Oral Reports from the 99th Annual National Convention
National President Anne-Marie Gorman
In Mary’s song of praise, she says, “the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Lk. 1:49). She gives herself over to the will of God, though she must have been very afraid.
It was such a privilege to serve the League’s almost 78,000 members in my first year as national president. It can never be underestimated how valuable it is to simply be with each other. The president’s role of presence is a special gift the president at all levels can give and receive as she navigates her two years in leadership.
My first year was full. From the time of my first meeting in August with the national executive/board until now, I had the opportunity to represent members among American sisters at the National Council of Catholic Women conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and bring greetings to them on the League’s behalf. I was invited to read at a Eucharistic celebration at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) plenary assembly, where an added meeting of the lay associations’ representatives conferred—of which the League is one. I attended the general assembly of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations in Dakar, Senegal in October as a voting delegate, followed by the fall board meeting in Winnipeg. It was a busy fall.
By January, many of the major decisions were made regarding planning for the 99th annual national convention in Calgary. I visited, sat in on a planning meeting and toured the convention hotel facilities. The committee was organized and had anticipated every eventuality that might occur as much as possible for a convention to be held months away. Attendees are definitely in good hands under the direction of Chairperson Judy Montes and Co-Chairperson Marilyn Schafer.
February took me back to Winnipeg for the winter board meeting. I was overwhelmed by the thought put into the new theme by the provincial councils and shared amongst board members. Fifteen typewritten pages of activities undertaken by the provincial councils were noted. The myriad projects planned will ensure 78,000 women (and by extension, their families, which could put the numbers into the hundreds of thousands) demonstrate practically their care for creation. Everything done individually and collectively may have either a positive or negative impact on the poorest of the poor in the world.
The board dealt with challenging issues requiring continuing research and study, and action regarding sexual abuse within the church and the ongoing audit of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace—Caritas Canada (CCODP). Board members came to the winter meeting prepared to discuss the publication Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation. An ad hoc committee was struck to consider the CCCB’s publication, the report of which will be shared as part of the spiritual development oral report.
Regarding the audit of CCODP, it is encouraging that the CCCB endorsed the 2019 Share Lent campaign on the condition funds collected not be forwarded at this time to any partners currently under review. An update will be part of the community life oral report.
The largest challenge has also been the most exciting; beginning the implementation of the process of planning strategically in the League. I sat in on several meetings of the implementation committee and the historic first meetings of each of the first year working groups under their respective leads. The full report of this work will be presented by National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization Fran Lucas, who is also liaison between the national board and the implementation committee.
By way of a history lesson, Executive Director Kim Scammell collated a spreadsheet detailing the changes made in the organization since 1923. This information is instructive as the League evolves. The League went from four objects to eight; three levels to four generally; optional provincial levels and “councillors” were renamed “presidents.” Life membership could be purchased; standing committees changed as times changed; standing committee chairpersons were appointed instead of elected. There were regular changes to the number and role of table officers. Twelve important changes were made over the first 75 years to accommodate the needs of the membership and the evolution of governance; yet, none have been made since 1993—more than 25 years.
Attendance at provincial conventions was the greatest gift I received as national president. Having the opportunity to be with my sisters is unsurpassed in my history as a member. I had the opportunity to hear the issues that speak to the membership in the respective provinces through reports and choices of program speakers. I was able to present a review of what has transpired since the process of planning strategically was adopted in 2018, and present the most recent updates of the plan. Educating members at every stage is key to understanding how to meet the needs of current realities in the church and country, and how women have such a vital role to play in the present and future of the church. I was also able to present on the theme, Care for Our Common Home.
I was able to sit in on pre-convention executive meetings, hear inspirational speakers, listen to full reports and report on what is occurring at the national level. I was privileged to attend provincial conventions in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Where unable to attend, I sent greetings to provincial and diocesan councils, some of whom welcomed national standing committee chairpersons or the respective provincial president to represent the board.
The women I interacted with personally made the largest impression on me. Their devotion to faith, their work effort and their ability to enjoy the time in convention set such a positive tone. Whether in meeting or social time, I learned more about this beautiful country, its geography and history, and most importantly, its citizens. The conventions I attended began May 3rd and concluded July 17th. The office did an outstanding job of dealing with the 29 invitations received. Other representations will be reported under international relations or other committees.
Looking to the second year of my term, I foresee the beginnings of a change that will be welcomed by the membership and a renewed interest by all Catholic women. While I have said many times that I believe all Catholic women would wish to belong to the League if they knew what it represents in the church and the country, I realize the efforts that must be expended to make this a reality will be done in increments over time. In First John, Jesus said to some who would become his disciples, “Come and see.” The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone and everything—we simply have to become better listeners so we can act on the urgings each of us know in her heart. Then we too will say to all who will listen, “come and see.”
Our Lady of Good Counsel has inspired the League for 99 years. She will continue to assist members. Each of us has a unique role to play in this journey. It is with excitement and joy that I hunger for and anticipate untold blessings in the next year and indeed in the next 100 years of this vital and necessary organization.
National Secretary-Treasurer Janet McLean
What would an organization do without a secretary or treasurer? Who would type the minutes, send and receive correspondence, write cheques, balance the books and pay the bills? In the case of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, it would do just fine because of the efficient employees who work for the League in the national office. Staff keep the business side of the League functioning smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
My duties as national secretary-treasurer involve reviewing, verifying and amending, if necessary, minutes and documents sent under my signature, as well as reviewing bank reconciliations and statements, investment reports and financial statements. Supporting documents are requested as needed to ensure everything is in order. I thoroughly reviewed the League’s audit papers before submitting the 2018 financial statements to the national executive/board for discussion and approval at its February 2019 meeting.
The 2018 financial statements are printed in the convention booklet [available from national office]. The Statement of Revenue and Expenditures details the write-off of the capitalized cost of the terminated computer software, additional support required to re-establish the old software, and an adjustment to investments for unrealized losses. Donations to the national bursary fund increased, which allowed more or larger bursaries to be given to qualified bursary fund applicants.
As required by the board, a balanced budget was presented and approved for 2019. Two fee increases took effect—the national convention registration fee was doubled to $100.00 and the life member application fee was doubled to $200.00, the first increase since life memberships were introduced. Two strategies to reduce executive meeting costs were introduced—teleconference meetings for the administrative committee and a change of location for the winter board meeting. Looking at the June statements, at December 31st, 2019, net revenue from operations is anticipated.
There are two remarks I would like to make on the June 30th statements. Donations to the national voluntary funds are down from last year. Contributions to these funds provide councils an opportunity to strengthen the League’s foundation pillars of service and social justice. It would be wonderful if all councils could contribute to the national voluntary funds—no contribution is too small.
The other remark concerns the main source of revenue—the $13.00 national per capita fee. The last national per capita fee increase was in 2012. With inflation, this $13.00 fee now has the purchasing power of $11.43, while many League expenses have increased because of inflation.
Beginning next year, parish councils will be required to pay the premium for parish general liability insurance when remitting council memberships. The finance committee will also take a closer look at the League’s investment portfolio to see if some adjustments are necessary to maximize yield, keeping in mind its responsibility to be good stewards and investing in socially responsible investments.
2020 is going to be an exciting year for the League for many reasons, among them, the ongoing implementation of the strategic plan. This will require increased expenditures for the implementation committee as the League moves from its infancy to the toddler stage.
This coming fall, I will submit revisions to the Guidelines for Treasurers to several treasurers at different levels of the League, for comments and suggestions. With humility and joy, I will continue to monitor the League’s finances on behalf of members and take on any task required or asked of me as a member of the board.
Executive Director Kim Scammell
Have you ever noticed how strong the winds get just before a big change in temperature? If you are from the prairies, you know this as surely as you know anything. There’s a strong Arctic front, a frigid air mass complete with bone-chilling temperatures, where the atmosphere is one of stillness, of hibernation. Then the wind begins, and quickly, suddenly, in comes the Chinook, the snow eater, bringing warm temperatures with the strong wind gusts. While you anxiously await the warmth, you guard yourself against the wind, lest you be blown away.
The change comes quickly. Sometimes much more quickly than you can anticipate. And if you haven’t been watching the news or the weather channel, or you don’t have a weather app, you will not be prepared to buttress against the winds or to dress appropriately for the fabulous weather quickly on its way.
So too with the League today. Keep watch. Be aware, or you may not anticipate that the wind could uproot you, might blow you off course. And you may not have prepared enough to wear lighter clothing so as to enjoy the glorious, sunny weather.
