93rd Annual National Convention
August 11 – 14, 2013
Report of National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson
Report of National Secretary-Treasurer Judy Lewis
Report of Executive Director Kim Scammell
Report of National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Mary Nordick
Report of National Chairperson of Organization Barbara Dowding
Report of National Chairperson of Christian Family Life Margaret Ann Jacobs
Report of National Chairperson of Community Life Fran Lucas
Report of National Chairperson of Communications Cecile Miller
Report of National Chairperson of Education and Health Peggy Roche
Report of National Chairperson of Resolutions Shari Guinta
Report of National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman
Report of National Chairperson of Laws and National Past-PresidentVelma Harasen
Report Chairperson of International Relations Betty Anne Brown Davidson
Report of Alberta Mackenzie Provincial President Dorothy Johansen
Report of B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Doreen Gowans
Report of Manitoba Provincial President Monica Brechka
Report of Military Ordinariate Provincial President Donna Penney
Report of New Brunswick Provincial President Marion Fogan
Report of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial President Rita Janes
Report of Nova Scotia Provincial President Debbie Samson
Report of Ontario Provincial President Betty Colaneri
Report of Prince Edward Island Provincial President Barb MacFarlane
Report of Quebec Provincial President Suzanne Wiseman
Report of Saskatchewan Provincial President Marge Szabo
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REGINA, Saskatchewan – 747 members and spiritual advisors attended the 93rd annual national convention of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada from August 11-14, 2013, at the Delta Regina Hotel in Regina, Saskatchewan. Under the theme, We Have Seen the Lord! they gathered in prayer, were challenged and inspired by gifted presentations, and were engaged in important discussion on a number of social justice issues.
In his homily at the opening mass on August 11th, Most Rev. Daniel Bohan (Archbishop of Regina) encouraged members to “let their journey through life be carried on the wings of hope.”
Presenter Sr. Fay Trombley (Tuktoyaktuk, NT) focused on religious outreach to the Inuit and Inuvialuit peoples, especially children. Presenter Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner praised members for their missionary work announcing, “the church needs you: you are dedicated … enthusiastic missionaries.” Fr. Bill Burke from the CCCB national Liturgy Office gave a lively presentation on the Year of Faith and challenged members to reclaim Sunday. Member Ann Chase, a 15-year ovarian cancer survivor, gave a presentation on ovarian cancer awareness. Kathryn Perry, author of The Courage to Dare: The Spirituality of Catherine Donnelly, Founder of the Sisters of Service, discussed newly found documentation on the role Catherine Donnelly played in founding the Sisters of Service and the impact she had on the Church in Canada. Kathryn drew a parallel between the writings of Sister Donnelly and the comments of League members about their spirituality. Maribeth Stewart, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) vice-president for North America, explained the organizational structure of WUCWO.
Those attending were spiritually enriched and moved to both tears and laughter by the witness of four honorary life members, Irene Lefort, Claire Heron, Agnes Bedard and Danielle McNeil-Hessian, as they shared their deeply personal experiences of having seen the Lord.
An anti-pornography campaign was launched, and members will be working to raise awareness of the evils of pornography while inundating members of parliament with postcards, letters, and emails.
The League, founded in 1920, is one of the largest organizations of women in Canada with in excess of 91,000 members represented in every province and territory and in the military. The League is organized and pledged to serve all citizens and has often received the commendation and keen appreciation of federal, provincial and municipal authorities for the voluntary services ably performed by its nationwide membership.
Two resolutions were adopted this year by the national council for action by members: Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples “urges the current national executive to build relationships with indigenous women leaders, and to identify ideas and programs for members through the national standing committees on building or deepening relationships and partnerships with the indigenous peoples of Canada.” Employment Insurance Benefits for Cancer Patients and their Caregivers “urges the federal government to provide employment insurance sickness benefits up to 52 weeks for cancer patients; and increase the employment insurance compassionate care benefit to 26 weeks, accessible during a 52-week period, for caregivers of cancer patients.”
At the closing Eucharist, Bishop William McGrattan (Toronto) was installed as national spiritual advisor for the next five years. Outgoing National Spiritual Advisor Archbishop Martin Currie (St. John’s) was thanked for his years of service at the closing banquet by the national presidents with whom he served: Danielle McNeil-Hessian, Velma Harasen and Betty Anne Brown Davidson.
“Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets”(Lumen Fidei).
When I think of this past year, I think of travel and hospitality. Monthly, in Be League, I have diarized my visits with members in Hastings, Ontario; Williams Lake, British Columbia; Peterborough, Ontario; Humboldt, Saskatchewan; Summerside, Prince Edward Island; Quebec City, Quebec; Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador; Calgary, Alberta; Ottawa, Ontario; Waterloo, Ontario; and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Joy was the gift shared in each of these provinces as we journeyed, dined and prayed together. We shared intimate Jesus stories, and members showed me the unique geographical features of their corners of Canada. The aboriginal people have a saying, to “truly understand another person, we must walk a mile in their moccasins.”My heart beat in tune with their dilemmas and delights; I could see and understand how the League works for them.
Enthusiasm for Catch the Fire! ignited a burning interest as women were welcomed to cherish the faith, fun and fulfillment of membership. Members are hungry for more, and so we look forward to the follow up program called S’mores and its surprises. Our “fire starters” (Catch the Fire! facilitators), certainly seemed to enjoy themselves as they lit sparks and shared stories with members from near and far.
Building bridges of friendship and being present to others was a benefit as the League sent representatives to conferences dealing with the challenges of resettlement of refugees, trafficking of women and children, end-of-life issues, the reality of Canada’s indigenous peoples, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace, and Catholic education in Canada.
It was my privilege to listen to the concerns and reflections of our American sisters at the National Council of Catholic Women’s annual conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; to represent the League as an observer at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Plenary Session in Mont Gabriel, Quebec; to present the2012 Resolutions Brief to various ministries of the federal government in Ottawa, with National Chairperson of Resolutions Shari Guinta and National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman; and to accompany the governor general’s official party to Rome for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis.
