Oral Reports from the 101st National Annual Meetings of Members
National President Anne-Marie Gorman
I have sat in the wheelhouse of this giant ship for a third year and marvel at the resilience of so large a boat full of hardworking women whose efforts have kept the ship afloat through fairly rough seas, while managing to navigate the waters with a high degree of poise and care, all the while retaining dignity. It was not easy. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4)
It is quite common to conclude a president’s term by giving a travelogue of the places she’s been and the people she’s encountered with a sprinkling of the most pressing issues of the year. I believe God’s plan was much more pertinent to the theme of Care for Our Common Home than mine. The pandemic has kept us home, given us many opportunities to reflect on our lives, our spiritual underpinnings, and showed us that this is still most definitely God’s world.
As I reviewed my notebooks from January until this week, I saw that there were more letters, meetings, questions requiring thoughtful consideration and answers. Interactions with presidents allowed me to see how the provincial councils were bolstered by the creativity, tenacity and inability to allow adversity to keep them away from their membership. Inclusion was an integral part of the year. Technology, of which I am at best a neophyte, and while acknowledging that it uses the earth’s resources too, made it possible to keep the lines of communication open and business conducted.
While I didn’t physically travel, I was able to attend two Ottawa development days, WUCWO Day, a webinar on Laudato Si’, and Toronto Development Day with a TED talk by Pope Francis. In February, the organization was learning that councils already were making plans to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. I virtually attended webinars on Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), three on palliative care, two hosted by the de Veber Institute and one by Clinical Nurse Specialist Simone Stenekes, a CWL centenary committee meeting, table officers’ meeting, winter board teleconference, and a Lenten Retreat with Dr. Anne Jamieson.
Four webinars for national executive/board education began in April and concluded in June, with thanks to presenters from the steering committee, honorary life members Barbara Dowding, Margaret Ann Jacobs and Danielle McNeil-Hessian, former provincial presidents Pauline Krupa (2015-2017) and Ingrid Lefort (2015-2017), former Vancouver Diocesan President Roxanne MacDonald (2015-2017) and I, all under the organization of Kim Scammell. I had a Zoom chat with Archbishop Christian Lepine (Montreal), chairperson of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ newly initiated standing committee for life and family; a governance forum hosted by the Canadian Society of Association Executives led by Dr. David Weiss; 12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care with Thunder Bay Diocesan Council; Dr. Josephine Lombardi’s film, The First Lady and Her Successors; Arise, Shine! The Ingathering of the Dispersed in a Post-Pandemic World; DirectVoteLive training; a North Bay, Ontario regional event, “Hope will See Us Through” with Sr. Linda MacIsaac; Toronto Diocesan Council’s 100th anniversary celebration; national bursary committee meeting; and virtual provincial annual meetings for New Brunswick, B.C. & Yukon, and Ontario. The aforementioned are just some of the events and activities from the ship’s logbook on the journey.
The ship changed course on more than one occasion in order to get to a port where members would be able to greet and hear about the voyage. A decision to hold a partially virtual annual meeting of members was made only on April 13th, what we call “Plan C”, after consultation with all presidents and ship’s officers. When the wind changed, the boat made adjustments. In the reports, you will read of the many adaptations made, which will demonstrate that this huge ship is in good hands. Sturdy and competent, shipshape, though slightly battered, as captain I know that the Good Lord was steering this ship right along with me on a course that, as Bellelle Guerin said, “… will [continue to] arise fair and beautiful, strong and proud,” but only with all my shipmates having courage and keeping the faith.
National Secretary-Treasurer Janet McLean
Members are an amazing group of women! Despite the COVID-19 pandemic which has turned our world upside down, secretaries and treasurers continued to be of service to their councils. Whether this meant taking notes during online meetings, writing handwritten letters to keep in touch with isolated members, or collecting and remitting council membership fees, I was truly impressed by their efforts.
Throughout 2021, the day-to-day duties required by the national secretary-treasurer were performed by Executive Secretary Amanda McCormick and Senior Accounting Clerk Valroy Anderson, despite the fact they were required to work at home until recently. They do an outstanding job to keep things running smoothly. I worked closely with Executive Director Kim Scammell on financial and investment matters, and particularly on the budget for 2021, which was presented to and approved by the national executive/board at the fall 2020 online board meeting. During the budget preparation, it was evident that a national per capita fee increase would be necessary to maintain the League’s financial viability in the coming years. League revenue has dropped yearly as membership numbers have steadily declined by about 4,000 annually.
While various cost-cutting measures have been implemented and price increases for some services have taken place, rising costs, including the projected costs for the implementation of the strategic plan in the next three years, could not be met without serious cuts in services or an increase in the per capita fee. In fact, my oral report at the 2019 annual national convention indicated it was increasingly difficult to meet current costs with a $13.00 national per capita fee, Set in 2012, by 2019, it only had the purchasing power of $11.34.
A motion to increase the national per capita fee by $12.00 was discussed and agreed to by the national board in November 2020. Originally, it was expected that the instructed vote on this motion would take place in 2021 so that it would be voted on at this 101st national annual meeting of members. However, the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to make in-person parish council meetings impossible, so the period to hold the instructed vote on the motion was extended until March 2022. This means the motion will only come to the August 2022 national annual meeting of members and, if adopted, the new per capita fee would be effective for the 2023 membership year. If your parish council has not yet conducted its instructed vote, you still have plenty of time to do so, and I would urge you to approve the increase.
In 2021 I reviewed monthly investment and financial statements, and I thoroughly reviewed the 2020 audit papers and 2020 audited financial statements prepared by Scarrow & Donald before presenting them to the national board at the March 2021 online teleconference for review and approval. Revenues amounted to $1,112,467 and expenditures were $1,153,345, which left an excess of expenditures over revenues of $40,878. Investment income of $180,082 left revenues over expenditures of $139,204. However, it should be noted that the investment income included an unrealized gain on investments of $152,375, so the actual net cash received was $27,707.
Major discrepancies in 2020 as compared to the budget are the following. Membership fees were $22,659 below budget. Income from product sales and the corresponding expenditure for product sales were down as most councils were inactive for nine months of the year, so few supplies were ordered. There was no convention registration revenue and only minimal convention costs. Parish councils were required to pay for general liability insurance, so $36,018 was generated to offset the insurance expenditure of $43,198. Miscellaneous revenue of $47,838 was received in government assistance because of the pandemic. League development of $197,788, including $166,875 for strategic planning, was well below budget as expected major marketing expenses were not incurred. Also, promotional and development fund expenses were down. National executive expenses of $38,950 were well below budget as only one national board meeting was held in person; all other meetings were held virtually. Other national executive expenses were also minimal because of the pandemic. While the net financial results for 2020 look good, it was not a normal year!