I can tell you from national office, the planning is happening, and change is imminent. Momentum is building; a gale is on its way.
At the office, preparations are being made. Employees are engaged and curious about where the plan will lead. They are assisting the working groups, staying informed, and reflecting on how best to serve within the context of a new environment, with new expectations.
Small changes have occurred as the winds are picking up. There have been changes in staff, changes in software, changes in service to national executive members who are the primary users of office resources, and changes to service to the membership. In terms of staffing changes, two long term employees, Larry Peters and Diane Havens, have retired. Short-term employee Natalia Bilynskyy has been replaced by Amanda McCormick. This currently leaves four employees. One full-time and one seasonal employee will be hired for membership in the fall.
In terms of software changes, the League is progressing slowly toward a cloud-based software system with the current supplier of services. But very carefully as changes to the Constitution & Bylaws, communications streams, and administrative procedures may well change the current algorithms used in the programs.
In terms of service to the national executive, provision of support more in line with a board governance model has been introduced, with the focus not on methods, but on outcomes. Methods will always vary depending on the person in charge of them, yet should respect and reflect the core values of the organization, the how of doing something. Outcomes are articulated expectations, describing what should be done. Modernized associations use outcomes-based decision making to plan their futures.
Finally, in terms of service to the membership, by complying with board expectations to reduce communications with the membership and allow the members to provide support and assistance, and be accountable to each other. To help the board achieve this goal, national office has discontinued the toll-free number and will administer sales, per capita fees, national bursaries, council records, membership and life membership. All other inquiries, unless they come from board members or sub-committees, will be respectfully redirected in a manner that honours the current League structure.
Change is inevitable. Change is needed. The winds of change are blowing. Are you ready?
National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Shari Guinta
It was an absolute honour to be the League’s national standing committee chairperson of spiritual development this past year. I met and corresponded with some wonderful women across the country, had a hard-working, active committee, and learned from them and from staff as well as from National Spiritual Advisor Bishop Stephen Jensen (Prince George).
Members across the country used League resources, as well as searched out new ones. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of councils that studied and focused on Laudato Si’. Many parish, diocesan and provincial councils reported planning retreats, as well as following Vision TV and Salt + Light TV programming.
Two pope’s encyclicals, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’, were studied. Some parish councils were very active in this regard, offering “Women of Grace” and “Study of Women in Scripture” programs, retreats, lay formation programs, religious book exchanges and having guest speakers.
Women had active roles in the parish and took courses to strengthen participation. There was involvement in parish, pastoral and finance councils, regional pastoral councils and parish liturgy committees, to name a few.
Councils supported the national voluntary fund, Catholic Missions In Canada, with cash donations, clothing, food and school supplies. Other missions mentioned were Esk-Omi Missions, Kee-Pas Missions, St. Francis Xavier Mission, On Eagle’s Wings, Valley Native Ministry and St. Gertrude Parish in Pelican Narrows. The Keep Christ in Christmas campaign was also mentioned in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, as well as Christmas hampers for the community.
Members were involved in pretty well all ministries of the parish, such as Eucharistic minister, lector, ushers, music, sacristan, sacramental preparation, children’s liturgy, grief ministry, prayer shawl ministry and catechism. Other ministries included volunteer work outside the parish.
Joint services were offered with women of other faiths, as well as invitation of women to meetings, services and social events. Parish councils participated in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada, World Day of Prayer, WUCWO Day and Fellowship of the Least Coin, as well as placing a wreath on Remembrance Day. I want to applaud League sisters in Saskatchewan who noted support for the Humboldt community following the hockey team bus crash last year.
In closing, I mention all of the above from my review of provincial reports because I am in awe of the work done across the country. Women of the League are active, involved, intelligent, organized, spiritual women who follow Jesus’ call to serve the people.
As for me, I planned the spiritual programs for national executive/board meetings in the fall and winter. This includes prayers to begin and close sections of meetings and organizing the Eucharistic celebrations. I encourage all levels to realize the importance of good spiritual programs for meetings.
Although I find communiqués and submissions to The Canadian League challenging, I do learn every time I do them. I have to research to write about items and issues that have come before me.
I was fortunate to attend a conference in Ottawa in April entitled Jesus at the Well. This conference, presented by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), was enlightening and very worthwhile. Its focus was on evangelization and catechesis. I cannot possibly explain the value of the several workshops and presentations I attended.
I was also asked to present a summary on the CCCB document, Protection of Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation, to the board at the February 2019 meeting. I was then asked to chair an ad hoc committee on the issue, with information and suggested direction for national council. I have reported to the board and will follow up. Stay tuned for that.
National Chairperson of Organization Fran Lucas
How many of you are thinking about Christmas shopping, and specifically a gift you would like or would like to give?
I think attending convention is like receiving a Christmas gift. And, because of the many layers of things that happen at convention, “that gift just keeps giving!” We meet new sisters in the League, learn from wonderful speakers, hear and pass meaningful resolutions, and leave enthused and ready to take on the work ahead, knowing there is another Christmas gift, convention 2020, already being planned!
How about the giving of a Christmas gift? Any member you invite and manage to get to attend this convention is your early present to them! I know we each would like to have the ability to give more Christmas gifts and you can—the challenge is for you to do that next year. From information on the annual report surveys, we know many parish and diocesan presidents have never been to a national convention. That can change with your desire to give a gift.
My role as liaison between the implementation committee and the national executive/board has been enriching. From meeting members—albeit on webcam—to hearing the passion expressed in the work done by the leads and working groups, one cannot help but be inspired.
The completion of annual reports continues to be a favourite yearly exercise for about seven members across all of Canada. Truly, only 57.07% of councils completed the survey this year. Provincial and diocesan organization chairpersons, I challenge you to work together to find a way to personally touch base with parish councils that did not complete a survey, so the participation rate is at least 99% next year!
Executive members at all levels, look at your annual reports, then at the respective one nationally. See what learnings are there to share with members. Then having done that, my last challenge is to identify what can you suggest, change or keep doing for the benefit of members. Knowing you only do amazing things, send it to On the Spot for all to see.
The online membership system is used by only 61.3% of councils. We can do better. Please encourage your parish council to get on board—the system is easy to use and helps on many levels.
I enjoyed seeing the creative ways councils promote the League. Based on one approval, I am watching for the League crest being used as a decal to cover the entire side of a piece of luggage, to come past me in an airport! A reminder that all users of the League crest must first submit a request and be approved.
A couple of new initiatives have happened in the last few months. First, there has been an addition to the development fund guidelines. You can now request funding to visit parishes without councils to present on the benefits of membership. The more remote parish councils will most benefit from this addition.
Second, via Nova Scotia Provincial Council’s suggestion to introduce life members, we will begin doing so with the fall issue of The Canadian League magazine. This year’s 11 new life members will be featured with a photograph and short biography. We believe this will remind and encourage councils to reach out to these and all life members as resources.
God bless you in all your work, especially as you Care for Our Common Home. We will see by the membership numbers next year who gave the most Christmas gifts in 2019!
National Chairperson of Christian Family Life Pat Deppiesse
The Christian family life standing committee touches the lives of everyone, the 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 under this committee during her years of membership.
The core purpose outlined in the strategic planning manual is to promote social justice through service to the church, Canada and the world, by following Catholic teachings and being actively involved in society. To do this, members need to ask, “How can I help?” and “How can I serve?”
Members need to become educated by reading and researching the church’s position on all life issues, and new technologies that may pose ethical questions. A reliable source is the website and newsletters of Dr. Moira McQueen. Google her name.
I noted from the annual reports that parish councils promote activities in the parishes to provide an increased focus on family life. The family unit has become diversified, yet all are deserving of respect. Members must encourage prayer and offer support to make everyone feel welcome.
A beautiful new pro-life brochure outlines the many ways to be involved in life issues and is available for sale at national office. Be sure to get one for each member.
Pray for the repose of the soul of Member of Parliament Mark Warawa (Langley—Aldergrove), a courageous Canadian, a devout Christian and strong supporter of life. Members are grateful for his significant efforts in the House of Commons on behalf of life and conscience rights.
I attended the movie Unplanned and was impressed by the quality of the film. Unfortunately, the theatre was mostly filled with League members and those already convinced abortion is an atrocity. However, if nothing else, it renewed their resolve to continue to advocate for life. Again, how can members help? How can they reach those people in high school and university who are faced with this sometimes life-altering dilemma and are searching for answers?