The national executive spent time discerning a focus for the new theme, We Have Seen The Lord! as came up with the idea of “go tell everyone, offering ourselves opportunities for encounter with Jesus in others, demonstrated by acts of mercy.
This was followed by an intense discernment of the aboriginal situation in Canada. The importance of building bridges of friendship with local native communities seems to be emerging as a powerful next step.
Members have embraced the Year of Faith and new evangelization in the church as they studied their bibles, catechisms and the documents of Vatican II. Discussion groups have fostered the idea that, as the people of God and in the presence of Jesus in the world today, they each have an important role to play. So members have to ask themselves, “What can I do?” or “How can we create the ideal conditions so God’s presence can grow and nurture His people?”
Thanks to the expertise of Erica Johnson, our communications expert at national office, we entered the age of social media with the launch of our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Advertising and public relations also contributed to keeping our message front and centre in the public forum.
We are most grateful to Kim Scammell, our executive director, as she acted on our behalf with lawyers, insurance agents, investors and federal bureaucrats in examining the requirements of the CanadaNot-for-profit Corporations Act and the Catholic Women’s League Leadership Foundation. She also dealt with other serious matters as they arose over the year.
Archbishop Martin Currie (St. John’s) has been a prayerful and a constant national spiritual advisor not only this year, but over the past five years. We will thank him properly at the closing banquet.
End-of-life issues continue to challenge us, especially in the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec. When meeting with the federal government this year, the delegation did not meet with as many high profile government ministers or the prime minister, but this may actually have been a good thing because it gave the delegation a chance to have more relaxed conversations with several pro-life backbenchers, policy advisors and executive assistants. These are often the people who do the work in government. It is good to put a face to a name and for them to realize the sincere concerns of members spread across Canada.
The welcoming smiles, hugs of recognition and tidbits of advice offered to me by our bishops and priests as I travelled into their territories affirmed my faith and belief in the League’s efforts. It made me realize how important the League is to the growth and maintenance of the Catholic faith in Canada and in the world. We truly are all in this together, doing our best “For God and Canada”, witnessing the faith and trusting that God is leading the way.
We have seen the Lord! Let us share our stories and reach out in love to one another. For as Pope Francis says, “For those who have been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes” (Lumen Fidei). †
Report of National Secretary-Treasurer Judy Lewis
The national executive reviewed the 2012 audited financial statements as prepared by Scarrow & Donald LLP, Chartered Accountants. These are the organization’s first financial statements prepared in accordance with Canadian accounting standards for not-for-profit organizations. In preparing the 2012 statement of financial position in accordance with Canadian accounting standards for not-for-profit organizations, no adjustments were required to the amounts reported previously accepted.
We wish to thank our Executive Director Kim Scammell, her team at national office, as well as the administrative committee for their hard work and attention to detail to obtain the best possible financial results for the League.
As stated in the cover letter from Scarrow & Donald to us dated August 13, 2013, “We confirm, to the best of our knowledge and belief, the following representations made to you during examination of the financial statements of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada for the year ending December 31, 2012 and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year then ended in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles.”
My report on the 2012 financial statements will focus on the Statement of Revenues and Expenditures, as this reflects the activities which were undertaken by the CWL of Canada during 2012. Revenue totalled $1,398,426 for 2012 compared to a budget of $1,416,000. The national treasury received 2,557 fewer memberships than anticipated in the original budget; sales of pins rebounded from a lull in sales in 2011; the convention registration was expected to be about 1,000, however, 900 attended.
Net investment income was $76,971 compared to $43,700. The market experienced a small rebound in value whilst a loss in value had been anticipated.
Expenditures totalled $1,278,799 compared to a budget of $1,375,00, an under-spending of $96,901. Annual convention costs were lower than anticipated due to less than anticipated meal and accommodation costs for the national executive and the return of seed money from a convention committee. The development fund monies made available were not fully accessed by councils. Circulation of the magazine declined by 2,130 members and one issue was smaller than anticipated, creating some savings in printing and design costs. The resolutions committee and Catch the Fire!committees incurred fewer charges than anticipated, and the allocation for meetings to government was unused, due to a postponement of the meetings until spring.
The total difference between revenues and expenditures from operations was $196,598 compared to a budget of $84,000. The Statement of Revenue and Expenditure reflects the activities which were undertaken by the CWL of Canada during 2012 in comparison to what the League had planned for the year. In summary, our revenues were approximately one percent lower than budget. However, we were able to contain our spending so that our expenses were approximately seven percent below budget. In conjunction with our better than planned investment income, the League was able to achieve a surplus for the calendar year 2012.
I am filled with joy and so pleased to introduce to you today two members on staff at national office who are here with me. Amanda McCormick is our data entry clerk and the cheery voice you hear in membership, particularly if you work with online membership. She is excited to meet all of you and to put a face to the members she has come to know. Erica Johnson is our executive assistant who ably maintains the website, and helped us launch our Facebook and Twitter pages. She is also training as the recording secretary.
Some of you “regulars” at convention may wonder where Janice Jones might be. She was not able to attend convention with us this year, and I would ask that you keep her in your hearts and in your prayers. I know many of you miss seeing her and I know convention has been a great joy for her.
How does national office see the Lord in the midst of filing correspondence, entering data, tracking instructed voting forms and shipping orders? We see the Lord through the compassion, action and empathy of our members. We hear the Lord when members call, write and e-mail. You are the face of the Lord. We see and hear hope and joy, but also sometimes anger and frustration.
What we have learned from our small part of the League world is this: when joy is given, joy is received and that same joy spreads to others. We have found the most successful councils we encounter in our daily work create an atmosphere of joy in all they do. Joy, which is cultivated within our hearts, is unmistakable. It is manifest in how we treat each other, how we talk about each other, how we support and buoy each other up in hard times, and how we celebrate in good times.