For the six-month period ending June 30, 2021, per capita fees of $793,585 represents 61,045 memberships with 59,902 being for 2021. Product sales are still down, but it is hoped that these will increase if councils can return to some semblance of normal in the fall. The $12,065 shown in bursary donations includes a $10,000 bequest from the estate of Life Member Georgina Bourque. Miscellaneous revenue is a Manitoba back-to-work grant. Under expenditures, League development of $62,126 is considerably below budget at the moment; however, the board expects to pay approximately $240,000 in the coming months for implementation of the strategic plan. Other expected League development costs include payment of the bursaries awarded, promotional and development fund expenses, and expenses for training webinars. For the six-month period, net revenue exceeds net expenditures by $319,377. However, at year end it is more likely that expenditures from operations will exceed revenues by approximately $100,000 to $150,000.
If a balanced budget is required for 2022, serious cuts and/or price increases will be required. The national executive/board is at a crucial stage in the implementation of the strategic plan and the estimated cost for its continued implementation is close to $1,000,000 over the next three years. One way to obtain funds (other than keeping all current members and adding another 20,000-30,000 more) is to sell investments to realize some of the gains shown on the books. This will provide immediate access to cash, but it will also erode future investment income. This is why the per capita increase is so vital. An increase in the per capita fee in 2023 will provide the financial stability the League needs to go forward.
Executive Director Kim Scammell
What a change two years can make! In 2019 when I last reported to national council, we were all able to gather in convention in Calgary. Meeting in person in convention is truly a League experience like no other, and we all surely miss the opportunity to become reacquainted. This year, without a capable and enthusiastic local committee to steer the way, much of the planning has been done by the office. From the choice of meeting platform to the choice of voting software to how the proceedings will occur, the staff have discussed and deliberated the best way to have you, the members, able to participate, while still running an efficient meeting that would avoid the strain of sitting in front of a device for extended days. Much of what would normally occur during the processing has been modified and shortened.
The physical office was very quiet in the first six months of the year. From January 1st until June 28th, the Province of Manitoba had restrictions in place against gathering, even in the workplace. Where employees could work from home, employers were instructed to have them do so. The five full-time staff each visited the office on a designated day of the week, but never did they visit the office together. When there, staff would drop off completed work, pick up new work, follow up on inquiries made where the information was stored in the office, mail out supply orders and other mailings, and use the equipment we could not access from home, such as the postage meter. It was not the best situation for staff to be in, but it was what was expected.
I am quite proud to share with you that, despite the lack of conveniences and ability to collaborate, League staff did an amazing job of keeping up with work, as the work did not slow down anywhere, except for the order department.
Executive Secretary Amanda McCormick added to her regular duties the roles of social media manager in training, webinar host and moderator, and assistant to workshop development and task forces assigned to develop and review documentation.
Accounting Clerk Valroy Anderson continued to manage the payments and payables as the need to pay the rent and utilities, and provide per capita allotments to provincial and diocesan councils did not cease. Nor did the important role of reconciling accounts and managing the deposits.
Membership Coordinator Katherine Choi processed all memberships by the middle of May as is ideal in any normal year without an office disruption. A proficient coordinator can process 400 memberships per day and Katherine achieved this, all the while responding to members by telephone 1,184 times and by e-mail 5,370 times in a six month period.
Office Assistant Marion Wong ably managed the switchboard from her home office, managing 2,854 telephone calls and the personal follow up that each required. She also coordinated a number of mailings, updated executive and committee lists and, time permitting, assisted members with archival inquiries.
Assisting me, Amanda, Valroy, Katherine and Marion, and who work on an as needed basis are Kerri Sylvester, Deborah Woodbeck and Katrina Stratton.
Kerri serves the implementation committee assisting with their various meetings and projects. There were ten working groups operating in the first part of the year and nine more were meeting to formulate their action plans.
Deborah was tasked with contacting new members by telephone to greet them and ask them how they learned about the League and what had caused them to join. In a non-pandemic situation, Deborah would be assisting Valroy with orders during his really busy periods and she would be providing switchboard relief in Marion’s absence.
Our newest and youngest member, Katrina, added new members and processed notices, when not pursuing her education as a nurse.
Madam president, the office continued to be busy – there was no slowdown. And staff know they were definitely not alone! Members too were very active. Staff know this because it received almost 9,000 calls, thrice as many e-mails, and attended an unprecedented number of meetings.
National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Shari Guinta
The entire year was taken up with the COVID-19 pandemic and this made League work difficult throughout Canada with most councils unable to meet in person. But reports showed that there was creativity and ingenuity when it came to activities for members. Reporting was reduced, however. Although the pandemic made meeting in person impossible, it was still a busy year for me.
Prayer services for the national administrative committee and online national executive/board meetings were created with the parish, the ill and clergy in mind. I prepared and sent five communiques during 2021—many focusing on the Holy Father’s intentions. I also prepared articles for The Canadian League magazine.
Some creative and touching activities were held throughout Canada, including planting trees to celebrate the 100th birthday of the League with special prayers and blessings.
- A spiritual bouquet was collected and sent to all life members in one province.
- Links from provincial councils for online adoration, rosary, divine mercy chaplet, stations of the cross and Eucharistic celebration involving members and spiritual advisors were shared.
- Those that could attend in person, gathered at mass and others watched online.
- For those that met in person, spiritual advisors attended most meetings.
However, bible and scripture study, the rosary and other prayers were certainly popular.
Resources from the CCCB were used especially regarding Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) and action to be taken by members. Bishop Jensen was mentioned as some councils used and discussed his recorded online webinar Women in Mission. Various online resources were mentioned and the study of Deus Caritas Est was one of them.
Councils across the country continued to study Laudato Si’ and Care for Our Common Home and one province reported hosting an ecological rosary. The theme prayer seemed very popular across the country.
Women continue to be involved in their parish and diocese and serve on different boards and associations. We all rejoiced when Honorary Life Member Barbara Dowding from British Columbia was made chancellor of the Archdiocese of Vancouver!
Although varied and creative webinars and workshops were offered, there were remarks regarding the need for training and development.
Pope Francis announced officially through the wording of Canon Law that “laymen” had changed to “lay persons,” allowing for official transition for women to proclaim the word and participate in liturgical celebrations throughout the church.
Councils throughout the country continued to support missions. The permanent voluntary fund for Catholic Missions In Canada (CMIC) was supported and articles from the CMIC magazine were read and shared. This year’s donation to CMIC is $21,175.46. Esk-Omi Missions, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Haiti Missions, missions for the Dominican Republic and the League’s National Day of Prayer for Canadian Home Missions were supported.
I am pleased to announce that an annual CWL Day of Faith has been approved for the third Sunday of September each year. This year, the date is September 19th.
Members actively participated in choirs and pastoral councils, as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ministers of hospitality, finance council members and catechists, in liturgy committees, lay religious boards, prison ministries, shut-in/nursing home ministries, and much more.
Support for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was mentioned often as was Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada and World Day of Prayer. Fellowship of the Least Coin was also substantially supported. Life Chain and interchurch faith activities in support of life were participated in along with prayer vigils. Three unique activities reported from Saskatchewan were:
- attended a Jewish synagogue with the archbishop and a Jewish rabbi
- arranged and attended a blanket ceremony and an Indigenous awareness ceremony
- toured a Muslim mosque and participated in an information tour
Practical and inspirational material received from provincial and national chairpersons and information on the national website was important.