It was joyfully noticed that young people are accepting the challenge to defend the unborn and those in the end stages of life by taking up the pro-life cause and participating in the various marches.
There is a new brochure for members, Annulments Today—Merciful and Just. Empathize with those suffering because of failed relationships—women who are separated and divorced. Members need to see the face of Jesus in each wounded soul, offering understanding and compassion. Let’s work on eradicating all violence towards women.
Canada is still considering euthanasia to children and people with psychiatric conditions, and Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) Executive Director Alex Schadenberg recently presented a petition of 15,000 names opposing this action to the federal government. The national voluntary fund donation to EPC is $18,235.52, and I thank members for their generosity.
I hope all councils will participate in LifeCanada’s Dying Healed program to train volunteers on how to reach out to the sick and dying, especially at the end of life when people may be lonely and vulnerable.
I urge each of you to “become the change you wish to see in the world.” I leave you with a quote from Pope Francis from Evangelii Gaudium, “Going out to others in order to reach 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
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:35-36). This statement sums up the work members have done for their communities and Canada. It shows members are dedicated to the care and survival of all those in need.
A report has been written by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) regarding the projects Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace—Caritas Canada (CCODP) supports and was sent to national council of CCODP and to each bishop. The report is on the plenary agenda of the 2019 meeting, taking place in September. Deloitte Canada has been commissioned to prepare a review to facilitate greater alignment of the way the CCODP works with the expectations of Canadian bishops. It is organizational in nature and considered an internal matter between the two—more details to follow.
Although there was a change in the 2019 application for the Canada Summer Jobs program, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) reported several of its members were refused funding. Two Christian summer camps operated by Bible Centered Ministries filed legal challenges after being denied funding.
Barry Bussey, Director of Legal Affairs for the CCCC, stated, “The federal government continues to discriminate against religious organizations that do not support its ideological commitment….There is no reason they should have been denied. They are in the business of providing meaningful summer experiences for children and job opportunities for young people who would benefit greatly from summer employment.” Both in 2018 and 2019, the Right to Life Association of Toronto and Area was denied funding. Members must continue to monitor these cases that have been filed. League voices are strong and must be heard.
Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash’s (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou) Bill C-262 An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is in trouble of not being passed before the federal election in October. In May 1, 2018, the CCCB wrote a letter supporting the passage of the bill. Stated in a letter written by Msgr. Lionel Gendron (Bishop of St. Jean Longueuil, “Reconciliation calls us not just to address the wrongs of the past, but to address, in an urgent manner, current injustices rooted in colonial structures and institutions. It is time to recognize, in law, Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. The passage of Bill C-262 into law is an essential step in the journey of reconciliation.” Continue to monitor Bill C-262 when parliament returns in the fall.
In the fall issue of The Canadian League magazine, please look for the article written by Life Member Dorothy Johansen on human trafficking in Canada.
The League and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) have shared a five-year financial partnership through the national voluntary fund. This year the League will present a cheque to CNEWA Development Officer Melodie Gabriel in the amount of $16,346.13.
The journey continues as members walk hand and hand with their sisters. To know someone cares and is willing to lend a hand can change a lifestyle.
National Chairperson of Education and Health Faith Anderson
“12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” reached 4,514 people; it was shared 116 times and had 97 reactions on the morning it was posted on the League Facebook page. Parish councils continued to participate in the service in a variety of ways, by praying at home, having guest speakers, sharing personal testimonies and participating in the entire 12 hour service. Regardless of the participation, praying for palliative care was very important to members.
This committee’s annual report was compiled from the provincial reports and all six areas under this standing committee were included. Parish councils have shown their commitment to education, environment and health issues. Genetics is an area that needs more exploring. Several parish councils reported subscribing to the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute newsletter to obtain information.
The “Partners for Life” program with Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is still an area that needs members’ attention. CBS states, “Half of all Canadians will either need blood or know someone who needs it.” Attendees at the 2018 annual national convention in Winnipeg had the opportunity to be tested for their blood type. “It’s in you to give” is a simple call to action from CBS.
The national theme, Care for Our Common Home, with the focus on water for 2019, prompted the “Water Challenge Pledge”. Of the more than 1,900 pledges, many were simple everyday ways that water can be conserved—such as not leaving the water running when brushing one’s teeth (1,200 pledges). Eight hundred pledges committed to saving water in the shower. A more complete report will be included in the fall parish council mailing.
The national bursary committee was pleased to provide funding to ten of the 12 applications received. The total amount of funds available for awarding to qualified applicants was $9,813.81, including interest earned and donations from members, parish councils and the national collection at the 2018 annual national convention.
In 2018, $4,740.95 was donated by members and parish councils and included $1,530.95 from the national convention. A total of 36 individuals and parish councils contributed to this amount. The decision by the national executive/board to use donations received to add to the interest earned has allowed for more support to applicants. The National Bursary Fund brochure has been redesigned, giving it a fresh look and clarifying the criteria.
Resolution 2018.02 Setting a Standard for Products Marketed as “Flushable”, ties into the national theme, Care for Our Common Home. Ongoing action is needed to provide better labelling for “flushable” products.
For the remainder of 2019, the committee will continue to promote conserving water, and it looks forward to any new initiatives for 2020. An effort will be made to provide information on genetics and to continue to provide information on Catholic education, health and wellness, and the environment.
One provincial resolution was referred to this standing committee for action, Preeclampsia, Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome.
Individual and council contributions to the Coady International Institute national voluntary fund for the period July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, totalled $23,991.44. The program the League would normally support, Diploma in Developmental Leadership Program, is not being offered in 2019.
[By motion, national council approved the $23,991.44 be forwarded to Coady International Institute for its Global Change Leaders program.]
National Chairperson of Communications Doreen Gowans
Communication is a two-way street starting with Jesus and flowing through to members and back to Him through prayer. If members have faith, trust in God, and seek the direction of the Holy Spirit, He will guide them. There must be openness and willingness to accept His direction. Have you experienced a time when you were asked a question, and you answered it, stopped and thought, where did that information come from? That is truly the Holy Spirit working through you! It is an awesome experience. I pray you will have that experience and will recognize it.
Communications chairpersons, accept responsibility for encouraging, affirming, mentoring and helping members grow. This can be done by providing wisdom and knowledge in League policies and activities.
The League’s flow of communication starts at the parish council and follows the chain of responsibility through diocesan, provincial and national levels. To endorse the League’s communication policy, the toll-free telephone line has been discontinued.
I participated in the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada webinar “Election Time in Canada”. Participants were encouraged to educate themselves on the various political platforms, seeking candidates who endorse Catholic social teachings. This will ensure an informed vote on October 21, 2019—federal election day!
I would like to address two issues. The first, is the issue of pornography. Unfortunately, pornography is growing at an alarming rate throughout the entire world. Young children are easily accessing pornography through the Internet.
A good book to help explain pornography is Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, written by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, Ph.D.
DeepNude is an app that converts a picture of a clothed woman and changes it into a nude picture in seconds without her being aware of it. It can be posted to the Internet for everyone to see and used to harass, shame and harm people.
The second issue is cell phone addiction. Some people are hiring professionals to deal with their children or grandchildren’s cell phone addictions.
A quote from Pope Francis: “Free yourself from the dependence on your cell phone, please. You have heard of the drama of dependence, right? Of taking drugs. Being addicted to noise and if there is no noise, I am not comfortable. But when you become a slave to your phone, you lose your freedom.” How many of us put our cell phone on the table when talking to someone? Do we realize we are saying the cell phone is more important than the person we are communicating with? Are we doing the same at home, at the dinner table? Simon Sinek has excellent YouTube videos on the impact of cellphones entitled How cell phones are destroying the Relationships, and another Addiction to Technology is Ruining Lives. Review and perhaps change your cell phone habit.
Good communicators explore the art of listening. Take time to be quiet, be patient, listen to others and especially listen to God’s direction! Ask yourself, “Where is God directing me at this time in my life? Am I listening to His direction?”
National Chairperson of Resolutions Cathy Bouchard
A resolution is meant to reflect the League’s policy or what members think could become policy, and to take this perspective and voice to others, often the federal and provincial governments.
During this last year, the national executive/board reviewed the resolutions process. A major change in the process is that whereas clauses are longer be presented as part of a resolution. In removing whereas clauses, the entire focus is on getting the statement of the League’s position on a particular issue exactly right (the resolved clause for that issue). This gives more emphasis on the heart of the resolution. Material previously contained in whereas clauses become part of the brief. The resolved clause is referred to as the resolution for the purpose of the motion and debate.
