visited all six bishops to present a copy of the resolutions and convention books.
The federal government has asked the League for input as it looks into changing the prostitution laws in Canada. The members of parliament (MPs) for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo and Kildonan-St.Paul held meetings with members to obtain information to use in preparing their submission to the prime minister. The provincial council sent a letter of thanks to Archbishop Michael Miller (Vancouver) on his pastoral letter regarding the possible decriminalization of prostitution. Prostitution is indeed a grave social issue that must not be accepted as the norm in Canadian society. It is an affront to the dignity of everyone involved. Members are “storming” MPs and members of the legislative assembly with postcards.
The Knights of Columbus invited the provincial council to appoint a permanent board member to the March for Life. The provincial chairperson of Christian family life will be the representative and will keep members apprised of activities and help raise awareness of this very valuable initiative. Members attended the march and set up an information table with pamphlets and a handout of resolutions connecting the League with pro-life issues.
There is hope to establish four new councils this year, but, unfortunately, at least one more council will amalgamate, and some councils are considering disbanding because of distances to travel and a lack of leadership.
The council at the University of Victoria remains active, with nearby parish councils adopting and mentoring the students and covering their membership fees. Vancouver Diocesan Council is working along the same lines at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, with a member of Catholic Christian Outreach encouraging students to join parish councils where they live. She expressed the need for the League to make these women feel wanted and needed.
Either past provincial president Doreen Gowans or I attended all six annual diocesan conventions. The workshop “Expressing Our God Given Gifts through Standing Committees” was presented and enthusiastically received. It built on the workshop entitled “CWL 101–Opening the Package” presented last year. Members expressed the need for both workshops in parish councils.
In response to Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, Sr. Eva Solomon was invited to provide ideas on how best to approach Canada’s indigenous peoples. Local First Nations bands were invited to hear her speak, and delegates were delighted that several band members attended.
We recently sent a letter of commendation to the benchers of British Columbia regarding their decision to approve the Trinity Western University law school.
With regards to goals, annual reporting was down a bit this year, and therefore attempts to streamline the reporting process will be made. A Yukon sub-committee member will be recruited to assist the provincial chairperson of resolutions in investigating which resolutions are of relevance to the Yukon. Members, through convention evaluations, are asking diocesan and provincial executive members to teach “the role of each standing committee.” Because of the approval of a provincial per capita fee increase last year, the executives are now in a position to facilitate this through a provincial League development fund. Planning is underway for the 95th annual national convention, and a successful fundraiser was held in each diocese to raise awareness and financial help to attend.
Keewatin-The Pas Diocesan Council elected a new president at its 62nd annual diocesan convention at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish (The Pas). Catch The Fire! was offered and was very well received. St. Ann Parish Council (Flin Flon) and Keewatin-The Pas Diocesan Council hosted the 66th annual provincial convention. A bus was rented to travel from Winnipeg the ± 8 hours. A good time was had by all!
St. Boniface Diocesan Council elected a new president at its 65th annual diocesan convention. Notre Dame de Lorette Parish Council (Lorette) hosted this convention. National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson attended.
Winnipeg Diocesan Council continues under the capable leadership of its president. Its 93rd annual diocesan convention was successfully hosted by St. Edward Parish Council (Winnipeg). Betty Anne was their banquet guest on Friday evening.
Thanks to the provincial president-elect and chairperson of organization, the provincial council was represented at the winter national executive meeting in Toronto. She was able to attend and bring greetings at the annual St. Boniface and Winnipeg diocesan conventions and was particularly pleased to be able to drive Betty Anne to these conventions. She represented the council at the 2014 Annual Caritas Award Dinner where four Catholic operated nursing homes were honoured.
The chairperson of spiritual development created a spiritual program using PowerPoint that was enjoyed at convention. On her way to becoming a parliamentarian, she also is gaining more intimate knowledge of the National Manual of Policy and Procedure.
The chairperson of Christian family life ensured all councils received copies of Catholic Organization for Life and Family’s two new pamphlets, As Family Choose Life: Choose Jesus Christ and Bullying: A plague to combat together.
The chairperson of community life was busy following the Russia/Ukraine situation, Nigeria and missing girls, indigenous issues and the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council, which aims to end homelessness in Winnipeg within 10 years. She receives information from the member of parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul regarding prostitution laws, missing and murdered indigenous women and human trafficking.