The pandemic has underlined and spotlighted the fact that members need to keep in touch. It has been a lonely time for many. Not everyone has a computer and mail and telephone calls are still good ways to keep in touch. It was a challenge to reach out to members in new (and old) ways to keep in touch.
Workshops, training, information on preparing workshops and liturgy study were suggested, as was an activity calendar, outlining events throughout the year. A member prayer calendar, where members’ names are put on a calendar and the rest of the council prays for them specifically on that day was also suggested.
National Chairperson of Organization Fran Lucas
I believe the League of the past months could make for a blockbuster movie! You would all be part of the cast and you each would have your story to add to it. But what genre would you suggest it fall under, comedy, action, sci-fi, animation, drama, family, fantasy, history, horror, mystery or romance? Perhaps a thriller! I personally think it would be a new classification—a mixture of several of these!
The year 2021 began as a continuation of the same things that had happened in 2020. Annual survey reports were summarized, noting a participation rate of 52% by parish councils, down from last year’s 68%. We persist and will do it again with further changes to the questions for this year.
My role as liaison between the national executive/board and implementation committee continued, during which time I observed even more of a thrust on work being completed by the working groups. To hear the members’ passion and see their desire to deliver only the best products possible was uplifting.
Six months of work with the provincial presidents-elect on an executive orientation for all levels was completed and placed on the national website on June 14th. Please, everyone—council executives and members—spend time on the 10 individual modules and introduction module that explains the reason for and use of the modules. I think you will be blown away by the depth and detail of the content. The provincial presidents-elect would not settle for only a PowerPoint version of the material; they also chose to provide each module as a recorded delivery! During the pandemic, the months spent in meetings, on e-mails and telephone calls with the provincial presidents-elect was my number one highlight; my second was the June 14th release date. These members have much to be proud of.
Councils have found creative ways to stay in touch with members. One of my favourites is the picking of daffodils, then picking strawberries, and then raspberries by a council in Abbotsford, British Columbia, all of which were fundraisers for them.
Again this year, membership numbers are down. Enhancements are happening on the membership database and a number of them will be released in time for the new membership year this fall.
The “Join” page on the national website now includes a letter generated and sent to the respective diocesan president-elect each time a potential member in her diocese shows interest. The letter includes information on the potential new member and provides direction for the parish council’s organization chairperson, along with follow-up for the provincial and national organization chairpersons. Sadly, these steps are not being followed and potential members are lost.
National Life Member Liaison Ann Doucet continued to fulfill her role with informative communiques. Most recently Ann has been securing biographies and photographs of the nine newest life members, which will be included in the fall issue of The Canadian League.
Chairing the manuals task force has allowed for close work with National Secretary-Treasurer Janet McLean, National Chairperson of Resolutions Cathy Bouchard, provincial presidents Judy Look and Rosa Lam, and Life Member Becky Kallal. We have each had “ah-ha” moments as we were faced with writing very clear instruction while we reviewed processes we use infrequently. Sixteen manuals are involved in this process, with the majority near completion.
As time permitted, I discerned on the theme for 2022. This third year, or as I call it “my bonus year,” in this position was a chance to get to really know many members through the working groups, task force committee work and virtual meetings. To delve into old and new areas of the League and observe the skills, knowledge and deep love of the League these members have and share was an affirmation of what the League really is.
National Chairperson of Christian Family Life Pat Deppiesse
As said in my annual report, Charles Dickens wrote in the first line of his book A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It seems to me these words are certainly applicable for this past half year with the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Christian family life standing committee touches the lives of everyone: pre-born, youth, disabled, single, married, divorced, seniors, widowed, the elderly, the dying and also religious vocations. Members’ vocation is “to grow in faith, and to witness to the love of God through ministry and service”. I am sure every member has done some work covered under this committee during their years of membership.
The League is a pro-life organization and has a beautiful pro-life brochure that outlines the many ways members can be involved in life issues. Councils are encouraged to order one for each member from the national office. Hopefully, as councils get back to normal, members can once again attend the various marches for life across the country to demonstrate support of life at all stages.
We empathize with those suffering because of failed relationships—women who are separated and divorced. Again, the League has a brochure, Annulments Today—Merciful and Just. Members need to see the face of Jesus in each wounded soul, offering them understanding and compassion. Please order these brochures from national office and put them in the women’s washroom at the church and make them available in the vestibules. Let us continue our work towards eradicating all violence towards women.
I hope all councils will participate in LifeCanada’s Dying Healed program that trains volunteers in how to reach out to the sick and dying, especially at the end of life when people may be lonely and vulnerable. Even in this time of pandemic, the League managed to collect $9,203 through the temporary national voluntary fund for Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
I urge you to become the change that you wish to see in the world and leave you with a quote from Pope Francis from The Joy of the Gospel. “Going out to the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.”
National Chairperson of Community Life Marie Rackley
The community life standing committee has continued to shine in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic did not dampen the spirit of members for they continued to serve their communities within Canada and support those overseas.
I am happy to report the League, through its permanent national voluntary fund, will send $10,020 in August to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which will support the Holy Land projects. A cumulative total of $42,957 was collected from parish councils for the Care for Our Common Home project, designated for well repair in India and a school lunch program in Ethiopia. The League’s National Day of Prayer for Christians in the Holy Land will continue to be celebrated each year on September 21st.
On February 12, 2021, a press release stated that for three years, the All-Party Parliamentary Group to end Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking has tabled motions urging parliament to recognize February 22nd as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
I am pleased to report that the League’s partnership with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is strong and that the monies received in the voluntary fund from July 2020 to June 2021 of $11,985 will be sent following the national annual meeting of members.
National Chairperson of Education and Health Faith Anderson
Having completed my third year as chairperson of education and health, this extra year has provided the opportunity to explore new challenges such as having virtual meetings with my provincial counterparts.
Another opportunity was the ability to offer a webinar on palliative care. A Practical Discussion about Palliative Care webinar was presented on May 8th and drew 684 attendees. Over 200 comments were received requesting information on Catholic resources. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has been working on developing a palliative care kit for parishes to be launched on November 21st. The kit includes videos, resources and links and will be available on the CCCB website for downloading.
Councils recognized National Hospice and Palliative Care Week by utilizing the 12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care kit. While some councils had members pray in their homes, others organized a virtual event. Thank you and kudos to all councils for taking the time to pray and learn more about palliative care. As Catholics, we are mindful of our beliefs and recognize the need to respect life from conception to natural death. The palliative care postcard is a good tool to inform the federal government of your concerns.
To recognize the 100th anniversary of the League and its over $800,000 in donations, Coady International Institute has produced two videos with testimonies from women who have graduated from the Diploma in Developmental Leadership Program. I am pleased to share that $13,543 collected from councils to June 30th, will be provided to the institute to help women with leadership opportunities. It is wonderful to see that even in very difficult times members have continued to provide monetary assistance to the valuable organizations that the League supports.