Members received the resolved clauses and briefs at the resolutions dialogue and were invited to review the resolutions focusing on questions such as, “Is this an issue for the League? Is this resolution timely/emergent?” Recommendations were provided to the resolutions committee at the dialogue and worked on by the committee before the resolution came to the convention floor. Only expedient changes were reviewed and submitted. During the business session, debate addressed why the resolution is appropriate for consideration and why the League should be concerned about it.
The board clarified that when a resolution is not accepted for presentation to the national convention because it has a provincial, not a national focus, the members from the originating province can work the action plan following receipt of the disposition letter from the national resolutions committee. Action on resolutions of a national nature is to be carried out only after being adopted at the national convention.
One element of concern that continues to need consideration is the request of members to have the resolution titles and resolved clauses sent out through the provincial presidents to members following the first resolutions committee meeting in early July. The national resolutions committee would consider distribution in DRAFT format with instruction these not be shared outside of the organization until adopted on the national floor. There is a concern these resolutions might be shared with media, reported on and perhaps taken out of context. Two Canadian Catholic journalists have been approached for their assistance on this.
Because of changes to the resolutions process, attendees are asked provide comments on the evaluation forms and send in to national office constructive comments to determine how to progress from here.
It has been a good year working with the provincial resolutions chairpersons. We have shared resources and ideas as we grow in this committee together.
National Chairperson of Legislation Betty Colaneri
“Legislation… oh…” is generally the reaction received when referring to this standing committee. That might be the reason why there are many vacancies in the position nationwide. But where would members be without it?
Legislation is essential to daily lives and one of the most important instruments of government for organizing society, protecting citizens and outlining the responsibilities of individuals, as well as the authorities to whom the legislation applies.
Rather than thinking of chairpersons of legislation working as a minority government, I think of them as special agents assigned to a special investigation. The skills required to be an agent are the same skills necessary to be a chairperson of legislation. Knowledge of the law, honesty and ethics, along with research, technical, communication and writing skills. It is a position that strays from the spotlight to operate in a covert capacity. Consider legislation chairpersons, CWL Special Agents, as TAG—Tracking Actions of Government.
Over the past year, legislation chairpersons worked together on “Operation: Faith and Social Justice in Action.” They gathered the facts, collected evidence, conducted interviews, examined records, observed the activities of members of government, submitted petitions and participated in discussions. They put out several all-points bulletins informing members of the importance of monitoring the law and pending regulations, as well as lobbying political representatives on important issues. As agents, they were the action out in the field, and if they needed to call for backup, “special agent resolutions” was always available. With technology at their fingertips, they can tap into the database for archived information. During stakeouts, they watched the progress of bills at each stage, so action plans could be put in place to challenge or support these bills.
Members (supporting officers) responded to action plans by signing e-petitions, contacting local political representatives, writing letters and praying for the wisdom of committee members.
Intelligence helped to uncover a recent national poll showing that, for the first time in 15 years, the environment became the hot topic of the federal election. They say it is emerging as “one of the defining battle grounds.” Concerns about the environment have risen in the public consciousness ever since a landmark United Nations report was released last year.
With this fall’s election fast approaching, it is essential to conduct background checks on the representatives running for office. The chairpersons will be looking at what each political party stands for and debriefing members so, when October 21st comes, members can be armed with the ammunition needed to make their voices heard. Once the outcome of the elections is revealed, chairpersons will continue their covert operation to hold the elected accountable to promised policy and legislation.
The national theme, Care for Our Common Home, is the motive needed to raise awareness for strong and immediate action on climate change. Proudly and confidently displaying the badge, Laudato Si’, legislation chairpersons can recruit agents to work together as a team to envisage the mission ahead for a sustainable world. Environmental law is in place to regulate the impact of human activities on the environment such as the use and quality of water, renewable energy, pesticides and flushable products, just to name a few. The steps taken to protect the world and the choices made today impact those current and future generations. As the saying goes, “Be a voice, not an echo.”
Legislation—learning from the past, working for the present, improving the future.
Special agent TAG, you’re it! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to investigate, legislate and regulate. Let’s change the reaction of legislation from “oh…” to …” Wow!” It is not impossible. Never underestimate the power of a woman walking in faith with a shield of knowledge.
National Chairperson of Laws Margaret Ann Jacobs
Phenomenal strides were made in the early years of the League by women of vision, passion and dedication.
From Except the Lord Builds the House… League members collectively form, “… a movement which promises to be the parent of activities which will interest themselves in the stability of the home, in the welfare of our new Canadians, in the awakening of added devotion to every Catholic cause, especially the education and thought for the needs of isolated districts, and generally to everything that is implied by the motto of the League, a motto well and wisely selected – ‘For God and Canada’.”
This movement continues today under the same motto, spearheaded by women who continue to search for new and refined ways to address the core values of faith, service and social justice and refocus on the core purpose—to unite Catholic women to grow in faith, and to promote social justice through service to the church, Canada and the world. How will future generations reflect on accomplishments today? Efforts are underway to update histories and file materials already accumulated. This is an ongoing challenge!
As past president, my responsibilities revolve around archiving national history and interpretation of laws. The two most valued documents for reference are the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) and the National Manual of Policy and Procedure (P&P). Therein lie the guiding principles for the procedures followed. The challenge that arises is when these documents do not address specific situations. Further complicating an issue is when advice is sought from various “wise” sources, often resulting in conflicting perspectives. In an effort to address this challenge, a renewed focus is being placed on the chain of responsibility. As national chairperson of laws, “the buck stops here” … well, not really! Be assured I always seek advice before responding to sensitive issues. It would also be most inappropriate to offer a suggestion or opinion contrary to the C&B or the P&P. All decisions for the council should be made in consultation, with transparency and well documented.
As the national executive/board continues to plan strategically, there will be many changes required for both the C&B and the P&P. The rules for submitting revisions are outlined in the P&P. I encourage you to make submissions you feel are conducive to greater clarity and easier conduct of business.
Following the spirit of the law, i.e. doing what the authors of the law intended, as opposed to the letter of the law, i.e. the literal interpretation, may result in more cooperative, compassionate and life-giving decisions for all. Above all, members are called to grow in faith, and to witness to the love of God through ministry and service. Every action should reflect this mission statement!
National Chairperson of International Relations Anne-Marie Gorman
It was my pleasure to represent the League at three international events in the past year. Directly following the 98th annual national convention, I attended the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 30- September 1, 2018. I brought greetings—and reminded my Pittsburgh friends Mario Lemieux and Sydney Crosby are both from Canada—to more than 475 attendees, 411 of whom were voting members. Presentations by the spirituality, leadership and service commissions showcased the activities of the many members throughout the United States and world.
I was privileged to hear keynote speaker Bishop Frank Caggiano (Bridgeport) present an inspiring address, “Disciples Called to be Joyful Signs of Contradiction in the World”, as well as: meaningful homilies and addresses by Gina Loehr, an author and dairy farmer from Wisconsin; Bob Rice, host of EWTN, singer, author and Franciscan University teacher; and several members of the three commissions of the NCCW—spirituality, leadership and service.
The second international conference I attended was the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO), having left Canada October 14, 2018 and returning October 23, 2018. Honorary Life Member and WUCWO Vice President for North America Velma Harasen, National President-Elect Fran Lucas and Executive Director Kim Scammell also attended as per League policy. National Past President Margaret Ann Jacobs, Honorary Life Member Betty-Anne Brown Davidson and National Secretary-Treasurer Janet McLean also attended. Completing the list of Canadians in attendance was incoming Canadian board member Marusia Kobrynsky, from the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada.
I was the voting delegate for a new slate of officers for WUCWO; Maria Lia Zervino of Argentina and Rome was elected president-general, succeeding Maria Giovanna Ruggieri. The theme, Women: Carriers of Living Water in a World which Thirsts for Peace was exemplified in the study day activities before a decision was made to focus attention on four issues: a healthy planet, family and vulnerable members of same, violence against women, and a call to holiness. Each of the five regions in the world will address these issues. Please visit the WUCWO website, wucwo.org, for full details. It was an exciting conference for many reasons, but seeing a contingent of youth, 14 women representing 12 countries, was very encouraging. Unfortunately, the Canadian youth representative chosen to attend, had to withdraw due to a school conflict. It was also truly encouraging to hear this beautiful quote from the dicastery for the laity, family, migrants, culture, communication, and synods of bishops and academy of sciences say that “the church which goes forth, opens the door to women.”