The sharing of joy and sorrow is integral to building trust and relationship. Here’s a measure of the prevalence of joy in your council: can you share your strengths and weaknesses with your League sisters, knowing they will proudly share your strengths and privately help you with your weaknesses? How do we all bear witness to and for each other?
In my role, I have seen many changes in executive office. What joy it gives me to see successors hold in high esteem the accomplishments and initiatives of their predecessors! Isn’t that a true testament of respect, loyalty and tradition? I’ve also witnessed predecessors support, mentor and encourage their successors – what an act of generosity and love! Things may not be done the way they would do them, or handle things, but even so isn’t everyone’s effort worthy of support, encouragement and love, and a testament that they are trying their best?
Joy is not always easy to achieve. It can be elusive if not impossible to find when we are feeling discouraged or frustrated. We may get angry at ourselves or others. We all have those feelings sometimes. How anger, resentment or frustration is handled by each of us leaves a lasting impression on our grassroots members.
I hope when you communicate with national office you come away experiencing hope, joy and enthusiasm even when you may disagree, or when you are calling to communicate a negative experience.
On behalf of myself, Diane H., Janice, Diane K., Valroy, Larry, Amanda and Erica, thank you for allowing us to serve you with joy as we strive to bear witness to the good news!
My sisters and brothers: let us joyfully proclaim, We Have Seen the Lord! Let us run to tell everyone the good news. That is our mission as laity.
We have had a wonderful first year of our theme We Have Seen the Lord! We have told our stories and shared our experiences. We have reflected and hopefully grown spiritually during this Year of Faith. Where do we go from here, especially in the spiritual development standing committee?
Pope Francis has many ideas, as he shared at the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He said in his homily on July 28th, “Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: He sends us to everyone.” Go out; go forward; keep going. Be creative; be audacious; do not be afraid. “Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our [brothers and sisters], as Jesus did.” He also reminded us that Jesus never leaves us alone, and we are not expected to do it alone. We are church, as the pope reminded us. “Jesus did not say: ‘One of you go,’ but ‘all of you go’: we are sent together.”
Pope Francis, like St. Francis, often reminds us to witness joyfully. I think that it was St. Theresa of Avila who said, “From… sour faced saints, Good Lord, deliver us!”
Taking to heart the pope’s words, might I suggest that councils look at what they do in spiritual development? Do they tend to do the same things, good in themselves, yes, but also in a nice comfortable pattern that does not stretch members? Why not try something different? Look carefully at the headings under our standing committee. Are there some that your council has tended to overlook? This year, why not look into one of these, such as ecumenism. This January, Canadians have written the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity biblical reflections, prayer services and educational materials to be used worldwide. The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was involved. What a great opportunity for councils to participate in ecumenical activities associated with the week, and what a great opportunity to use some of the materials available for council meetings and prayers if councils are unable to participate. I am sure that our creative members and councils can come up with audacious ways of evangelizing and serving our brothers and sisters if we put our minds to it.
I am pleased to announce the contributions made by members to Catholic Missions In Canada: $36,482.93, an increase of nearly $5,000. Thank you for your generosity and keep up the good work.
As we continue to reflect and work under our theme, We Have Seen the Lord!, and its indispensable effect, “go tell everyone,” let us keep in mind a prayer of Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, which resonates with the words of Pope Francis, “What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?…Take away the quietness of a clear conscience. Press us uncomfortably. For only thus that other peace is made, your peace.”
What an amazing year!
Have you seen the Catch the Fire! map? Look at all those fires burning across the country! One hundred workshops have already taken place in 463 parish councils, attracting over 3,500 participants. The response is overwhelmingly positive as members and non-members alike are being surprised and energized. While the numbers sound significant, this grand total equals roughly four per cent of our total membership!
Catch the Fire! graduates tell us they are renewed, invigorated and reminded anew about why they became members. They feel valued, hurts are healed and hearts are truly set on fire. There are so many wonderful accounts of sacred meetings, special encounters and delightful descriptions of “aha” moments. I am so pleased that the provincial presidents were able to share a number of them. Thank you for that.
The response for more Catch the Fire! has been overwhelming, so watch for the S’Mores package coming soon to a facilitator near you! The League is blessed to have been gifted with this exciting initiative. We must share the wonderful news. If we are really eager, then it should be obvious by how we act and what we say. If we are convinced the League is truly a gift for all women, we must go and tell everyone! Go start a conversation, share a story, relive a memory or make a new one.
It is vital to keep fanning the flames. As Pope Francis tells us, we must share our faith encounters and not keep them locked within ourselves or in small groups. He said the way to fan a flame is to share it and pass it on. The same is true of Catch the Fire!
On Gathering Day we heard first hand the powerful impact a shared story can have when honorary life members Irene Lefort, Claire Heron, Agnes Bedard and Danielle McNeil-Hessian told of how they have seen the Lord, each in their own unique way. How blessed we are that they shared those encounters with us, and we need to do likewise!
How will hearts on fire affect your parish council? If you go home from Catch the Fire! thinking it was great but never do anything about it, then what? The parish council is the home and heart of the League. If we are to grow in membership and develop strong Catholic women it must take root in our parish councils. After all, the backbone of the League is its members. Last year we gained 4,492 new members. Sadly, 1,256 died last year as well; may they rest in peace.
What happened that 7,010 members did not renew? Why? It is up to each one of us in our respective parishes to look for them and to seek them out. They could just be busy, or they may be hurting. Everyone knows that personal contact is the most powerful and authentic way to do this.
And while numbers are important, membership is much more than that. It is about faithful and faith-filled women living out that fundamental role in society to which our Holy Father keeps referring. It is about honouring those who have gone before us and taking care of those in our midst. It is about working with our spiritual advisors, helping them to know and appreciate what we have to offer and how we can help.