The chairperson of education and health reported there were 121 donations to Canadian Blood Services under the League’s Partners for Life Program.
The chairperson of resolutions had her hands full with eight resolutions being forwarded to national council for consideration and information. They were Pharmacy Dispensing Fees, HZ (Herpes Zoster) Vaccine Coverage under Manitoba Health for Persons 60 years and Older, Expiry Dates on Prescription Labels, National Standard for Newborn Screening Including Screening for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, Electronic Cigarettes, Growth Hormones and Growth-Enhancing Antibiotics in the Meat Supply, Digital Direct Radiography (DR) Mammography, and Old Age Security Allowance for Individuals 60 to 64 Years of Age Regardless of Marital Status.
The chairperson of legislation kept members up-to-date with information on private member’s Motion 456 to create a Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy that passed unanimously in Ottawa. It is hoped this will end significant disparities across Canada with respect to end-of-life care, quality of care and out-of-pocket costs to the patient. In many rural and First Nations areas, there is often little access to services.
I was able to attend the Keewatin-The Pas annual diocesan convention and was one of the facilitators for Catch the Fire! I was also able to attend and chair the annual provincial pre-convention meeting and the annual provincial convention. I was in awe of the love and support in the room!
At the annual provincial convention Archbishop Murray Chatlain (Keewatin-The Pas) presided at the Eucharistic celebration and brought greetings at the banquet. He spoke of the “honeymoon feeling of being with God and then the inevitable disillusion felt with Him and ourselves.” He stated, “I really invite you this week to just accept that your faith has doubts, too. You too are going through those periods of romance and disillusionment, but how can we be a little more honest, how can we have a little more of those important conversations of how our faith journey continues to be the biggest part of who we are?”
Later in the evening, I had the pleasure of presenting Sr. Margaret Sadler (Sisters of the Child Jesus) with a certificate of merit. The following tribute was read, “Part of the mission statement of the Sisters of the Child Jesus is ‘We are called to be a presence of love to the Father and to others for the definite purpose of awakening and deepening the faith’.”
Fr. Paul Bringleson (Flin Flon) was the guest speaker. He reminded attendees that neither the gospels, nor Christ, nor faith need to be defended (a word that implies war). Christ won the world by accepting who He was, and that is the challenge for us today—to model and promote faith. Fr. Bringleson asked, “Is the League an institution in the church or of the church?” He went on to say, “You can exist within a body and do nothing or exist for someone else and become the hand, body and voice.” He reminded us that, “Women like you can make a difference. You can go places that we pastors are unable to go. You are always there and very present and through your tolerance, acceptance and prayerful perseverance, you make disciples of all nations.”
The provincial secretary-treasurer coordinated a project in response to Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. Mittens were collected and donated to the northern communities of Leaf Rapids and South Indian Lake. Monetary donations will be used to purchase a new lectionary for Leaf Rapids. She sought permission to use a picture and make prayer cards for participants along with two large cards that were all signed and framed. Sr. Sadler will present one to each community.
The provincial recording secretary and the provincial corresponding secretary went the extra mile in preparing for the annual provincial convention and in capturing it all on paper.
I thank provincial spiritual advisor Fr. Leo Fernandes and all the ladies on the provincial executive for their support and willingness to go the extra mile. V
When Canadian military troops are deployed for humanitarian efforts, or to help end a conflict in a foreign country, I see the Lord at work. Every unit that is deployed has a military chaplain go with it.
The Lord would never ask anyone to do what He Himself would not do. The men and women of the military and their families buy, donate and give things to try to help the less fortunate and those in strife. This is not unique to the military as there are many groups that also carry out this much needed work. The people who do this work give of themselves without question or concern for their own well-being.
Joy comes from seeing the ships or units return from one of these tasks. The stories the military members come back with can be both heartfelt and horrifying, for not all members make it back and those who do are not always the same when they return.
One of the biggest issues the military has to deal with is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD does not only affect the person but the entire family. There are many members who receive treatment for this disorder, and there are others who suffer in silence. One can never fully understand the horror of war unless they are there. The human mind cannot comprehend what it is seeing, so it has a “break,” for lack of a more formal term. Their minds cannot deal with what they have seen.