The final activity on an international level was the North American consultations for Religions for Peace, held in Marriottsville, Maryland on June 13th. Thirty five men, women and youth met to confer on five papers. Input will be presented at the World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany in August. The five papers were on the topics:
1. Positive Peace as Shared Well-Being, by Dr. William Vendley
2. Advancing Shared Well-Being by Promoting Integral Human Development, by Jeffrey Sachs
3. Advancing Shared Well-Being by Promoting Just and Harmonious Societies, by Katherine Marshall
4. Advancing Shared Well-Being by Protecting the Earth, by Gary Gardner
5. Caring for our Common Future – Advancing Shared Well-Being by Preventing and Transforming Violent Conflicts, by Dr. Mark Owen.
National Spiritual Advisor Bishop Stephen Jensen – coming soon!
Alberta Mackenzie Provincial President Judy Look
Faith! Service! Justice! Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council, housed in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, represents 9,378 faith-filled women, throughout 159 parish councils in five dioceses, who try to make these words come alive. The council meets in St. Albert at the Star of North Retreat Centre.
The council works hard at promoting the national council’s many initiatives, as well as a few of its own. As one mandate of the council is to educate, there is a concerted effort dealing with the scourge of pornography. All five diocesan councils showed the Over 18 documentary that gives a glimpse into pornography addiction, and continued with the Pornography Hurts postcard campaign.
The provincial council designed and purchased five pro-life banners with the words “All Life Matters,” gifted to the diocesan councils to be used at various League events. Three diocesan councils participated in the March for Life in Edmonton in May and proudly walked with their banners.
The right to publicly funded Catholic education is routinely challenged in the Province of Alberta. To this end the bishops, Catholic school board trustees and the Catholic superintendents formed a group called GrAce, an acronym for Grateful Advocates of Catholic Education. The League has taken up the invitation to participate in this group, spreading the good news of Catholic education. The reality is, the provincial Catholic school system is the last publicly funded institution that can speak freely about God; therefore, having the ability to teach on the inherent dignity of the individual and the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.
Members continue to support their sisters in the North through the Nickels for the North campaign.
Care for Our Common Home is promoted with the provincial addendum, “Make a Difference.” The focal point for this year is water usage.
There were four successful applicants to the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation program, and members look forward to their success.
Life Member Shirley Hazen returned to the Lord in January.
Strategic planning is percolating on the back burner of all parish councils as they wait for instructions from the implementation committee. The strategic planning workshop presented at diocesan conventions received very positive feedback. Diocesan councils are encouraged to promote the workshop at the parish council level.
The provincial level did not meet with the provincial government this year; however, as there are two resolutions directed to it—Resolution 2019:01 In School Dental Screening for Children in Alberta K-12 and Resolution 2018:01 Official Recognition of Obesity as a Chronic Disease, the provincial executive is endeavouring to set up a meeting.
Moving forward, the focus will be relationships and effecting change in the context of the strategic planning vision.
As membership and leadership continue to be a challenge, “Three Cups of Tea” was introduced as a means to strengthen relationships, encourage growth and explain how business is conducted. Many councils that embraced this philosophy saw growth in membership and a renewed sense of caring for their members.
Members refer to themselves as members of the Catholic Women’s League and not “CWL.” Often the letters “CWL” are meaningless to people who have never heard of the League.
I would like to share an experience that happened at the provincial convention in June, the weekend of Pentecost, that changed most of the attendees forever. A young Indigenous woman walked in off the street, went to the podium and began hollering, saying, “What about me?” as she pointed to herself. Attendees were stunned, and several members took what seemed like an eternity to remove her from the hall. Attendees watched as she was gently persuaded to leave. As this was happening, one member began reciting the rosary and the room filled with prayer. After the incident, there was a quiet…a quiet that suggested that reality had just hit. Earlier, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas (Grouard-McLennan) had given a talk on Indigenous issues. His talk brought many nods and agreement that something must be done. His talk was manifested in this woman. “What about me?” still resounds, as if it were Christ visiting and saying, “I am coming to you in the form of this young woman. What are you women going to do for me?” While there is no easy answer, there must be a way to initiate a conversation with Indigenous sisters. Members of the Catholic Women’s League of Alberta Mackenzie, with a focus on relationships and effecting change, hope to make a difference one woman at a time, by living out faith, service and justice.
B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Gisela Montague
It is my delight and honour to represent and report on B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council’s 126 parish councils, which contain close to 8,500 members. Three of the six diocesan councils had elections with mostly full executives elected. Yes, some members were recycled. This seems to happen more and more.
I was able to attend two of five diocesan conventions, one in the Diocese of Prince George and one in the Diocese of Nelson. It was a pleasure to meet the members and spiritual advisors, and listen to the many presentations. Sharon Geiger, Sylvia Jurys and Sharon Ciebin represented the provincial council in the other diocesan conventions. Attendees appreciated the provincial workshops on the lives of female saints, which can inspire members to fulfill their League roles and responsibilities. On my part, I identified with St. Clare of Assisi, being free-spirited and seeing the hand of God in everything.
Presentations included workshops on the strategic plan, apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, encyclical Laudato Si’, two films, In the Spirit of Reconciliation by Fr. Larry Lynn, and Fatal Flaws from Kevin Dunn in association with Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. There was also a video by Fr. Don Calloway entitled The Virgin Mary: The Masterpiece of God. Many other subjects were explored, like L’Arche Greater Vancouver’s Big Dream, anti-human trafficking and mental health issues.
Throughout the year the H.U.G. Project was embraced by many councils. Other accomplishments included participating in “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care,” promoting the water challenge pledge form, walking in the March for Life, and attending a bishop’s dinner and the Knights of Columbus State Dinner. Kamloops Diocesan Council was able to collect enough money to purchase six water systems for developing countries through Chalice.
On a sad note, five life members were lost, but I am happy to report that one new life member, Linda McClinton, will be commissioned at this convention.
The provincial convention, held in beautiful Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, was hosted by Victoria Diocesan Council. It featured a presentation from Amber Zolc of Catholic Christian Outreach on the provincial theme, Witnessing to the Truth. The theme was developed further by provincial spiritual advisor Fr. David John who described his interactions with a stranger, which eventually led to a conversion. Sharon Ciebin gave an update on the implementation committee. Alissa Golob spoke on pro-life politicians and how to elect them, and Anna Hudson presented on elder abuse with the title, “It’s Not Right, Friends and Family.” The resolutions dialogue was well attended and led to adopting all six resolutions.
A very emotional presentation by Saturday morning’s panel, coordinated by Bishop Gary Gordon (Victoria), shared on the national theme and focused on the need to be present first, to be able to be companions and walk with the First Nations people. A powerful witness was the drumming of the creed at the beginning of the opening mass. There is much to learn. One of my goals is to have more involvement with members of the First Nations.
I am proud to share there are ten members from British Columbia involved in the implementation committee and its working groups. Though two parish councils disbanded, one new parish council was established in the Diocese of Victoria. Councils are eager for the implementation of the new strategic plan. One diocesan president has as her goal to ensure each parish council will have the workshop of the strategic implementation presented. Another diocesan president plans to visit each parish council in her diocese—not an easy task as the summer is short and the distance between councils is great.
When disbanding a council, members usually feel sad, but one diocesan spiritual advisor explained it this way, “We have successfully completed the mission and go on to the next mission.” Members of this parish council are all getting older, and the newer generation has left the town to move to larger cities. I believe councils grow and diminish in cycles, demonstrated by another parish council in the same diocese which gained 21 new members.
On this happy note, I conclude my report.
Manitoba Provincial President Janet Brunger
Members in Manitoba enthusiastically started the year by attending the provincial council’s 20th annual Day of Celebration on February 9th. More than 120 members attended on one of the coldest days of winter! The warmth of sisterhood was celebrated, while members heard how 30 years ago, a small group of mostly League members was responsible for the founding and funding of Alpha House, a shelter for abused women in Winnipeg. To this day, members continue to support Alpha House through donations. Members were generous in bringing items for the H.U.G. Project in support of women’s shelters.
The documentary Over 18 was viewed to raise awareness of children easily lured into pornographic websites and pornography addiction, followed by a guest speaker presenting her research on the health effects of pornography. Pornography Hurts postcards were distributed to all councils in anticipation of the March campaign directed to the federal government. Finally, members thoroughly enjoyed a fun skit called “CWL Goes to Court”.