Membership is about parish councils with dedicated women who will both build up the kingdom of God and roll up their sleeves to get things done. It is made up of those who pray and those who are happy to do the heavy lifting. Like Martha and Mary, who served the Lord in different but equally important ways, we are essential to the health and well being of our church. When we open ourselves to the encounters presented, particularly in our parishes, and follow where the Holy Spirit leads while walking as sisters of Jesus, a new and vigorous church will emerge!
We have already been called and chosen for God’s purpose. Our goal is to focus on the mission at hand, to offer all women the opportunity to recognize and nurture their gifts and talents. That’s what membership is! At the risk of mixing metaphors, we need to be sowers of the seeds of mercy, healing, forgiveness, fun, fulfillment and joy in our parishes, and let the Lord take care of the rest.
It seems Pope Francis is speaking directly to members. He tells the faithful to open up, and be supportive and attentive to others. And further, he says to set their stakes on great ideals that change the heart and make their talents useful. The League’s ideals (objects) are very clear and its stakes (calling members to Holiness…) are high indeed.
We are a formidable group of strong, committed Catholic women, and we are doing great things “For God and Canada”. As one we will kindle new fires, see the Lord in all we meet and let the Spirit take us where we never dreamed we would go! It is time to come down from the mountain and go out with faces radiating the love we have for and with the League. We have seen the Lord; go tell everyone!
Imagine a marriage in which each partner commits to conjugal love, forming one heart and soul, and demanding indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving. The relationship continues to be built on a deep respect for one another, on friendship as well as on passion, shared values, hopes and interests, and on the desire to make a life and a family together. There is the strong sense that through living out this vocation the spouses are responding to God’s call to holiness.
Imagine every child conceived in a mother’s womb has been desired by God and called by God to life. The child feels loved and encouraged to be the person whom he or she is meant to be, sharing emotionally intimate time within the family setting.
Imagine providing the seriously ill, terminally ill or disabled with the utmost of personal attention – home care, palliative care and pain control to alleviate suffering. This care saves a sick person from feeling lonely and abandoned, and affirms the life of the person who is dying.
Imagine youths who can testify to how they were changed when they let Jesus into their lives. They experience the Eucharist, the rosary, Eucharistic adoration and reconciliation. They recognize their special duty to help Christ’s least ones – the poor, homeless, disabled, sick, oppressed and unborn.
Imagine seniors who are respected for their exceptional lifetime experiences, and whose opinions and views are sought to formulate wiser, more just choices in the lives of subsequent generations.
Imagine faith communities where widowed, separated or divorced women are included, strengthened and empowered to positions where their unique gifts are enriched, and shared in an affirming and welcoming manner.
Imagine a faith community which actively promotes vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Sadly, this is not the reality in which many of us live today. Four in ten marriages end in divorce; more than three million abortions have occurred in Canada since 1969; children live in poverty or dysfunctional homes; terminally ill patients may be offered euthanasia or assisted suicide; widowed, separated or divorced women are excluded; seniors are unappreciated and disrespected; and seminaries are educating fewer priests.
Our challenge as Christian family life chairpersons is to change this reality to ensure the imaginable is willed into existence, for “the path toward the future passes through the family.” Not only should we be encouraging and promoting activities at the parish level that will provide an increased focus on family life, we need to initiate programs that will germinate into fruitful relationships with others and the community, God-centred activities with a deep rootedness in our faith, a faith built on a rich and rewarding relationship with Jesus.
Essential to the success of this endeavour is the absolute necessity to recognize and celebrate the presence of Jesus in our lives, and our personal encounter with Him. This begins by developing a deep sense of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. By including Jesus in every partnership of our lives, we will change who we are and the minds and hearts of those whose lives we touch. Through our activities we are responding to God’s divine plan of salvation. Our challenge isn’t just to promote programs but to personally experience this change in dynamic. Inspire fellow Christians to practice theology of the body. Grace their lives through engaged encounter or marriage encounter, and offer programs to animate and enrich family life. Bring our churches to life with an attitude of deep respect, inclusion and dignity for all members. Pray for vocations and seek out ways to affirm and build up the clergy. Support their endeavours for all God’s people.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Just imagine the possibilities … just imagine!
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is a large component of the community life standing committee, which could keep one very busy, while allowing for great learning opportunities. Subcommittee chairperson Diane Lemay monitors CCODP and shares information through In The News on the national website.
This past year I have felt a compelling pull to the CCODP portion of the community life standing committee. I believe our Lord is opening my eyes to see more closely the needs in areas of the world where so many have so little and suffer so much. At the request of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and CCODP, a special collection to assist victims and refugees of the war in Syria gave members an opportunity to help the thousands of Syrians who each day flee their home country. The federal government has made an initial commitment to resettle up to 1,300 Syrian refugees this year. Can your parish council help with this resettlement? Perhaps you have not yet had involvement with CCODP. Start by purchasing a membership and begin the journey, knowing the Holy Spirit will guide you to where you are meant to be. My goal is to become more involved in local Catholic social services to help immigrants and refugees settle into their new homes and experience a smooth integration into Canadian society.
Statistics from the United Nations (UN) show up to four million people are trafficked worldwide. Can you be a messenger of the Lord and voice the need for a change in the laws to ensure victims are protected and the true perpetrators are criminally charged? When your parish council meets in the coming months, would you write letters to your provincial minister of justice voicing this request? Or perhaps invite someone from a local agency that helps women who have been part of that lifestyle to tell their story? Hearts will undoubtedly be stirred to action when you hear of the abuse and manipulation of these individuals.
In June, subcommittee chairperson Nancy Simms attended the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada’s Caught in Traffickconferencein Winnipeg. Copies of her report are available through national office. After the League’s national delegation to government met with the policy advisors for the minister of labour and the minister for the status of women, it was positive to hear Member of Parliament Stella Ambler (Mississauga South) named chairperson of a new committee to investigate the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Resolution 2011.02 Children of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women should tie nicely into her work.