The national bursary committee was pleased to award bursaries to six applicants in the total amount of $5,500. The qualified areas were youth ministry, ministry to patients in palliative care and adult formation, including one applicant from the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation program. Donations from councils and members to the National Bursary Fund of $6,960 are gratefully acknowledged. The League received a generous legacy of $10,000 from the late Life Member Georgina Bourke, which was ear-marked for the National Bursary Fund.
Some councils participated in the Care for Our Common Home initiative by planting trees, arranging clean-up of community areas, and eliminating plastic straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam. Since the release of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, members have been reminded of the ongoing need to care for the planet. Throughout 2021 and 2022, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform will be launched in stages to be comprised of three elements: Laudato Si’ plans, practical guidance and community. More information is available at laudatosiplatform.org.
National Chairperson of Communications Doreen Gowans
Communication has many changing faces. It all began when God created Adam and Eve and the snake encouraged Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The Stone Age people wrote and drew pictures on the walls of their caves, and many years later we used Gestetners, typewriters, photocopiers, computers and much more to spread the good news of the Lord and the League.
Fortunately, we have been blessed to hold national conventions every year since the League’s inception in 1920 until 1942 when then National President Mrs. J. A. McCabe had to convene her convention over the airwaves due to World War II. Now, instead of conventions, National President Anne-Marie Gorman had to virtually offer the Summer Speakers’ Series in 2020 and the national annual meeting of members in 2021.
With the arrival of the COVID–19 pandemic, various means of communication had to change as members no longer could meet face to face. This provided councils with a challenge of how to communicate to members at all levels. Members learned various platforms such as GoToMeeting, webinars, Zoom conference calls, etc. They watched streamlined masses online and accessed spiritual broadcasts.
This was only because members have been in extremely unprecedented times. Now, priests are doing their part to gather their congregations back into the church pews. Members need to reclaim in-person meetings to actively participate in spirituality, education, joy and the fun League sisters offer when they meet in person.
In some cases, we as communicators may be considered the welcoming committee and therefore we may want to encourage councils to consider reestablishing the telephone tree or sending personal e-mail invitations to invite all members back to regular council meetings as soon as possible.
As a way to celebrate the 100th anniversary, The Catholic Register has offered to produce a special 26-page magazine in celebration of the occasion. Personal stories and interviews from members, councils and spiritual advisors were requested and received. Look forward to receiving this issue in September. Members who are not subscribers to The Catholic Register will have an opportunity to purchase copies for a cost of $5.00 plus shipping and handling. Those who subscribe will receive a complimentary copy.
Following the national elections, a new national chairperson of communications will work with a team to review the League’s website. Under her guidance, the team will be comprised of Implementation Committee Vice-Chairperson Lisa Henry, member of the marketing and communications working groups Lisa Fillingham, former national chairperson of communications and First Vice-President Shari Guinta and myself. Look for new and exciting things to come over the next year.
National Chairperson of Resolutions Cathy Bouchard
“Sit with women who sit at the feet of Jesus. The conversations are different. You walk away feeling inspired not inferior because those are the women who know [that being a Catholic woman is a way of life] and not a competition” (Adarra Sherron). Members of the League who work together to create a resolution sit at the feet of Jesus. They are working together to follow God’s will to make the world a better place for families, parishes and the larger world. They advocate for God’s world of justice and peace here and now and for the future.
It has been a difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting much of the work of resolutions. While in other years the challenges for resolutions have been different, in this past year the main challenge was not being able to gather. Without being able to meet in person, members have not been able to bring concerns and potential issues to one another’s attention. Even resolutions that were considered urgent were not able to be presented so that they could be debated and adopted. One of the rights of membership is meeting in-person to question, probe and set positions through resolutions. Any resolutions that have been prepared will be deferred to 2022. Deferring resolutions that move through the different levels gives the opportunity to allow for the full participation of interested members.
Councils at all levels have made members aware of the issues addressed in resolutions through electronic meetings, e-mail or newsletters. Members continued to write to federal or provincial governments and sign petitions. Members were most passionate about palliative care, the quality of care in long-term-care homes, pro-life issues, gender identity, youth mental health, abuse of seniors and Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This fall would be a good time to establish a resolutions committee to review and update resolutions that your council has been working on—review the wording of the resolution and the brief. Ensure the research links are still current.
Continue to work on preparing resolutions. Issues of concern in your parish, diocese, province or in the country can be a topic of a resolution. Previous topics of resolutions may need to be updated with newer information and references.
Contact elected members of government to let them know your concerns. Each member makes a difference by adding her “voice and support to this national sisterhood of Catholic women who promote awareness and respond to political and social issues that affect all Canadians”.
If you want to make a difference in the world and in the League, be part of creating resolutions.
National Chairperson of Legislation Betty Colaneri
As doors closed and businesses shut down to brace for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislation standing committee stood its ground. Legislation was the lighthouse that guided Canadians in health and safety. To assist with the raging waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bill C-4 An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, Bill C-9 An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), Bill C-13 An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19 (COVID19 Emergency Response Act), Bill C-14 A second Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, Bill C-15 The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and Bill C-24 An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (additional regular benefits), the Canada Recovery Benefits Act (restriction on eligibility) and another Act in response to COVID-19 received royal assent.
While members looked for rays of hope, they spent more time working remotely. Though members could not gather facts, collect evidence or conduct interviews in person, they persevered with examining legislation, as well as taking a more in-depth look into government activities. Legislation chairpersons handled the restrictions by educating themselves on existing legislation and its impact on families, society, municipalities, provinces and country.
One bill that created a wave of concern and frustration was Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). Members rallied by contacting their local political representative with calls, letters and e-mails, as well as submitting petitions. Unfortunately, Bill C-7 received royal assent, but it will not deter members’ diligent pursuit for palliative care as the dignified choice.
Advocacy was proudly on display for the respect and dignity for life at all stages as members spoke out for those in long-term-care homes. The horrific conditions in these homes led to greater participation and desire to become involved not only by members but the community at large. With great fervour, members sent e-mails and letters to their local members of parliament to express their deep concern. They stressed the need for urgent and appropriate action to be taken.
Even though it was difficult, members turned their attention to using different social media platforms to keep members informed of pending bills, their progress and when to act in a timely manner.
This June 21st was commemorated with the royal assent of Bill C-8 An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 94). “This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to include, in the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, a solemn promise to respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”
With stay-at-home orders in effect, the opportunity to catch up on new and old friendships was provided. As I sorted through the media information, I found a navigator I had developed a bond with unbeknownst to her. CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme became my source for up-to-date information. One of the highlights was the historical moment when Mary Simon became the first Indigenous governor general of Canada.
At the beginning of our terms, national officers were to list their long-term goals. One of mine was updating the legislation workshop. It is now available for members to use as a PowerPoint presentation or an interactive workshop. Here is something that you probably thought you wouldn’t hear: legislation in an interesting, interactive workshop!
National Chairperson of Laws Margaret Ann Jacobs
I am not a lawyer. I am not an archivist. I am not a historian. I am the national past president responsible for League archives and history and the interpretation of the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B), while serving in a consultative capacity.