Members participated in the March for Life on May 9th and carried pro-life banners.
Winnipeg Diocesan Council adopted a resolution seeking a moratorium on mining by fracking. Elections resulted in a new executive, with Pat Ward as president.
Paulette Chase of St. Boniface Diocesan Council chaired the diocesan convention in Morden, with a guest speaker on women’s heart health. A resolution calling for deposits on beverage containers and the establishment of return depots was adopted.
Keewatin-The Pas Diocesan President Lucille Rossington hosted a two-day convention in Snow Lake, with a full-day workshop on resolutions and legislation, which included letter-writing in response to a resolution.
The day of celebration, all three diocesan conventions and the provincial convention included a presentation on the implementation of the League’s strategic plan.
The League was promoted with PowerPoint and verbal presentations at all deanery meetings within the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, and the same is planned for the Archdiocese of St. Boniface.
The provincial council’s website was launched in late 2018. It is actively utilized to promote the League and its work with the publication of upcoming events, reports, annual reports and photographs with captions. Requests were made to each archbishop for the provincial website to appear as a link on his diocesan website.
Members travelled to Thompson to celebrate the 71st annual provincial convention on June 8th and 9th, hosted by St. Lawrence Parish Council (Thompson) and Keewatin-The Pas Diocesan Council.
The charter bus trip from Winnipeg to Thompson included a sightseeing stopover at the beautiful Pisew Falls. While the provincial executive held its pre-convention meeting on Saturday, others enjoyed the Spirit Way Tour of Thompson and a bracelet-making workshop.
Convention opening mass was celebrated by Archbishop Murray Chatlain (Keewatin-The Pas), along with Archbishop Richard Gagnon (Winnipeg), Fr. Gunasekhar Pothula (St Lawrence Parish), Fr. Shantha Gandamalla (Keewatin The-Pas Diocesan Spiritual Advisor), Fr. Diosdado Parrenas (Winnipeg Diocesan Spiritual Advisor) and Deacon Clarence Fisher (Snow Lake Parish Spiritual Advisor). Attendees were pleased to welcome National President-Elect Fran Lucas.
Convention guest speakers included Jim Alackel (Keewatin–The Pas Youth Ministry Coordinator) and Archbishop Gagnon. One resolution, establishment of refundable deposits and return depots for recyclable beverage containers, was adopted and will be presented by the provincial executive to the premier and cabinet.
In response to the national theme, Care for Our Common Home, convention attendees donated religious books, articles and rosaries for northern missions following a request by Fr. Pothula, and H.U.G. items for donation to northern women’s shelters. Also brought were drink can tabs, which were donated to the Tabs for Wheelchairs program, as well as plastic bags to be recycled through the Bag-Up Manitoba program, where they are remanufactured into benches, birdhouses, bird feeders and planters for local schools.
Convention wrapped up with elections, followed by a very happy, tired group of women hitting the road for home.
Military Ordinariate Provincial President Tawnya Stringer
It is my pleasure to report on behalf of Military Ordinariate Provincial Council. The Military Ordinariate of Canada diocese extends throughout the world, wherever Canadian military personnel are deployed. Granted provincial status within the League in 1965, the provincial council currently has 13 base councils in six provinces. It is the smallest “province” in membership numbers, but spans the greatest geographical area!
In January, the provincial council welcomed Padre Maria Codina as its new spiritual advisor. Padre Maria has done a wonderful job liaising with the chain of command on behalf of the council. She is very interested in helping to strengthen and develop new ways of supporting the chaplaincy branch, which is ever-changing. At the June military exercise, Called to Serve, she gave a PowerPoint presentation that explained the League to the chaplains in attendance, and asked for their continued support.
Keeping members engaged and providing training proved to be a challenge. Members look forward to meeting at provincial conventions, hosted by different bases each year. This year, the provincial council met at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. Training based on the national theme, Care for Our Common Home, was provided, as well as three workshops held focusing on the League values of faith, service and social justice. Dr. Cristina Vanin of St. Jerome’s University spoke to attendees about Laudato Si’.
I challenged the executive to reflect on their base chapel namesake or favourite saint and tailor oral reports to connect the ways councils or standing committees mirrored the holy person chosen. The reports were creative and interesting. Attendees learned about the great works members do to support their base chapel communities, the civilian communities they live in and the country as a whole.
While together at the convention, Barbara Thuen of Winnipeg was presented with life membership and Jan Davidson of Ottawa was awarded the Kathleen McCrossin award, named after the first provincial president.
The opening mass collection was presented to Water First, an organization with a mission to work with First Nations communities to resolve local water challenges through education, training and meaningful collaboration. The resolution, Support for the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative, which seeks to inform about the tragedy of child soldiers and petition for financial support for the organization, was adopted.
Being geographically challenged has made the provincial council resilient. Creative partnerships with local civilian councils at the parish, diocesan and provincial levels have been developed, with members attending celebrations and training days in those councils. This year, the provincial council collaborated with Kingston Diocesan Council, which hosted the Ontario provincial convention. Military Ordinariate members provided extra support as ushers, and provided decorations. With the national theme in mind, base councils from across Ontario created banquet centrepieces using natural, locally harvested and repurposed materials.
Next year the provincial council will celebrate its 55th anniversary of support to the Canadian Armed Forces members and their families. The executive continues to be dedicated to building resilience within councils and communities, and to be vital participants in base chapels.
Thank you for all for you do in your communities to support the Canadian military. Please keep those deployed, at home and abroad, their families and loved ones, in your prayers.
New Brunswick Provincial President Hazel Robichaud
Wow! Where did that year ago? It seems not so long ago I stood at the national convention in Winnipeg to bring greetings from New Brunswick Provincial Council. Now, here I am, reporting for my second and last time as provincial president. It was a very eventful year, to say the least. It gives me great pleasure to be here, in this beautiful province and the City of Calgary, having been welcomed in a huge western way.
As a result of restructuring in the Diocese of Saint John last October, I was invited to attend the amalgamation of two parish councils, Holy Rosary Parish Council (St. Stephen) and Milltown Parish Council (St. Stephen), which became St. Croix Parish Council (St. Stephen) with a membership of 56. What a wonderful celebration, starting with mass and continuing with a great meal and lots of comradeship. I was particularly amazed by the spiritual development chairperson, Mildred Smith. Mildred is 96 years young and is still a very active member. How amazing to have a member with her experience who wants to be on the executive and truly enjoys what she is doing. This is another reason why the League is so important. Who would not want to belong?
In May, I met with Archbishop Valery Vienneau (Moncton) along with the second vice president, Louise Ongo. We updated Archbishop Vienneau on what has happened in the provincial council and discussed at length the challenges parish and diocesan councils experience. I am sending to him a “save the date” to attend the provincial convention in Miramichi in May 2020. He praises the good work of members who are so dedicated to the League and church.
The provincial convention was held in Oromocto and had a great turnout. I was not in attendance due to family illness, but the president-elect, June Brown, stepped in for me. National President Anne-Marie Gorman, who happens to be a member of the provincial council, was in attendance and gave a very meaningful presentation on Care for Our Common Home. Anne-Marie suggested members read Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’.
Members were treated to a presentation by Marlita Chase on her journey with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation. The provincial executive is proud to have had a member from the province chosen to be part of this wonderful program.
In keeping with the national theme, every attendee received a reusable water bottle, thanks to a generous donation from a business in the Fredericton area. It was greatly appreciated, and served as a reminder to all members of the importance of not buying bottled water.
Bishop Robert Harris (Saint John) was the celebrant for the opening mass at the provincial convention. As Bishop Harris is retiring this fall, this was his last official function with the council. He has been a wonderful support over the years. This year, he celebrates 75 years of age, 50 years in the priesthood, and retirement. In recognition and celebration of these landmark events, the chairperson of spiritual development, Madonna Clark, compiled a spiritual bouquet calendar as a farewell gift from members. It offered masses, rosaries and prayers daily from convention until his birthday on September 24th.
A special collection was taken at the convention that raised $542.85, which was rounded off to $550.00 for The Oromocto Hospital Foundation.
Members are going all out to participate in the centenary committee’s H.U.G. Project. Councils are pleased and excited by the results.
Strategic planning was presented to members in the past and continues to be part of the agenda. A team will present the implementation committee’s presentation at the fall regional meetings, which I am sure will be well received.