An article from the Edmonton Journal states across Canada, 4.2 million people, including 967,000 children and their families, live in poverty. The City of Edmonton website cites that each homeless person costs taxpayers roughly $100,000 a year for such things as police and medical costs, versus $30,000 or less to house and support them. There is good news; many provincial governments and a number of municipal governments have developed strategies that are succeeding in reducing and preventing poverty. According to a press release, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN, noted at a recent UN general assembly meeting that worldwide hunger is an ongoing scandal. He went on to say, “hunger is one of the world’s most solvable problems…. per capita food production has steadily risen and total world food production now exceeds what is needed to give every person sufficient food and nutrition.” Our role would be to encourage premiers to urge the federal government to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty.
There is much positive movement in the aboriginal community. Statistics Canada reports young aboriginal women are gaining ground, with 14% now having university degrees. Males and females are returning to their communities enticed by new opportunities of entrepreneurship and new models of collaborative development.
The CCODP 1% Program National Voluntary Fund continues to generate valuable dollars. Since it began in 1978, a total of over $1.9 million in donations has been collected. For the past two and a half years, the three projects supported were the National Federation of Domestic Workers (FENATRAHOB) in Bolivia, the Development Exchange Centre in Nigeria and the Afghan Women’s Resource Centre. Since July 1, 2012, donations have totalled $76,125.18. A new partner in Haiti will soon be announced as the work with the National Federation Domestic Workers in Bolivia has been completed.
As the Year of Faith draws to an end, let us live our faith more richly by seeking out ways to be more hands on in our work “For God and Canada.”
Last August, when I became chairperson of communications, one of my first tasks was to confer with the chairperson of community life to decide which committee should be responsible for the issue of pornography. After the fall national executive meeting, National Chairperson of Community Life Fran Lucas and I were joined by Hamilton Diocesan Past President Rosanne Sogan, and it was decided that the communications committee would continue to have anti-pornography as part of its portfolio.
Since 1988, We Have Seen the Lord! in the work of Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation (C.A.S.E.), and every October, parish councils across Canada used kits prepared by volunteers for the White Ribbons Against Pornography Campaign.
With the folding of C.A.S.E., the communications standing committee was left with the task of coming up with an alternative for the campaign against pornography. Today, this alternative is launched. It is called Pornography Hurts and we thank members from Hamilton Diocesan Council for the name. The campaign will be a many-pronged approach.
- It is recommended that members wear white ribbons in October each year. 2.
- Postcards are available on your tables to complete and mail to the federal minister of justice and your local member of parliament (MP), with extras for your friends and family members to complete and mail. 3.
- In October,The Canadian League will feature an article on the issue of pornography and a page of facts. Stitched in the centre of the magazine will be two more postcards. Members will be asked to fill out the postcards and send them to the minister of justice and their local MPs. You, who have already sent two, could send yours to the prime minister and any other MP of your choice.
- Using the fact sheet and information in the article, members will be asked to write letters and e-mail MPs. 5.
- Besides sending the two postcards during the month of October, members will also be asked to send cards, e-mails and letters during designated months so that for 12 consecutive months, MPs will be receiving information about the issue of pornography. The designated months for each province/diocese will be listed in the fall issue of the magazine.
We are asking for the support of all members. The postcards, letters and e-mails will have an effect, and we will be continuing the work which has gone on for years. Why must we mount this campaign against pornography? There are many reasons. More people need to be made aware of the evils of pornography. We need to learn the facts and then go tell everyone why this campaign is necessary. Pornography is big business today; it not only affects children, but the perpetrators, families and society as a whole. Pornography hurts; it hurts everyone. As members, we see the Lord in these little children who are going to be feeling the effects of child pornography, physical and emotional pain, psychological distress and overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness and embarrassment, to name a few. As we continue our campaign, we remember the words of Jesus, “…just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25.40).
Let us work together to make more people aware of the effects of pornography and continue the fight to eliminate pornography in all its ugly forms. As C.A.S.E. stated in a press release in 2001, “Members of Parliament need to be asked hard questions. Canadians must demand clear, proper and protective legislation be implemented.”
Also, last fall, under communications, a survey was conducted to identify readership patterns and areas of improvement for both the current League website and Be League. Using the results of the survey, it was decided that a new website should be designed, a website that is more dynamic and easier to navigate. Executive Assistant Erica Johnson is currently working on this new site using WordPress. The data migration from the old to the new is being done now, and when that is complete, the new website will be launched. Watch for an announcement in the near future!
In March, the League launched a Facebook page (The Catholic Women’s League of Canada) and a Twitter handle (@CWLNational). The League has over 340 likes on Facebook, and the number increases almost daily. The Facebook wall has proven to be a useful communication tool for members to share event updates, photographs and supportive comments. There are over 60 followers on Twitter.
As chairpersons of education and health we become instruments of the Lord, reaching out and touching others and encouraging them to become more aware and educated in the areas of spiritual health, mental health and wellness, environment and genetics, Catholic schools, catechesis and literacy. In order for the national treasury to help members continue their education, the Bursary Committee developed revised criteria for the national bursary fund, expanding the program to include ministry to patients in palliative care, parliamentary procedure, literacy tutoring and ministry to shut-ins. Also, the maximum bursary award amount was increased to $1,000. This year, 22 applications were submitted for consideration. Sixteen were successful in meeting the criteria. The total amount awarded was $8,477.50.
Through Coady International Institute, members and councils fund leadership development programs for many people in developing countries. I am happy to report that a cheque in the amount of $33,546.10 will be sent directly following this convention from the national voluntary fund to support Coady.