The military member is not the only one who has to deal with this disorder. There is also the family who has waited anxiously for him or her to return home.
The military has a resource centre that works with families and members to help make this transition from soldier to family member. There are many members working in this capacity. They are carrying out the Lord’s work in any and every way they can. Sometimes it may be babysitting, so the parents can have some time together or just so they can go shopping. It could be finding a peer group for a teenager who is having a hard time with a parent who is now home. It could also be finding the proper course of treatment for the soldier who is suffering from PTSD.
Looking toward the future, this is an issue not only for the military but for every person who has the freedom they take for granted today. There is much work to be done with people suffering from PTSD, not only in the military but in Canada’s police forces and fire departments. This is where I believe Jesus is able to use us to touch people in need.
There has to be more done for people suffering with PTSD on a federal level, and this is where the League can make a difference. Let’s show the people who give their hearts and souls that we care about them.
“Thank God.” You could say this is the catchphrase for the military. Every time a military ship comes back home or an army troop returns from deployment, you can hear the words, “Thank God.”V
The League in New Brunswick is 2,400 members strong, and all of us welcome each of you to this beautiful province as we host this 94th annual national convention. New Brunswick Provincial Council has four diocesan councils, with 47 parish councils spread over 320 kilometres. There are 27 life members, and many of you have travelled long distances, reminding us of the importance of League work.
The main focus of your sisters here has been this 94th annual national convention. Planning has occurred since 2010, and the committee has been blessed with many willing and capable chairpersons and members. The success of Madonna pins as a fundraiser has made the committee very proud. This project was the brainchild of Life Member Yolande Perry and certainly proved to be profitable with the sale of 5,600 pins. All members have contributed to this convention through their gifts, work and prayers.
The provincial council held its 67th annual provincial convention in June. It was a pleasure to have 100 delegates in attendance.
A resolution entitled Canadian Women Living in Poverty was adopted at the annual provincial convention and was presented to national council for consideration. This resolution was returned to us with a recommendation to take this up at provincial level. The issue of women living in poverty is very real and requires immediate attention. It is hoped that each provincial president will consider this a priority. This issue must be presented to provincial governments across Canada and become a matter dealt with quickly and effectively.
In addition, members must be educated about the dire and pressing needs of Canadian women who live below the poverty level. Unfortunately, we all know women who need our help. I challenge every member to write letters to their members of the legislative assembly. The basic needs of housing, heat, food and clothing must be addressed. Legislation must be established and updated to provide minimum standards of living, with social assistance programs updated to support this minimum.
My dream for the provincial council during my two-year term as president is for growth—not only growth in the number of members, which would certainly be wonderful, but also growth in spiritual life, social action and visibility. We all know that the League is special. New Brunswick may be small but it is definitely mighty. Many, if not most, of the parish churches flourish through the work of sisters in the League. With the help and support of clergy, we are ready to create an environment that will attract members. How can this happen? Step one will be by prayer. We will ask bishops to encourage all clergy and parishes to join us as we pray for a sustainable League. From this prayer, action must be taken to generate growth. Ladies from New Brunswick, let us prepare to take action after this convention. The momentum and the Holy Spirit are with us. V
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
My report to you today asks you to take a flight of fancy and imagine an event in Newfoundland and Labrador where Pope Francis visits past National Spiritual Advisor Archbishop Martin “Marty” Currie (St. John’s).
You might be saying, “Ridiculous! That can’t be!” But nothing should surprise you about Pope Francis. One recent reference in the press called him, “a troublemaker with a plan.” So, let’s imagine it—Pope Francis, in Newfoundland and Labrador, in Archbishop Currie’s office, chatting about what he will do while he is in the province and eyeing the League’s annual report book.
Pope Francis thumbs through it and says to Archbishop Currie, “Marty, can I join this organization? I would like to be a part of the League. It is doing everything I have been advocating since my time at the Vatican.” He continues to flip through the pages of the convention booklet.
“Wow, look what the League does! Like me, it recognizes the future of a people is in how it treats the elderly. I see at the annual provincial convention a resolution was adopted urging ‘that an independent seniors’ advocate be established in the province.’”