I have drawn extensively on the expertise of wise ones who have gone before me, the analytical, unbiased knowledge of the office staff, especially Executive Director Kim Scammell, as well as the perspectives of elected representatives from across the country. It has been a challenging as well as educational and rewarding experience serving you.
Much has transpired over this past term. Never before has there been such consultation required in the League with so many new and challenging issues. Monthly virtual administrative meetings became the norm. Requests for guidance and support increased phenomenally as councils responded to the pressures of organizing events and outreach in a pandemic world.
My term began with the adoption of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada Plans Strategically 2018-2022. This set in motion required changes to the C&B. The national amendments committee composed of honorary life members Joan Chesser, Velma Harasen and Claire Heron, National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization Fran Lucas and National President and Chairperson of International Relations Anne-Marie Gorman worked diligently with me to reflect the changes submitted by members and the implementation committee working groups for planning strategically. In response to input from you, the members, voting was delayed on these proposed changes until August 2022.
Fortunately, I was able to visit national office pre-pandemic to familiarize myself with the files as well as research information. I was also blessed to have access in my own files to the minutes, annual report books, The Canadian League magazines and more recent annual report summaries to enable the update of League history. I am proud to present Remembering, Respecting, Recognizing Our Past, History of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada 2006-2020 in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the League in 2020. Each parish council will receive a copy in the fall parish mailing.
I regret that working visits to the national office by the archive committee were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to joining the new team as this monumental task of filing is renewed.
I urge past presidents at all levels to actively pursue the update of your histories as soon as you are allowed access to your League files. Too quickly the stories are lost and forgotten. A brochure outlining the archiving process was included in the past parish mailing and is also available on the national website.
I suggest that each member who steps into a role of leadership in the League has great plans for her term of office, plans for change, just as I did. What I have come to realize is that I did not change anything. It was I who changed. We need to remember that God is always in charge.
Are there challenges facing the League today? Definitely! But as I delved through the archives, read past League magazines and annual reports, I found that the basic issues facing the League in the past were not much different than what they are today.
I take consolation in a meditation from Word Among Us referencing how Abram put his faith in the Lord “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them” (Genesis 15.5). Abram had to gaze into the noontime sky with eyes of faith and believe that the stars were still there.
We must trust in the Lord even when we may not see how things will work out. The stars are still there even when the sun is shining. The League remains “a vital participant in the church; a valued partner for social justice; a respected advocate at all government levels and connected to the world.” It remains a bright star even in the noontime sun. Have faith.
National Chairperson of International Relations Anne-Marie Gorman
The League’s connection to its sister organizations around the world is through close association with the World Union of Women’s Organisations (WUCWO), of which Canada is one of 50 countries in all continents and one of 94 member organizations. In Canada, there are two member organizations, the League and the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Marusia Kobrynski as North American vice-president sits on the board of WUCWO. It is encouraging to note also that WUCWO is working with five other organizations that it is hopeful will join by the general assembly to be held in Assisi, Italy in 2023.
While I was unable to attend any meetings this year, in person, WUCWO hosted several webinars for women around the world of which I attended virtually:
- webinar on Laudato Si’ guided by Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
- WUCWO Day celebration with a farewell to pontifical assistant Fr. Gerard Whelan, SJ
- webinar entitled Women in the Church, facilitated by Sr. Nathalie Bacquart
WUCWO President General Maria Lia Zervino asks for prayers for the cause of canonization of Pilar Bellosillo, who was president general of WUCWO from 1961-1974. You may find the prayer on the WUCWO website, wucwo.org.
Religions for Peace, organized since 1971, hosted virtual sessions in 2021 and I was able to register for one event.
Alberta Mackenzie Provincial President Judy Look
Since June 2019, Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council has embraced the national theme Care for Our Common Home. The provincial theme, Building Relationships and Effecting Change, is rooted in three cups of tea—a strategy for building relationships and accomplishing work around the executive table. The first cup is the idea, the second cup is taking the time to mull the idea, and the third cup is embracing the idea.
When the provincial executive began its two-year tenure, which magically turned into three, it created a provincial focus for Alberta and the Northwest Territories to connect with Catholic partners in education, health, the sanctity of life and the Indigenous community for the purpose of having a strong Catholic voice. Strides were made on three fronts, and it was hoped to make some inroads with Indigenous people at the provincial convention that was to be held in Lac La Biche on June 5, 2020.
COVID-19 had other ideas. All cups of tea were removed from the table—except COVID-19—and all councils in Alberta and the Northwest Territories were thrust into flux. It became impossible to make plans as things were shutting down. Then another cup appeared on the table—a lifeline called virtual meetings. Executives and councils took the opportunity to be involved in retreats, governance workshops, implementation working groups and regular council meetings. The executives at all levels worked overtime, trying to stay connected with their sisters with the result of COVID fatigue.
It was recognized that all members were craving the physical touch of their sisters and were becoming frustrated with the lack of personal engagement. COVID-19 being a killer then initiated the murmurings of, “Why be a member if you cannot get together?” The question had to be addressed. Changing COVID into an acronym for “Catholic Organization of Vitality, Inspiration and Dedication,” members were reminded that through their work, women in developing countries had a voice through the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUWCO), Canadian politicians at all levels were challenged to acknowledge there is a “culture of life,” and council work gave visibility to the poor. They were reminded being a member is a privilege, a gift and a calling. It is a privilege because it comes from baptism, a twofold gift as members become part of a sisterhood, and the League thrives because of the giftedness of its members and a calling. We are not members by chance. God wants to help bring His presence to the world. Instead of mourning physical touch, members were encouraged to embrace breakout rooms as an opportunity to interact and to meet ladies beyond their own councils. They found praying the Alberta Mackenzie weekly rosary a source of strength and comfort.
All five diocesan councils had successful virtual annual meetings of members, and their reports indicated that the work had not stopped. Yes, there were some councils that had not met, and some councils had disbanded. Still, most were weathering the storm. They looked forward to the fall when they would be able to meet in person, start to implement the Welcome Program, continue to develop the three pillars of faith, service and social justice, and join once more in prayer to celebrate the importance of the organization.
Executives are being asked to place on the top of their agendas the letters “AMDG,” a Latin acronym for “all for the honour and glory of God” and refer to it during meetings: to remind them of what the League is about; to have a study time for the planning strategically document so as to educate members about the organization; to adopt a baby in danger of abortion by naming the child and praying for him or her daily as prayer is the only weapon against abortion; to study Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti and make it part of their spiritual program; to learn about Indigenous peoples; and to be grateful—grateful for being a member, for the opportunity to serve, for the sisterhood, for being called to build the kingdom of God, and that God loves us and wants us to be His face in our world.
B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Sharon Geiger
As your newly elected president of B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council, it is my delight and honour to represent and report on its 126 councils containing close to 8,120 members. Two of the six diocesan councils had elections, with mostly full executives being elected.
What a year this has been. The provincial executive was lucky to have met in person for the spring meeting in March 2020. On the last day of the meeting, the COVID-19 situation was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. “This will be over pretty soon,” executive members thought and made plans for the provincial convention in Vernon. Little did we know how the year would turn out.