Roughly three years ago, Coady established a new scholarship program, Indigenous Women in Community Leadership, which offers scholarship opportunities for qualified Canadian First Nations, Metis or Inuit individuals currently working full-time in the field of community development. In 2012, a pilot program, Canadian Women’s Foundation, welcomed its first class of 25 women leaders. It specifically focuses on building the leadership capacities and economic development of disadvantaged Canadian aboriginal, northern, rural, new Canadian, refugee and low income constituents. I understand from Erika Gunn, fund development officer at Coady, that these two programs are run by instructors from indigenous communities.
The Canadian Mental Health Association and other mental health organizations have worked tirelessly over the years to address the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health illness. Some of the things members can do to raise awareness about mental health illness are 1. Remove the fear. Start talking to kids. 2. Invite people with mental health problems into our lives. 3. Challenge stereotypes and help dispel the myths of mental illness. 4. Stop prejudice. For more information on how to can accomplish this, please visit www.cmha.ca.
Recently, a newsletter was received from MaterCare International announcing the first baby born at its newly built maternity hospital in Isiolo, Kenya, on June 18th. The hospital began operating on June 14th and has already provided care for many pre and postnatal patients. Announced August 6th on MaterCare’s blog, the first cesarean section was performed. A surgeon visits to perform fistula and other life saving maternity surgeries each week. Just imagine what this means to our sisters in Kenya.
The Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association 2013 Annual General Meeting and Convention was held in Winnipeg in June. Life Member Terri Scott attended on the League’s behalf. Terri reports, “The theme of the conference was Embrace the Spirit. Ted Paszek, CCSTA president, said that the theme ‘unites us in the mission of Catholic education. It is the Holy Spirit working in all of us that helps us protect and promote Catholic education in Canada.’” A copy of Terri’s report may be obtained from national office.
The national executive recommended three proposed resolutions be submitted to the education and health standing committee for education and awareness, Lyme Disease: Diagnosis and Public Awareness (New Brunswick), Lyme Disease and Co-Infections (Alberta Mackenzie), and Reduce the Stigma Attached to Mental Illness (Ontario). You may expect to see more information on these critical issues in my communiqués and in future issues of The Canadian League.
I may be wrong, but it seems the profile of resolutions has been raised by several degrees. Standing committee chairpersons of resolutions and legislation have worked together across the country to bring issues to their councils, communities and governments. Councils mentioned last year that members were asking for workshops, and several provincial and diocesan councils reported they had presented interesting workshops for their members on resolutions which included preparation, research and writing. Use of sample letters was effective and councils wrote concerning Resolution 2012.02 Employment Insurance Benefits for Adoptive Mothers. Review of past resolutions was also done. This heightened interest may have something to do with Catch the Fire!
I wrote a communiqué which underlined the importance of letter writing, and it has been voiced directly from politicians that receipt of letters from their constituents is a very effective tool for getting citizens’ concerns highlighted. Members have certainly acted this past year through letter writing campaigns.
Some changes to the resolutions dialogue were suggested in 2012, and we have moved forward with that in 2013. If we are going to continue to present quality resolutions, we must understand the formation and use of them as tools. There is always room for improvement.
One of my goals as national chairperson of resolutions was to produce a new archiving policy; this has been done and was accepted by the national executive at the winter meeting. Archiving of obsolete resolutions will be done at the annual national convention in 2014.
The highlight of my term so far was a visit with the federal government in Ottawa in March. We were able to secure visits with seven government departments. We met with the member of parliament (MP) for Kitchener Centre for an entire hour. He was forthright and very helpful with follow up on two issues we wanted clarified. We also met with a policy advisor from the office of the minister of international cooperation. A policy advisor from the department of finance met with us and had called us previous to our visit to inquire about Resolution 2012.2 Employment Insurance Benefits for Adoptive Mothers, as they were preparing for the new budget. I spoke directly with him prior to the Ottawa visit. The minister of justice and attorney general of Canada met with us for half an hour of intense conversation. We met with two policy advisors from the departments of labour and status of women. We also met with the MPs for St. Catharines and Kitchener-Conestoga.
The delegation consisting of National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson, National Chairperson of Legislation Anne Gorman and myself were tired but very gratified by the dialogue with the various offices. Some important contacts were made. We also met with Debra Gyapong of the Catholic News Service, who discussed our visit and submitted articles to The Catholic Register and the Prairie Messenger
The national resolutions committee received 12 resolutions for consideration this year. A lot of time and effort was spent on these resolutions. The process is in-depth but is gratifying when a good quality resolution is finalized, either to go to a standing committee for awareness or to present to government.
As the League moves forward, we all become better at the resolution process. As the League profile raises with government, the quality of resolutions and statements made through them become ever more important. We want to get it right! We research, investigate and dialogue to be sure what we say is right and true, and respects our Catholic faith. The League’s reputation depends on this.
Have I seen the Lord this past year as national chairperson of resolutions? I certainly have in the hearts and voices of my committee members; in my sisters sitting around the national table; in the dedicated, intelligent, articulate women who submitted resolutions and further dialogued on them from across the country; and even in the politicians who graciously met and spoke with us and listened to us. What a gift to have seen the Lord in so many places.
“We are proud of this nation and of who we are. We just don’t say it. It’s like the map. It just sits there on the wall displaying the lines of our coasts, the bulk of our waterways, and the breadth of our northern territories.” It left Debora O’Neil, the author of this statement, in awe. This metaphor is certainly enough to motivate members to take action. Canada is sometimes called “oddly sound,” which may result in complacency. This makes it doubly important that we continue to prod parliamentarians.
Our League forbearers had the vision to include legislation as an integral part of its structure. It is now our responsibility to take action by writing members of parliament (MPs), and reading parliamentary websites, wire services, social media and newspapers. Even though Motion 312, a motion for parliament to examine when human life begins, was defeated, we can be encouraged by it and recommend striking a committee to examine this same issue. We can also be encouraged by the actions of MPs who have voiced their consciences, which may cost them their positions in future.