In closing, I quote from the New Brunswick prayer,
“Lord Jesus, Thank you for the many gifts you have given women of the Church – we are grateful for the beautiful Province of New Brunswick where Catholic women gather together in prayer and service.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial President Ellen Merrigan
As the newly elected president of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council, I am honoured to present my first oral report. The women of the “Rock” and the “Big Land” continually strive to meet the core principles of faith, service and social justice. Although small in number, and with an ageing membership, a significant geographical distance between the 18 parish councils, and fewer members offering their names for executive positions, great work in the League continues.
This is evident from the results of the 39th annual provincial convention held in June. One resolution, Wetlands Conservation, was adopted unanimously. It urges the provincial government to develop a comprehensive policy, supported by legislation, to ensure the wetlands is examined closely and to avoid harm wherever possible. An action plan was developed to aid councils in bringing this resolution to light.
There were two motions carried at the convention, one concerning autism and the other related to more adequate care for residents in long-term care homes. At present, there are no programs available after high school geared to students on the autism spectrum, and members will be the voice for this change. The other motion asked members to voice their concerns for the health and well-being of seniors who live in long-term care facilities and to sign a petition known as Lillian’s Law, urging government to enhance staff to resident ratios in these facilities. These motions will form some of the provincial council goals for the coming year.
A session was presented on strategic planning at the convention. It was informative and led to much discussion among the group. The need to accept and embrace change is vital for all members as the League embarks on a journey to be effective in the 21st century.
Many parish councils participated in “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care,” World Day of Prayer, Good Friday services for life and various other prayer services. Members firmly believe prayer can move mountains. Many councils donated homemade lap quilts, blankets and various knitted items to palliative care units and hospitals.
Another highlight of the convention was the Janeway project. Members were invited to knit or crochet finger puppets or provide stickers for the children at the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre. The response was overwhelming, and the smiles brought to the faces of the children made it all worthwhile. Councils participated in the national H.U.G. Project. More than 500 gifts bags were presented to women’s shelters.
The provincial executive continues to promote the theme, Care for Our Common Home. A beautiful prayer service was developed focusing on water and was sent to all parish councils. Councils were encouraged to develop action plans regarding water issues pertinent to their own areas. Discussions continue throughout councils concerning the use of plastics, the need to recycle glass and how tailings from mining projects are affecting water resources.
It is very important to recognize members for their dedication and service. This year Ruby Sharpe received her life membership. Many members were recognized with pins and certificates for their service.
Yes, parish councils are engaged in many things despite the challenges they face. May Our Lady of Good Counsel continue to strengthen members as they work together “For God and Canada.”
Nova Scotia Provincial President Glenda Carson
The past year in Nova Scotia has been a journey faced with some significant challenges. However, there have also been many wonderful experiences and opportunities for positive change.
The new term brought a concerning challenge because of the few members that allowed their names to stand for office at the provincial and diocesan levels. However, there are now full slates of officers with gifted new leaders who initially did not see themselves serving, but rose to meet the need of the organization. The appointment process also highlighted the challenges members face when considering leadership roles, providing an opportunity to reflect on strategies. Some issues lie with the organizational structure that the national strategic plan hopefully will aid in resolving. Many members, however, are stymied because of their need to continue serving in a leadership role for their parish council. There is such a strong need to extinguish the common saying, “most of the work is always done by the same few.”
Over the past year, I was invited to attend diocesan meetings, conventions and parish anniversary celebrations. Beyond the pleasure and privilege of being able to interact with members across the province personally, these events showcased the real contributions made by this organization. Members had opportunities to learn about leadership roles, celebrate members’ achievements, engage in important initiatives such as enhancing relationships with Indigenous peoples, grow spiritually and support the vulnerable.
The national theme, Care for Our Common Home, and the subtheme of “water,” had a strong presence at conventions. Fr. Bill Burke provided a factual presentation on climate change, challenging all to rise to accept personal responsibility in the battle to protect water as a most precious resource. The presentation by members of Chalice spoke to the reality of the gift of water for developing and water-poor countries. Provincial spiritual advisor, Fr. Jim Richards, enhanced members’ understanding of Laudato Si’ and the call as Christian stewards for the environment.
The national strategic plan was part of diocesan meetings, culminating with the provincial convention and the presentation of The Catholic Women’s League Plans Strategically by National President Anne-Marie Gorman. However, there are still members who report not having information on the strategic plan. A provincial council-sponsored retreat for diocesan and provincial executive officers will allow looking at strategies to better engage all parish councils.
The provincial council appointed a special ad hoc committee in accordance with a motion passed at the 2018 provincial convention that recommended considering the disbanding of the diocesan councils. Committee members determined it is premature to remove the diocesan councils. The organizational structure does not drive financial concerns and leadership issues experienced in the provincial council. Rather, they are affected by membership decline related to retaining members and challenges with member engagement. At present, it appears important to address the core reasons for these challenges rather than eliminate potentially supportive council structures. The committee’s motion to maintain the current council structure with a planned review in five years was adopted. An urgent next step is the need for a province-wide strategy to address the core issues identified in the report.
A major change in spiritual leadership and church structure has occurred in the province. Bishop Brian Dunn (Antigonish), who was a strong support for councils in his diocese, was appointed as coadjutor archbishop for Halifax-Yarmouth. At the parish level, the clustering of churches into new parishes requires the need to reflect on spiritual advisors for some churches. Some new parishes will now have more parish councils than current spiritual advisors. All these changes require vigilance, open communication and an active League presence from councils at all levels.
Sadly, the provincial council bid a fond farewell to Fr. Richards, who completed his five-year term. It is very blessed to have Fr. Patrick O’Neill appointed in his place. Fr. O’Neill’s open support for the importance of the work of the League reflects his passion and strong commitment as a spiritual advisor for the council.
In closing, experiences over the past year have shown a need to embrace the stark reality that change is not coming—it is here in Nova Scotia. I have great faith that members will rise, as they have done in the past, to positively work together “For God and Canada” in maintaining a vigorous and sustainable League in Nova Scotia.
Ontario Provincial President Colleen Perry
It is my honour to present my first oral report as provincial president and to represent the almost 40,000 members in Ontario. The core values of faith, service and social justice are alive and well across the province.
Parish councils in all 13 dioceses hosted “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” again this year and celebrated their faith with Advent and Lenten retreats. They welcomed prayer partners and invited the community to participate in every event.
Councils embraced the provincial theme of Homelessness by inviting guest speakers, sponsoring meals and donating to food banks and shelters. I want to share with you a few of the success stories.
Councils participated in the provincial “Warmth and Comfort” program, which took place October to December, gifting 37,465 pairs of socks, 2,812 jars of peanut butter and 2,896 boxes of crackers to those most in need.
The provincial chairperson of legislation established a scavenger hunt in hopes of having members work as a team to “do a bit of digging” for programs and services available in their communities. Twenty-eight teams across the province participated. The hope was that members would discover a need for programs and services, be inspired to bring about change after becoming informed, recognize the need for new legislation or focus on current legislation, and perhaps start a resolution to implement the needed changes.
Councils participated in the national H.U.G. Project and embraced the national theme by encouraging participation in the water challenge and reinforcing the commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle.
More than 400 members celebrated these accomplishments at the provincial convention held July 14th to 17th in Kingston. Members listened to Professor Hazel Markwell from St. Paul University in Ottawa talk about “Human Dignity and End of Life Care”. Marilyn McLean from the Kingston Street Mission described the organization’s work with the homeless.
Members pledged to commit to Care for Our Common Home, as presented by the national president, and listened intently as Lisa Henry gave an update on the implementation of the strategic plan.
There were four resolutions brought to the floor of the convention, including one to urge the provincial government to move up from the year 2030 to 2025 the recently announced increases to the number of long-term care beds; and, another to urge the federal government to sign and implement the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Members capitalize on the opportunity to share the monthly ON-Line Newsletter where activities are highlighted from different dioceses and standing committees. All members are welcome to submit articles, testimonials, book or movies reviews, or favourite poems or prayers. Almost 2,800 members receive the newsletter by e-mail each month and share wherever possible with those without access to a computer.
As the League grows and changes to adapt to today’s changing world, members in Ontario look forward with anticipation and excitement to bring their renewed faith, undying commitment and love of God and country into the future, whatever that might be.
Prince Edward Island Provincial President Shirley Pierce
The League is alive and active on Prince Edward Island. There are 33 parish councils and a very active provincial executive that organizes many faith-filled, learning and social activities.