Like other councils, the provincial executive became “techies” and learned to hold virtual meetings. In one diocesan report, a president stated, “Who would have known that we needed to dress like gangsters to go and buy groceries. The presentation of life membership to Sharon Ciebin was filmed and shown at the diocesan annual meeting of members. Members became innovative. Members in remote areas benefitted from ”Zoom” meetings by feeling more connected.
Two diocesan presidents created PowerPoints on the Welcome Program and an explanation of the amendments. One diocesan executive composed a Traditional Catholic Prayer Book, which can be accessed on the provincial website. Many more newsletters were established to keep councils connected and informed. The provincial past president was asked by the March for Life committee for a two-minute video to promote CWL actions on pro-life issues. This was a learning experience for her.
Since Pope Francis dedicated 2021 to St. Joseph, the provincial chairperson of spiritual development invited all B.C & Yukon members to a St. Joseph contest. Participation was great, with prizes awarded.
Because of the cancellation of the provincial convention, there were excess funds which were refunded by returning one-half of the provincial per capita fee to the six diocesan councils. A provincial incentive to the next national convention in Kelowna is being planned. The planning committee is working hard for an exceptional convention.
Manitoba Provincial President Janet Brunger
League sisters have continued to demonstrate their caring and concern for each other through these trying times by reaching out via telephone and e-mail and in their prayers for those in need.
Earlier this year, members embraced the opportunity to participate in two virtual presentations in lieu of an in-person Day of Celebration due to the pandemic lockdown in Manitoba. The first presentation was hosted by Tim Killoran of Catholic Christian Outreach, speaking on the power of prayer. He touched on how prayer can help others, how prayer can also change us and how we can encounter God in prayer. The second presentation was a one-hour Lenten retreat presented by member Gina Hoe and entitled I Am Sorry, I Forgive You, I Love You. Both presentations were very well received, and the evaluations gave high marks to both presenters.
Winnipeg Diocesan Council’s annual meeting of members was held on May 15th, at which it celebrated its 100th anniversary. In commemoration of this milestone event, the council had struck a sub-committee that diligently expended numerous hours to create a coffee table booklet, together with an additional flash-drive with many pictures and articles highlighting noteworthy League events in this diocese over the past century. It was truly a labour of love, resulting in a work of art!
Keewatin-The Pas Diocesan Council’s annual meeting of members was held on May 29th. Elections were held, which resulted in a new executive with Bernadette Benson assuming the role of president.
St. Boniface Diocesan Council’s annual meeting of members was held on June 29th. Regrettably, the election did not result in a full executive. Currently, dedicated life members from St. Boniface Diocesan Council are in consultations to resolve this matter.
The Manitoba Provincial Council annual meeting of members was held on June 26th and all necessary business was covered in a very timely manner.
Currently, members are optimistic that the coming months will bring further easing of restrictions to permit some form of return to normal; that councils will again be able to hold meetings, fundraisers and events that will support the many charities important to our grassroots members.
Military Ordinariate Provincial President Allison Klemen
The women of the Military Ordinariate Provincial Council live and serve wherever a Canadian Armed Forces family is posted, deployed or retired. Although councils are physically located at 13 active military base chapels across Canada, the reach is global, like the military diocese. At the moment, there is one member who is active in her council all the way from her posting in South Korea. I am joining you today from my family’s second posting to the United States. Although I am only two hours from the border, I may as well have been across an ocean during this pandemic—the distance from Rome, New York has felt just as big. Thank God for the Internet and “Zoom”, which allow me and my friend in Korea to join our councils virtually.
This year, through the geographical distancing and the social distancing, through all of the constantly changing restrictions, members have helped each other through cancer diagnoses, lost husbands, lost parents, lost children, illness, high-risk pregnancy, deployments, mid-pandemic relocations, university degrees and more. In addition to accompanying each other through life during this challenging time, most councils found a way to continue to meet. A few councils fully embraced the opportunity provided by technology and met more often than they would have in person. Many councils embraced what they had at their disposal, learned some new skills and met just enough to get the job done. A few councils struggled but tried to stay connected in their own way.
In February, “Zoom” enabled the provincial council to hold its first-ever virtual new member orientation, which gave the newest members a chance to meet each other and to learn about the League, while being accompanied and introduced by seasoned members of their local council. In April, a multilingual prayer service was held on “Zoom” for the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Most recently, “Zoom” enabled the 53rd provincial annual meeting of members. Attendees were blessed to have Bishop Scott McCaig (Military Ordinariate) with them for the whole day of business and during the virtual evening banquet that was complete with traditional toasts, grace and presentations. The program included recipes that allowed everyone to prepare the same drinks and snacks to enjoy together from wherever they were. New officers were installed during a bilingual mass, of course on “Zoom”, and a small but mighty team for this term hit the ground running.
This has been such a challenging year for most councils, and in military life and civilian life, challenges continue even outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. My goals for this term are to help members manage transition and embrace new ideas, encourage outreach and build some bridges. I had an analog childhood and digital adulthood, and so I have a foot in two worlds. Like many people my age, I hope I can be a bridge, and in whatever small way I can, help foster growth in faith, service and social justice in the military community and beyond.
New Brunswick Provincial President June Brown
Thirty-seven councils in New Brunswick continue to forge ahead in these unsettling times. While some have done their best to stay connected and get their business done, others have not been able to meet for various reasons. The provincial council chaired monthly “Zoom” meetings to keep in touch with those brave enough to tackle this new means of communication. Otherwise, councils were kept up-to-date via e-mail and telephone.
Of those councils that kept active, they were able to meet via “Zoom”, in a parking lot or socially distanced in a church or church hall. Although most churches are open, the church halls are not. Following all COVID-19 protocols and staying distanced, some councils were able to hold a yard sale. A couple assisted their parish in a take-out supper — stew and sandwiches were made and distributed through their community. Blessing bags were filled with personal items and distributed to women’s and men’s shelters. A couple of small councils collected their annual dues by braving the elements and visiting members at their front door. Fifty-fifty draws were held to raise money for bursaries. Book sales and bottle drives were held, and Easter remembrances were distributed. World Day of Prayer was celebrated virtually.
The provincial executive met via “Zoom” early in the New Year. Then in May, the executive met in person. Following the business meeting, mass was celebrated, and a social time was enjoyed.
In June, the executive and a few parish council presidents met in person for the annual meeting of members, with others joining via “Zoom”. All pertinent business was conducted, the election and a beautiful prayer service for deceased members were held, and the two-day meeting ended with the installation of officers and prayer service for residential schools. Again, following a beautiful meal and Liturgy of the Word, attendees were royally entertained during a social time filled with humour, lots of laughs and sisterhood companionship. It was good to be together in person.
The provincial executive is pleased to have a full slate of officers. Once the provinces “opens up”, councils will be back to a somewhat normal agenda and be able to meet in person. It will take time for councils to re-organize and get members “back in the groove.” In-person fall regional meetings is anticipated.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Holy Redeemer parish councils in Saint John celebrated 100 years of organization in the spring. St. Michael (Miramichi), St. Bernard (Moncton), and Sacred Heart (Bathurst) parish councils will celebrate 100 years this fall.
Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial President Judy Hodge
On June 5, 2021, I became the newly elected provincial president of Newfoundland & Labrador Provincial Council during its annual meeting of members. What an honour and privilege it is to be of service “For God and Canada.”
In these challenging times with a worldwide pandemic upon us, members are relieved to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. COVID-19 case numbers are low and borders are open. During the past 16 months, members have kept the faith. They have prayed tirelessly for their sisters in the League, prayed for Canada and the province. Councils have not been meeting regularly. Still, they have been encouraged to continue doing as they have done in the past—plant a tree to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the League, donate to a charity or the local food bank, and send messages of hope and encouragement to their sisters in the League and anyone they feel may need it in these trying times.
At the recent annual meeting of members, while strictly adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, provincial council adopted a theme for this coming year, Amoris Laetitia—On Love in the Family. This year is the “Year of the Family,” so it seemed very fitting to acknowledge and pay tribute to families.
I am saddened to report the loss of two respected and loved life members in the past 16 months. Both Ruby Sharp and Agnes Ebbs passed away and are both truly missed. They were both inspirations to the League.
All councils have been kept up to date with the implementation of the strategic plan. They have been encouraged to follow all updates posted on the website. More information regarding updates will become available at regular fall meetings. I am happy to report that I was involved in creating the Executive Orientation that has just recently become available. It was truly a blessing to work with members from across the country on this project. During the past year, members have been encouraged to take part in various events, namely to celebrate World Oceans Day, plant trees for the 100th anniversary of the League and show their appreciation for essential workers during the pandemic.
Despite the many challenges of this past year, the provincial executive is more than ready to start afresh in the fall—refreshed and rejuvenated to continue good works for communities and the province, “For God and Canada.”
Nova Scotia Provincial President Joline Belliveau
As in the year 2020, the provincial executive started the year with expectations. However, this time it was hoped the COVID-19 pandemic would abate, and in person gatherings could be resumed. With the resurgence of the virus and variants, the province had to re-impose restrictions to bring the virus under control. As this was occurring across Canada, the national executive/board determined that conventions could not be held, but an option for carrying out business meetings partially virtually would be able to take place. With that direction in mind, diocesan presidents and the provincial president met to determine a format that would work best. It was decided to use a consistent format for all meetings. Meeting dates were pushed back from traditional timeframes to provide parish councils, in particular, more time to meet to do their instructed votes for the upcoming elections.
Despite ongoing challenges in meeting as would normally do as an organization, much work continued at all levels. Some councils devised new means of fundraising to be able to continue to support charities and the national voluntary funds. Much energy went to support church communities, as members joined teams to help with scheduling mass attendance and cleaning and sanitizing. There was also outreach to others, especially those experiencing isolation due to the pandemic. Catholic women rose strongly together to confront the hardships being experienced.
Progressing into spring, more tragedy struck. This time it was related to Indigenous people and the realization of the significance of the deaths of Indigenous children through the discovery of unmarked graves and the trauma experienced by parents who waited in vain for their children to return. As Catholic women, this tragedy struck on many levels: personally, within the province, as faithful members of the beloved church and as Canadians. As with all that is bad and horrible, good often arises if we allow it. We are now talking about the tragic impact of residential schools and colonization on Indigenous people. We can move forward with authentic action that advocates for better living conditions and equality for Indigenous people and others who experience marginalization and prejudice. Canada is an affluent nation, yet many living on reservations do not have clean drinking water. Crowded conditions allow for the easy spread of infections such as tuberculosis and COVID-19. The CWL recognized the need to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day before the discovery of the lost children. Members were called to invite Indigenous women to council meetings and share their stories. This shows that there was already recognition of the need for respect and inclusion for Indigenous people in this nation.
The need for advocacy is strong and is central to the League’s mission. I call on every member to reflect on Indigenous communities and how we can make a difference. As one person, I am a small voice. As a chorus of Nova Scotia Catholic women, we are a tremendous force. As more than 70,000 Catholic women nationwide, we can be the ultimate voice for peace, justice and faith for those in the world who are so desperately in need of attention and compassion.
Ontario Provincial President Colleen Perry
We live in unprecedented times that call for unprecedented measures. 2020 was, to say the least, one of those times. The year began as usual across the province, with retreats, League Development Days and provincial workshops.
Then the world, as we know it, came to a sudden halt in March 2020. The global pandemic stopped travel and meeting in general. Wave after wave of lockdowns and shutdowns and isolation overwhelmed us all. Conventions were cancelled, and the Constitution & Bylaws of this organization were tested beyond any recollection.
Despite the difficulties, or perhaps inspired by those difficulties, members in Ontario excelled at staying connected. The obstacles of the pandemic were used as learning opportunities by learning to “Zoom” and “GoTo” and returning to plain old-fashioned telephone calls. Councils across the province met virtually to pray, exchange ideas and support each other. There were many cards sent. Provincial life members became “prayer warriors.” Every member participated in flooding heaven with prayers and initiated unique ways of reaching out to the lonely and isolated. Monthly and often weekly prayer services renewed personal commitments to faith and encouraged rosary devotions for support and guidance.
Members continued to write letters to their members of parliament, both federal and provincial, regarding euthanasia, conditions in long-term care homes and accessibility to mental health services for everyone. The pandemic brought forth the realization that health services were lacking.
Even though a government visit had not been arranged due to the pandemic, provincial government leaders and individual ministries were reminded of active resolutions requiring government attention by letter writing and phone calls. Members were not silent despite the inability to meet.
Members and their families were impacted as they chatted on computer screens, visited loved ones through windows, were not always allowed in church, teas were on hold and friendly interaction was at a minimum. Through it all, I witnessed God’s blessings in members who kept their councils alive in unique ways by praying for the safety of children, teachers, and those in long-term care. They found creative ways to hold 12 Hours of Prayer, participated in virtual fundraisers, sewed and donated masks, held virtual prayer services, showed Care for Our Common Home by planting trees and gardens and donating vegetables. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I read of the kindness of others setting up food stands for people to help themselves to freshly grown produce, neighbours checking on each other, book sharing and sending postcards to put a smile on a friend’s face. The pandemic reminded us how precious life is. I pray that we will remember the good that arose out of the darkness of the pandemic and will continue to be kind to one another!
As the League grows and changes to adapt to today’s changing world, members look forward with anticipation and excitement to bringing their renewed faith, their undying commitment and their love of God and country into the future, whatever that might be.
Prince Edward Island Provincial President Marilyn Gay Garvey
It is an honour to present my first oral report and to represent the 33 parish councils and approximately 1,700 members in the province. I am happy to say members have persevered through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and have still managed to care for their council members and communities during this time. Prayer, the cornerstone of all League activities, took on a new dimension. Members resorted to online and television attendance at mass and virtual rosaries and devotions. When the churches partially reopened, members dedicated themselves to being Eucharistic ministers, lectors, cantors, registering and ushering parishioners, and sanitizing the churches. Other councils called members and other seniors on their parish registry to check in on them.