“Another concern of mine is how we are caring for all of God’s creation, this beautiful universe that God made. Nurturing and cherishing creation is a command God gives to each of us. I notice the provincial council’s focus topic for the past two years was ‘ecology’.” Archbishop Currie chimes in, “Did you know that at the annual provincial convention a resolution was adopted asking that a letter be written to the provincial premier calling for an independent study on fracking?” Pope Francis says, “Praise be! Fracking is truly a concern of mine. I can’t wait to see what happens. This is indeed an important issue all over the world.”
Pope Francis turns the pages of the annual report book and says, “I notice the provincial council had a speaker at one of its meetings on why the world’s water crisis should be a concern for members. Oh, how that plays on my mind! I am so concerned about the shortage of clean drinking water, and I am so happy to see that League members are as well. We all know how bad it is in Africa, but did you hear about the droughts in California? And, Marty, how would you feel if you had to baptize a baby or celebrate the Eucharist using polluted water?”
Pope Francis continues. “Look, Marty, I read here the League is concerned about fairness and respect for all human beings. How strongly I believe the human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. These members are so active in pro-life activities and events! And members approved a motion to write the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada expressing their disapproval of his recent decision that Canadian pro-life citizens who wish to contest Liberal party nominations will have to declare their views on abortion. Only those who are resolutely pro-choice will be permitted to stand for election for the party.”
“I also see members’ concern for the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia, and that they discussed this at a convention. From what I hear, from the Canadian cardinals, this should be a big concern in Canada, especially with the passing of Bill 52 An Act respecting end-of-life care in Quebec. I am glad to see League members are studying this matter.”
Pope Francis keeps browsing through the annual report book and says, “Look, Marty, the provincial council also had speakers at its meeting on human trafficking, which I call ‘a crime against humanity’.” He notes the provincial council also had a speaker on the topic of the role of women in the church, a provincial focus issue for two years.
“Marty, I know you have read what I am saying about women in the church, and they have to play a more important role in the decision making of the church. I think women are demanding that we come back very soon with some concrete plans. Believe me, I am working on it.”
Pope Francis continues, “I can see the League believes in scheduling events where members can have lots of fun. I wish I had been here earlier in the spring to take part in its celebrations for the three 40th anniversaries of the first parish councils in the province. Yes, we need to be joyful. My main writing for the year was titled The Joy of the Gospel. Have you read it? Oh! You say several councils have formed study groups to do just this? That makes me so happy! As I read through these annual reports, I am so pleased that the spiritual aspect of their lives is of prime importance.”
“Like me, the League believes in the importance of prayer, ‘But not the prayer of words, like a parrot; but the prayer of the heart: gazing on the Lord, hearing the Lord, asking the Lord.’ I like to think of the League praying so it annoys God, so that He listens to it,” Pope Francis says. “Praying with an insistence, and not giving up after the first few attempts, I think that is what the League is doing.”
Pope Francis looks at Archbishop Currie and says, “Marty, the League is ahead of me in everything they do, yet so in tune! Where can I join? What, only $20.00? That certainly suits my pocketbook!”
“Marty, before I leave I want you to think about what the church in Newfoundland and Labrador would be like without the League. You were the keynote speaker at a convention on the topic Why the Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador Needs the Catholic Women’s League. Get me a copy!”
“Yes, Marty, just think about if we didn’t have the women of the League in this province, doing all they are doing, acting out the gospel in their daily lives, making Jesus come alive in other people’s lives, proclaiming the gospel not only in words but in actions—think what it would be like.”
Blessings to you all!
As the incoming Nova Scotia provincial president, I am delighted to be sharing with you today the dedication of members, guided by the theme We Have Seen the Lord! The next two years will be busy ones as we work together to support and empower each other to be agents of change. A new provincial executive was installed at the annual provincial convention held in New Glasgow in June. Two resolutions were adopted. One was directed to the province that deals with nursing home placement by crisis priority while the other, Restoration of Health Care for Refugee Claimants, was forwarded to national council for consideration.
In September, a retreat will be held comprised of diocesan and provincial executive members at the Bethany Retreat Centre in Antigonish. Funding has been received from the National Development Fund to assist with this endeavour. This workshop will provide the opportunity to develop and work towards two common goals for each standing committee and will be one of discovery as we learn more about each other in faith and action. It is further hoped that executive members will examine strategies that will work in the areas of social justice, faith development and the rollout of S’Mores.