Last May, when I began my president’s role at the end of the provincial convention, I established two priorities, leadership development and communication. I chose “The Summons” as my theme song, and it is sung at all meetings, get-togethers and convention. “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” The song’s message should invite all to care for others and make a difference through actions and faith.
Each year, there is a provincial convention in May, two fall conferences and four area meetings. Each event concentrates on the theme, Care for Our Common Home, and this year, the focus was on water. An action plan for water conservation was developed, and parish councils were asked to host workshops, have activities at meetings, invite speakers, and engage families and friends to conserve water and to help heighten awareness of this important subject. Seven parish councils joined with neighbouring councils and will receive funding from the provincial council to assist in theme workshops.
On February 23rd, four area meetings were held simultaneously in four regions on the island. Executive members presented workshops on the theme with an emphasis on water conservation and one workshop on leadership development. Members enjoy opportunities to discuss issues, share best practices and network.
The 97th annual provincial convention, held May 3rd and 4th in Summerside, had 165 members in attendance and featured several powerful guest speakers. Sr. Gemma Dunn gave a presentation on the theme and encouraged members to “develop a spirituality of water” by appreciating water as “a gift from Mother Earth.” Two members spoke about watershed planning, management and water conservation. National President Anne-Marie Gorman gave an engaging presentation on the national strategic plan. She encouraged members to check out The Catholic Women’s League of Canada Plans Strategically booklet.
Spiritual enrichment activities, mass, the crowning of Mary, the deceased members’ ceremony, open discussions and opportunities to renew friendships and make new ones were important parts of the convention agenda. Symbolic fabric roses were given to 23 members attending the convention for the first time. This is pretty significant, and it was posted on the League’s On the Spot page and the diocese’s website. More than $1,000 from the mass collection was donated to Catholic Missions In Canada. The local newspaper, The Guardian, ran a news article on the successful convention,
Plans are already underway for two fall conferences, which will further explore the theme, particularly support for Indigenous brothers and sisters. The spirituality of music and how this complements faith experiences may also be explored. Members will be kept current on the strategic plan.
The provincial executive will meet with the island priests, spiritual advisors and Bishop Richard Grecco (Charlottetown) to apprise them of current League activities and provide information on the strategic plan. The provincial past president is on one of the working groups for the implementation of the strategic plan.
The provincial council will plan with the Knights of Columbus for the annual rosary and pilgrimage to the Canadian Martyrs Shrine. Members are encouraged to prepare H.U.G. kits for women’s shelters.
Communication is an important part of the League. E-mails and letters are sent regularly to local presidents and executive members to keep them current on initiatives, events and critical issues. A communique is sent in August, November and February and the provincial executive distributes a newsletter in December highlighting activities happening in councils across the island.
The provincial council’s 1,844 members are good and faithful women who use a variety of ways to add spiritual development to their meetings and personal lives. Some parish councils start monthly meetings with mass while others include prayers for deceased members, prayer lines and the rosary before weekday masses or during May and October. Most councils participate in “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care.” Some parish councils participate in the World Day of Prayer and March for Life.
Members are active in parish life as well as within the community and further afield. They generously share financially, giving to local hospitals, hospice/palliative care centres, food banks, St. Vincent de Paul, PEI Catholic Girls Bursary, missions in Canada, parish youth and needy families, to name a few. Their generous sharing of their time, skills and talents contribute greatly to their parishes and communities.
May Our Lady of Good Counsel continue to bless Prince Edward Island Provincial Council and to strengthen parish councils and their leadership “For God and Canada.”
Quebec Provincial President Rosa Lam
Nearly 100 years ago, the League was founded to help young immigrants starting a new life in Canada. And now almost 100 years later, I stand before you, a Chinese and Venezuelan immigrant, Canadian and active in the League. Isn’t the League wonderful and true to its roots? I became “La belle province’s” provincial president on June 1st.
Quebec Provincial Council collaborated with St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal to offer a Lenten retreat that was open to everybody. Workshops were presented on leadership, strategic planning, how to conduct meetings and organization. Many other workshops are being planned for this year.
Past president, Linda Chisholm, who faced a serious health challenge, showed strength and courage and, with the help of her team, still managed to organize the provincial convention.
At the provincial convention, a resolution, Need for Services for Severe/Classic Autistic People aged 21+, was adopted. Though this health issue falls under provincial jurisdiction, this is a problem across the nation. Autistic children are provided with all kinds of services that end when they turn 21 years of age. What does a parent do after that? A copy of the resolution was sent to the national executive for information purposes.
In Quebec, citizens are facing Bill 21 An Act respecting the laicity of the State, a new secularism law that bans all people working for the province from wearing religious symbols. This includes all teachers, doctors, nurses and civil servants. The law is being challenged in court by different groups.
As members prepare for the 100th anniversary of the League and the national convention, Quebec’s 2020 provincial convention will be only one day long and held at St. Joseph’s Oratory.
During the next two years, the provincial executive might explore having a pilgrimage convention at Cap de la Madeleine.
In closing, I invite you to celebrate the League’s 100th anniversary in Montreal. Allow Quebec Provincial Council to be your host next year! The 2020 convention committee is working very hard to welcome you.
Saskatchewan Provincial President Chantal Devine
Saskatchewan, a Cree word meaning “swiftly flowing river,” creates images of sparkling, pure water crashing over falls, rushing to sustain the lives of its people today as it did in years past when First Nations people named the province. With a focus on water during the first year of the League theme, Care for Our Common Home, I find it appropriate that members responded, and found ingenious ways to conserve water.
A workshop on the theme was presented by National President Anne-Marie Gorman at the provincial convention. She reminded members of the many gifts God has given and how the faithful must care for His creation. Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber was the presenter on the first day and spoke on “The Relevance of the CWL Today”. He emphasized that members are called, not just to grow individually, but to grow as a community, and that the League is a perfect organization to achieve that objective.
Fulfilling God’s “great law of charity” was evident in many parish councils. At a spring windup, members of Holy Family Parish Council (Regina) held a charity fundraiser for the Palliative Care Comfort Cart. More than 300 items for patients and their families were donated, as well as $500.00 for the food program on the palliative care ward.
St. Vincent de Paul Parish Council (Weyburn) initiated “Ten Months of Giving”, where care packages are given to a local food bank and distributed by The Salvation Army. The grand total for the ten months was 1,165 items!
Placing a notice regarding the H.U.G. Project in the church bulletin helped Holy Spirit Parish Council (Saskatoon) collect women’s hygiene products, to send to a new women’s shelter in Black Lake. One hundred and twenty-three packages were donated!
Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the League by provincial spiritual advisor, Fr. Peter Nnanga, a parish council was formed in his parish in the Diocese of Prince Albert. In the Diocese of Regina, two parish councils reactivated and another two increased their membership by 13 and 11 members respectively. I am confident this enthusiasm for the League will continue to grow as the strategic plan is presented.
While many councils celebrated significant anniversaries, St. John the Evangelist Parish Council in my home town of Marquis, celebrated 90 years!
The provincial council joined the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic agencies to encourage the provincial government to establish legislation to protect the conscience rights of all healthcare professionals.
Provincial council was saddened by the loss of two life members, Margaret Lommer, who served as provincial president from 1961 to 1963, and Lottie Wihack, who served from 1997 to 1999. Thanks to their fine example, their legacy will continue, as three new life members from Saskatchewan will be commissioned at this national convention.
One very deserving member was presented with the Bellelle Guerin award. Two members, Janette Rieger from Regina and Shannon Granger from Saskatoon, were selected as participants for the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation program. Additionally, two members from the Diocese of Saskatoon, Connie Crichton and Margot de la Gorgendiere, were selected to serve on working groups of the implementation committee. Susan Melchiorre, also from Saskatoon, was chosen to serve on the national resolutions committee.
One of my goals is to grow the League by introducing the Catholic Girls League (CGL) in all three dioceses. I am happy to report that Holy Spirit Parish Council (Saskatoon) will launch the first-ever CGL in the province this fall!
I encourage all members to befriend Indigenous and international sisters by meeting them in their gathering places. Walking in solidarity with Indigenous sisters in their annual memorial march on Valentine’s Day, to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, would be a great start. Hopefully, by reaching out in friendship, they will feel comfortable joining the League in the future.
The League is as relevant today as it was when it began nearly 100 years ago. As a river brings life-giving sustenance to all living things, so must members allow faith to shine through actions and flow into the lives of all they meet!