Other changes took place for the provincial executive and local councils. All executive members at all levels continued for a third year in their roles. “Zoom” meetings became the new way to do business, and members were kept updated and connected by e-mails, telephone and Canada Post. Members were invited to participate in online programs such as retreats, the national council’s palliative care webinar, On the Spot, etc. The 12 Hours of Prayer was done in members’ homes. Many councils planted trees in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the League . Following the discovery of the remains of Indigenous children at the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, members were saddened and wondered how they could help with reconciliation efforts. Prayers and masses were offered, and all remembered National Indigenous Peoples Day. One council prepared a special reflection with prayers and symbols.
I am very proud of provincial executive members, three of whom were involved in strategic planning working groups. Other members answered survey questionnaires and provided feedback on products and toolkits. Past President Irene Gallant received her life membership (2020), and President-Elect Karen Rossiter is presently enrolled in the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation Program.
Fortunately, the provincial executive was able to hold its annual meeting of members on May 7th at Holy Redeemer Church, following COVID-19 protocols. Sixty-eight members attended, and other members watched the live stream from their homes. Provincial reports were read and the election of new officers took place. The spiritual advisor and chairperson of spiritual development gave very meaningful spiritual exercises, and mass completed the afternoon.
The Provincial Subsidy Program of $200.00 to enable four councils to hold a workshop or retreat following the theme, Care for Our Common Home/Care for Our People continued, while respecting COVID protocols.
I would like to share my goals and plans for the next two years: to minister to senior members, to support them in their Catholic faith, to see the end of life as a journey to God, not as a choice/pressure to choose euthanasia/medical assistance in dying; to be supportive of palliative and home care and most importantly, spiritual care; to invite and encourage younger members and newcomers to join the League using the Welcome Program; to plan for Prince Edward Island Provincial Council’s 100th anniversary in May 2022; to review the new Mission Statement, “The CWL of Canada calls its members to grow in faith, and to witness to the love of God through ministry and service”; and to continue moving forward with the strategic plan and the new Executive Orientation.
Quebec Provincial President Rosa Lam
During this time, members have become “Zoom” experts. It became the way to go and members embraced the technology to keep the League functioning. At the midterm meeting in March, the Quebec executive asked for the national financial statement for information regarding the proposed per capita fee increase. When councils start meeting in person, there will be the opportunity to explain to members the financial situation of the League.
The task force for the review and revision of handbooks and manuals kept my agenda very busy. It is important work for the League, and I am happy to contribute to this effort. I also attended very informative governance sessions. It was good to know how the League’s work is done.
On June 19th, the Quebec provincial annual meeting of members was held in the hall of St. Luke’s church in Dollard des Ormeaux, a hybrid meeting with 10 members in person and 25 virtual attendees. It was one-day long, with a packed agenda. A new president of St. Jean-Longueil Diocesan Council was welcomed. For in-person attendees, a delicious Vietnamese lunch was served.
St. Luke Parish Council’s Spiritual Advisor Fr. Bertrand Montpetit was scrutineer for the national elections nominations. He presided over the closing mass and the new life members ceremony, blessing new life members Linda Chisholm, Evelyn Meaney, Anna Bawer DiLallo and myself.
Provincial executive members sent many communiques that are approved before sending them to the councils. One executive member was hospitalized a couple of times, and I helped with the duties during that time.
Working with the provincial presidents is very enriching. To listen and discuss problems across the country and propose solutions for the good of League members was a good experience.
Saskatchewan Provincial President Chantal Devine
Despite the directive that resolutions would not be entertained at this year’s annual meetings of members, one council felt that an exception should be made due to the urgency of their message. Following the shocking news of the 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia, the resolution submitted at the 73rd provincial annual meeting of members asked that the federal government fulfill the requests entitled Missing Children and Burial Information, numbers 71 to 76, inclusive of the Calls to Action included in the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A letter asking for immediate action on this resolution was sent to the national president.
All three diocesan councils held an annual meeting using the hybrid format where a few members met in person, and the rest joined virtually. Prince Albert Diocesan Council had an election and was able to fill all but three positions on the executive. After serving a three-year term, Saskatoon Diocesan Council was able to fill all positions on its newly elected executive. The president of the Regina Diocesan Council was unable to fulfill her third year in office, so her position was assumed by the president-elect. All Regina diocesan executive members were re-affirmed for another year.
The statistics for the year ending December 31, 2020, showed the number of councils in the province only decreased by one. Three councils disbanded, one council reactivated, and one new council formed. Its formation was largely due to the enthusiastic encouragement of the parish priest, provincial spiritual advisor Fr. Peter Nnanga MSP. Interestingly, this was the only new council established in Canada in 2020! On December 31, 2020, there were 5,622 members in Saskatchewan, 245 members fewer than on January 1, 2020. One hundred and seventy-five new members were welcomed into the League during a year of pandemic, and 71 members were reinstated. I am happy to report that in the Regina diocese, 53 new members joined the League after their parish priest, former provincial spiritual advisor Fr. Francis Hengen, spoke on the benefits of belonging to a faith-based organization.
When I began my term as president two years ago, one of my goals was to start the first Catholic Girl’s League (CGL) in Saskatchewan. This was accomplished in October 2019 at Holy Spirit, my home parish in Saskatoon. St. Joseph’s Parish Council (Moose Jaw) followed suit and started the first CGL in the Regina Diocese this past year. In honour of the League’s centennial, the Moose Jaw CGL assisted the members of their parish council in planting a hardy Burr Oak tree to provide shade to the Memorial Bench for the Unborn and Infant Loss in the Sunset Cemetery in Moose Jaw.
I was saddened by the loss of Life Member Mildred Young this past year. Saskatchewan did not have any new life members in 2020.
The provincial council purchased 5,000 postcards of the Pornography Hurts and 5,000 of the palliative care postcards. These postcards will be given to the three diocesan councils, and diocesan presidents will ensure the distribution to their parish councils. The Pornography Hurts postcards will be mailed to the prime minister and members of parliament in September. In October, the palliative care postcards will be mailed to the prime minister, the federal minister of health and the provincial minister of health.
At the onset of the pandemic, provincial council purchased the GoToMeeting application, which has proven to be an invaluable tool in helping members stay connected. Not only is it used for virtual meetings and workshops, but also for a weekly CWL rosary. The rosary is also prayed each Monday evening on Facebook live on the provincial council’s Facebook page.
In 2020, the three Saskatchewan graduates from the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program were Shannon Granger, Rachele Ng and Janette Rieger. I would like to recognize the members who donated their time and expertise on the working groups of the strategic plan, Connie Crichton, Janette Rieger, Margot de la Gorgendiere and Linda Maddaford, and for her work on the resolutions committee, Susan Melchiorre. The work of the League continues because of exemplary women such as these. They reflect the love and commitment of the League that can be found in the heart of each parish council member in Saskatchewan.