On September 11th, representatives from the provincial executive will meet with the provincial health and wellness minister to discuss common issues and give an authentic voice to health related concerns, but the main purpose of the meeting will be to share information on two provincial resolutions—a drug recycling program and the nursing home placement based on crisis priority. It has been a number of years since the provincial council has been able to secure a meeting with provincial government, and the council is very much looking forward to this opportunity for positive dialogue.
On September 13th, a spiritual retreat will be held at the Our Lady of Grace Shrine and hosted by St. John the Baptist Parish Council (New Glasgow). All members have been invited to attend. The day will be filled with spiritual reflections and a number of theme development initiatives. Mass will be celebrated. What a great start to a year with an opportunity to take time away from day-to-day operations to focus on deepening members’ faith.
Members are eager to welcome you all to Halifax in August 2016, and planning has already begun. The committee had its initial meeting in July.
The provincial council, in partnership with the St. Francis Xavier University Extension Department, is currently evaluating its support for the Aboriginal Leadership Development Program. This program provides existing and emerging community leaders with the knowledge, perspective and positive attitude needed for leadership roles in their own communities. Program participants are required to develop community action plans in order to graduate.
We were pleased to welcome provincial spiritual advisor Fr. Larry Pitcher for a five year term commencing June 2014.
Nova Scotia has two diocesan councils—Halifax-Yarmouth and Antigonish. At the diocesan level, many challenges are faced as the needs of the parish councils are served. In the Diocese of Antigonish, the restructuring of parishes is resulting in the amalgamation of parish councils. In Halifax-Yarmouth, the amalgamation of two diocesan councils occurred approximately two years ago with a shared leadership model of co-presidents. With the coordinated efforts of all members in both dioceses, what has evolved is a true measure of faith, hope and dedication in working through challenges and of being of service to one other.
The provincial council has appointed Life Member Therese Pottie as life member liaison. Two long-serving executive members have been awarded life membership—Theresa Duann and Ann McGray. Both are eager and committed to continue to serve in this capacity.
The Liberal Party of Canada’s policy to have only pro-choice candidates has caused concern among the membership. The delegates at the annual provincial convention voted to write to the party leader on this stance. A letter was written and copied to all Nova Scotia members of parliament (MPs). At the time of writing this report, only one MP replied with a personal phone call noting his interest in being informed of the response, when received. As of July 22nd no response had been received—only an e-mail, which indicated the League’s concern had been referred to party policymakers.
As we move forward in faith and action, we hope the many initiatives planned will generate new ideas, renew focus and embody a new vision. With prayers and a profound will to make a difference, the contributions of all members will ultimately steer us into the future. The beauty of the League in Nova Scotia, and I say it proudly, is in its membership—in its long standing commitment to the unique and ongoing needs of its parishes, dioceses, the province and the nation. There is no doubt members have embraced the theme, We Have Seen the Lord!, for they are committed to serving and building a culture of generosity for all God’s people. V
Welcome aboard Ontario flight 2014, with stops in 13 dioceses!
The commander from the control tower is Jesus Christ, with navigational coordinates from Mother Mary. I am your humble pilot, my co-pilot provincial spiritual advisor Bishop Gerard Bergie (St. Catharines), and 26 crew members are cruising at an altitude of approximately 50,000 members.
We are fueled by the mandate of Pope Francis on social justice issues. This was siphoned into each diocesan council to initiate a project to put into action. The dioceses have responded with great enthusiasm, with the fight against poverty, human trafficking and euthanasia, and by assisting in shelters and local hospices.
We always invite members to pull out their manuals of policy and procedure and follow along as revisions are ongoing.
Spiritually enriched prayer services act as a floatation device to lift spirits at all functions, especially when it looks like we may be losing altitude.
We cannot ensure a journey without turbulence, but we can guarantee that by securely fastening the Holy Spirit around us, we will get through it.
In response to the change of pressure in society regarding mental illness, the provincial executive has activated the flow of conversation. Even though the conversation is flowing, the topic may not inflate due to the ongoing stigma attached to mental illness. Politically related topics often present themselves. We encourage members to take hold of the issue, place it in a resolution, and fully inform themselves first before offering to help their sister members.
The carry-on resolutions being brought to this annual national convention have been packed with Mandatory Labelling of Genetically Modified Food Products and Feathers of Hope-Empowering First Nations Youth, in response to the national request to reach out to indigenous neighbours.