As national chairperson of legislation I had the privilege of visiting parliament and of meeting with lawmakers directly. It behooves us to continue dialogue with lawmakers, creating an ongoing relationship which can only assist in creating the Canada and world the League envisions. I sat in question period and saw first hand the respect MPs showed toward each other as representatives of all parties gave amusing and touching farewell tributes to one of their own who, incidentally in his rebuttal, gave so much credit to his wife for his success.
There is no question that our Lord has tasked us with the free will to influence the prospective outcomes of various bills now before parliament, or ones that have been defeated before they had a chance to be seriously considered. February 27, 2013, saw the defeat of Bill C-400, a bill advocating for affordable housing, and Motion 408 on gender selective abortion was determined to be non-votable in committee. On the other hand, Bill C-304, an act protecting freedom, received Royal Assent June 26, 2013. Bill C-266 to establish a John Paul II Dayhas completed first reading in the Senate.
Mark Twain said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Probably the single most important thing we can do as members after spiritual development is read to become informed about how Canada is progressing. The aforementioned bills and motions may be a good place to start.
Each of us in this room has seen the face of Jesus in the Eucharist, in the cuddly baby, the joyful and thriving teen, the healthy adult and the robust senior. We have also seen Him in the inconsolable and malnourished child, the frightened and dispossessed teenager, the unemployed or under employed adult and in the frail senior. We are called to be their voice. I often feel guilt about being unworthy because I have been given so much relative to others. I then realize no one is actually worthy, so we must give back in a way that brings the face of God to all. The provincial councils have worked so tirelessly for social justice and they understand only too well how hard a row we have to hoe, and that it never ends. Quebec’s end-of-life care bill puts a point on this. There is hope, however, that we will be given the strength to continue. “Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever servers must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 4.11). Go home, write a letter to your MP commending, castigating or commenting. We cannot do everything but we can do something.
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada is rooted in history and has much to be proud of as its nears the 100th anniversary! The actions and dedication of past members was evident as the archives committee went through the many records and documents at national office. Honorary Life Member Danielle McNeil-Hessian, Life Member Shirley Bernier and myself spent three days updating the League’s records. With fondness, we appreciated the service provided by so many amazing women while realizing the importance of maintaining and safeguarding League history at all levels. Shirley has completed her term, and I thank her for serving since the committee was established in 2008; her knowledge and commitment has been valuable beyond words! The guidelines and terms of reference for the committee were reviewed and revised. All national archive material will now be forwarded only to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, and no longer to Archives of Manitoba.
The Constitution & Bylaws (C&B)Amendments Committee continued this year, preparing to comply with Bill C-4 An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations. After meetings, writing and rewriting revisions, the national executive approved circulating the proposed amendments to the bylaws in order to comply with the Act. Six additional proposed amendments were circulated to all councils and these will be voted on at this convention. My thanks to parish councils for completing what some may call a cumbersome task. However, all amendments to the C&B are only implemented with the approval of members.
The national executive approved a change in the elections procedure. The completed nomination forms shall be accepted as the first ballot if no voting delegates are released from their instructed vote due to the election of a candidate to another office or the withdrawal of a candidate. The president shall announce the name of the candidate with the majority (candidates in the case of a plurality vote) as declared elected. If any voting delegate is released from her instructed vote, all voting delegates shall cast a ballot. So, if there is a majority on the mail-in nomination form, that will constitute the first ballot. It is imperative that voting delegates understand their responsibility during the elections process.
Assisting in interpreting the C&B as well as the National Manual of Policy and Procedure (P&P)was a challenging and learning experience. The most frequently asked questions revolved around holding executive positions, eligibility and filling vacancies. The challenge we face is our diversity; one size does not fit all! There are many factors that make each council unique and our role is to keep each one vibrant and functioning the best way possible. I would encourage councils at every level to review their P&Ps on an annual basis. Standing still is not progress!
While we savour the present and anticipate the future, let us continue to remember and be grateful for our past!
At the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis challenged the young people of the world tocreate a world of brothers and sisters.I believe he bids us likewise with this familial attitude, to reach out particularly to our sisters in other countries.
With this in mind, I wrote to Luba Kowalchyk, past president of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada, offering our interest and assistance as she represents the Catholic women of Canada for four years on the board of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO).
National President-elect Barbara Dowding and I attended the workshops and liturgical celebrations of our American sisters at the annual meeting of the National Council of Catholic Women in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Building this bridge of friendship and cooperation enabled us to invite Maribeth Stewart, WUCWO vice-president for North America, to write an article for The Canadian League in the spring 2013 issue, with the hope of stimulating more interest in upcoming North American gathering in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in September, and the world gathering of WUCWO in Fatima, Portugal, in October 2014. Maribeth has likewise been with us during this convention.
The successful completion of the Velma’s Dreamproject demonstrates how quickly and enthusiastically members shared with Christian families in the Holy Land the good things God has given members. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace projects have given assistance to our sisters in Afghanistan, Bolivia and Nigeria. The League’s bursaries to the Coady International Institute have helped create vibrant community leaders for home villages in the developing world.
The highlight of my year was being invited to accompany the governor general of Canada as part of the official party to Rome on the occasion of the inaugural mass of Pope Francis. I had the privilege of representing each of you. The federal government wants us to know it truly appreciates all we have done and are still doing for the good of God’s people. They really wanted to invite all of you to say thank you, but we wouldn’t all fit on the plane!
“Lord, let me see again,” begged the blind man (Lk 18.41). Now we can see and understand the direction, challenges and passion of our Ukrainian, American, Middle Eastern, Afghan, Bolivian, Nigerian and Haitian sisters in the developing nations. Looking ahead, we look forward to embracing our sisters outside the border of Canada.