Ontario is equipped with three honorary life members and 128 life members to provide wisdom and experience and to illuminate the path should the lights fade.
The tray tables have been lowered to receive the inflight service. Standing committee chairpersons have been hard at work cooking up the real “meat and potatoes,” beginning with several courses of directives, ON-Line Newsletter, Trillium News and Views and Facebook, followed by a large serving of annual reports. Dessert of fun and fellowship is served at all conventions.
We have honorary passengers who travel with us. The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario meet with us so we can present resolutions and report on activities. Gratitude is extended to special guests, the spiritual advisors, for their assistance on this journey. They have also provided landing gear for those parish councils that decided to exit the aircraft prematurely.
Also on the flight are the seminarians who are the recipients of the Bishop Bernard F. Pappin Bursary Fund, funded by members.
The crew serves the League with so much pride that you may see flames ignited by Catch the Fire! With days of development, leadership, ideas to promote the League, support for Catholic education, ecumenical services, workshops and evenings of reflection, there is no smoldering in sight. To fan the flames we will be passing out S’Mores.
We have opted not to show an inflight movie, as we have found it more effective to share stories of how We Have Seen the Lord! in members and the people we encounter every day on the journey.
We cruise on the wings of all members who have gone before us. Though, at times, the way may not be clear, we keep our sights on the horizon with the Son as our guide to the destination.
When you look out the right or the left window of the aircraft, you will see people longing for social justice. With your tray tables and chairs in the meeting position and the Objects of the League securely stowed, the League’s mission statement still soars. We are the loud voice over the PA system, letting everyone know the journey continues through service to the people of God.
We thank you for choosing the League as your method of letting your soul take flight. We invite you to sit back and enjoy the fellowship as together we strive to earn wings.
This is the Ontario pilot, signing off for now. V
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Since being honoured in May by becoming Prince Edward Island provincial president, much reflection on the various activities of the more than 2,000 sister members in the province has taken place. I am happy to report that now almost 90% of councils can be contacted through e-mail, and information is shared on both the provincial website and Facebook page. All members are encouraged to view these sites and send their information to provincial council so it can post their council’s news. Four times during the year, parish council presidents receive a personal phone call from a provincial executive member to discuss any issues or concerns they or their councils may have.
Two Catch The Fire! workshops were presented to very enthusiastic and engaged members. As well, other individual members wrote their personal stories to be put on display at the annual provincial convention for other members to read.
Councils held significant anniversaries by celebrating mass, then sharing a meal and fellowship. One council marked its 80th anniversary by having a collection taken up at all four masses during the weekend for Archbishop Martin Currie’s (St. John’s) project Marty’s Dream. To this council’s delight, close to $2,400 was collected. The presiding priest spoke on the details of this project to the parishioners.
At the four area meetings held across the Island in March, the main topic was discernment of gifts. This workshop was well received as members openly shared their views and talked about their gifts and also the gifts they saw in others.
At the annual provincial convention, members were impressed, but somewhat troubled, with the information presented by the four speakers, namely the issues of abortions in the province, the state and impact of pornography, and the role of Catholic family service as it serves the needs of Islanders with mental health issues. An informative presentation on indigenous peoples and their culture was given by a member of the Mi’kmaq community. Bishop Richard Grecco (Charlottetown), in his address to the delegates, spoke on how all members must welcome and embrace the priests who have come from India to help shepherd the Catholic community.
Since June, the provincial council has partnered with PEI Right To Life Association on a postcard campaign. All other church denominations were invited to participate. The message was directed to the provincial government asking it to “stay the course” and not allow abortion on demand. An ecumenical prayer vigil was held to ask for and give support to this cause. We must remain active in this endeavour by encouraging every member to step up to this challenge, as there is considerable pressure put on the provincial government by the “pro-choice” group.
Another continuing challenge is with membership, especially in getting members to take on more active leadership. We are hoping that, after hearing presentations on the S’Mores workshops this fall, members will be enticed and encouraged to become more involved so that the League will continue to remain vibrant and active.
I bring good news from Quebec! The 2014 annual provincial convention/pilgrimage was innovative. The usual rotation of a council hosting convention wasn’t going to happen, so, with a leap of faith, the provincial council decided to go ahead with a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Trois-Rivières. The challenge would be to blend the convention business with time for members to attend the activities offered at the shrine. The usual convention date was altered, and members who often do not come to convention attended. Members expressed their satisfaction with the shorter business periods and, most of all, appreciated the freedom to attend the way of the cross, rosary in the gardens, the divine mercy chaplet and quiet prayer time in both the basilica and the old shrine.
Efforts continued to support the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition; the power of prayer can never be underestimated. Letter-writing and attending conferences were also encouraged.
Most of you are aware that Living with Dignity and the Physicians Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia recently launched a lawsuit challenging Quebec’s euthanasia law. The Lord is with us!
We will continue to promote Catch the Fire! St. Kevin Parish Council (Montreal), a new council, won the Catch the Fire! membership participation contest, with 75% of its membership attending.
A new provincial project is being initiated. Partners For Life is an outreach program that aims to raise awareness about depression. The rate of youth suicide in Quebec is the highest in Canada and one of the highest in the world. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has recognized this program as one that successfully reduces the stigma attached to mental illness. What an exciting challenge!
I intend to promote Velma’s Dream. I went to Haifa, Jericho, Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem and witnessed the faith and hope of the Christians facing tremendous political challenges. Their dedication in helping the marginalized and most vulnerable is remarkable. The Lord’s path can be difficult. These Christians have asked us to pray that they have the courage and strength to continue their work.
Lastly, I will continue to find ways to build bridges with the indigenous sisters of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.
The Lord is in Quebec! We are all part of the communion of saints, and two Canadians have recently been recognized by the universal church as saints—Bishop François de Laval and Mother Marie of the Incarnation. They worked in “New France” and Canada with indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike, and were committed to education and to evangelization.
Pope Francis noted we encounter the Lord in the poor, suffering and marginalized. When there is an encounter with the Lord there is also a task. Members in Saskatchewan have taken up this challenge of encountering the Lord in many ways. They served by caring for shut-ins, made donations of clothing and food, ministered to the sick and the elderly, and provided assistance to the church, schools and the community. This is not new, as members work to fulfil the League’s mission statement and practice what is recited in the League prayer.
As provincial president, I have attended all three annual diocesan conventions, from Assiniboia in the south to Prince Albert in the north (some 475 kilometres in between), and to the Fox Valley in Saskatoon in the west. It was there I was particularly drawn to Sr. Teresita Kambeitz’s presentation on encouraging us to connect our lives to the paschal mystery. We all encounter the risen Lord. “Don’t stay in [our] comfort zone and go to the periphery,” she said. In Saskatoon, some members joined in a walk for a stronger Canada and in My Door is Open for Refugees, a multicultural gathering to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th. It will be a challenge for many councils, as the need for welcoming and helping refugees is great. On June 2nd and 3rd, the annual provincial convention was held in North Battleford, with singer-songwriter Donny Parenteau as the guest speaker and entertainer. Being of indigenous heritage, Donny shared his life story, his successes and failures and how he always followed his dream. Besides his musical career, he is a motivational speaker at schools and talks about bullying and problems experienced by youth. We were also fortunate to have National Past President Velma Harasen and the Regina diocesan past president give an update on the Velma’s Dream project in the Holy Land. Through a video, we were able to view the work being done. At the convention, we also featured the highlights of Catch the Fire! workshops, which is doing well especially in the Regina diocese. Captions of the S’Mores program were also shown and, as a result, a resolutions workshop was held in Regina. Hopefully, this will encourage future submissions of resolutions.
The Provincial Social Justice Award of $1,000 was presented to Kira Paisley at the convention. We bid farewell to Fr. Francis Hengen (Regina), provincial spiritual advisor for the past five years, and welcomed Fr. Pius Schroh (Saskatoon) as the new provincial spiritual advisor. He was installed at the reaffirmation ceremony concluding the convention.
The fall workshop for provincial executive and the three diocesan executives will focus on Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.
Members, through their service to others in their churches, communities and country, can truly say they have seen the Lord. They have pondered this theme and now look forward to the new direction of the upcoming theme.
Members are proud of the League, as shown through celebrations of anniversaries, honour guards, ecumenical gatherings, displays and even community parades. Members in Saskatchewan will do their part in promoting the League in all they do.