I am delighted to represent the more than 9,700 members in the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories at this national convention. We are blessed to have the theme We Have Seen the Lord! We enjoyed hearing National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson expand on this theme at the provincial convention, and it reaffirmed why we are inspired to do so much as members.
At the mid-winter meeting, the guest speaker was from the Provincial Archives of Alberta. She identified why it is so important to record what the League has done in the province, and why it is also important to submit these records to the provincial archives, so everyone may benefit from learning about League work. We are currently involved in trying to combine the provincial council’s very early history, located at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, into the provincial archives as well so all records will be in one place.
At the provincial convention in June, Eunice Peterson of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association of Canada informed members about this new organization. Participants also learned about The Saint John’s Bible with a talk on the “The Art of Illumination: How Faith Reveals Itself Through Art, Education & the Everyday” by Dr. Gerry Turcotte, president of St. Mary’s University College. Two volumes of the only full-sized fine art reproduction of The Saint John’s Bible in Western Canada, the first handwritten and illuminated bible in more than 500 years, were available for viewing.
Catch The Fire! is alive and well in Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council. Workshops have taken place from the Northwest Territories to the southernmost parts of the province. There is still much more work to do, though, and many more members to reach.
Members have been inspired to write resolutions and the council is pleased that one resolution will be discussed at national convention. Another will be directed to the appropriate standing committee for action.
In support of vocations, there is an endowment fund at St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College. There is also an endowment fund to support the CWL chair for Catholic Studies at St. Mary’s University College. Members are encouraged to continue to support these two endowment funds and to take the opportunity to register for courses of interest.
Recently, after legalities were addressed, two “angel cradles” (safe drop-off centres for unwanted newborns) were opened in Edmonton. Vancouver has one “angel cradle” already; the council would like to see more open across the country.
Members in Alberta Mackenzie continue to look for opportunities to evangelize by completing good works. We are working towards ending homelessness by supporting the Housing First Support Program within communities. We also support food banks, missions and outreach to brothers and sisters in need during times of local or widespread disasters.
We Have Seen The Lord! and we have Let Our Faith Shine throughout B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council. I had the pleasure of travelling from one end of the province and territory to the other, where I witnessed the true sisterhood of the League. What a great privilege it is to be a member. I am pleased to represent 9,252 members.
In February, a delegation met with the provincial government and shared the 2012 resolutions. The delegation was pleasantly surprised that the government was releasing a 23 page document entitled BC’s Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking 2013 – 2016, as well as an educational website to provide information, so members are better able to identify a trafficked victim and call the authorities.
We are continuing to burn with fire, zeal and joy as we are thankful for all 22 Catch the Fire! presentations. We wait in anticipation as we have at least eight more workshops scheduled for the fall.
I attended four of the six annual diocesan conventions; the president-elect represented the council at the other two. A special time was had at the Kamloops diocesan convention in Williams Lake, where I had the pleasure of driving National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson to and from convention. We travelled from Kamloops, attended the convention and returned to Kamloops via an alternate route to showcase our beautiful province.
Four parish councils have donated roughly $10,000 to aid the homeless, those suffering from addictions and seniors’ necessary dental needs which may not be provided for through any other agency. In addition, a $5,000 grant has been approved from the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada to help continue this valuable work. We Have Seen the Lord! in seniors and the marginalized, as we do our part to reach out and help.
We invite everyone to “Come Unlock the Possibilities” at the 2015 annual national convention, to be held in the beautiful city of Vancouver. Keep checking the new website, www.bcyukoncwl.com, for updates.
A special celebration was held with the families of 10 First Nations students who received the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation. The students ranged in age from nine to 23 and live on the Skeetchestn Indian Band, 66 kilometres from the nearest town. We Let Our Faith Shine as these students were taught and encouraged by our members.
The annual provincial convention was joy filled and happy, with 200 delegates. We were honoured to have in attendance an archbishop and three bishops, along with priests, who concelebrated the convention masses. Archbishop Michael Miller (Vancouver) spoke on “The Challenges Facing Pope Francis”; motivational speaker Pat Nichol gave her keynote address, “Living with Joy,” and a workshop entitled “Ten Steps to Happiness”; and Bishop Richard Gagnon (Victoria) spoke on We Have Seen the Lord! and Let Our Faith Shine. Three resolutions were adopted, with two forwarded to national council for consideration. The third resolution, Uninterrupted Services for Disabled Youth to Adult Services, will be presented to the provincial government.
We said goodbye to former B.C. & Yukon Provincial Spiritual Advisor Fr. Tien Tran. Fr. Tran came from Vietnam; he has organized a team of volunteer doctors, nurses and lay people to form a medical mission team that will travel to Vietnam twice a year performing various surgeries for people in need. Fr. Tran was pleasantly surprised when we presented our mass collection to him for his medical mission team.
As this was my first provincial convention as president, there were two highlights that stood out. I wrote a congratulatory letter on behalf of the council to Pope Francis and a reply was received. I quote, “assuring you and all the members of the British Columbia and Yukon Council of the League and your families of a remembrance in his own prayers, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.” Also there was a unanimous vote of confidence by members to increase per capita fees effective January 1, 2014. This will allow the council to carry on League work in a fiscally responsible manner.
Our convention book cover was designed by a member who used her talents to celebrate the new themes. In the centre of the drawing was a cross within a host which reflected the centre of our faith and our Lord. The circle of figures with hands outstretched raised upward in worship represented the strength and unity of the women of the League, sharing joy and generosity of spirit as they encountered Christ not only in others but also in each other. Sisterhood – that is what the League is truly about.
At the Winnipeg Annual Diocesan Convention hosted by St. Vital Parish Council, $904.00 was donated to northern missions in Canada. Guest Speaker Keely Ten Fingers spoke about murdered and missing aboriginal women in Manitoba. Members were invited to look at this tragedy through Christ’s eyes. What if these were our children or grandchildren? What would we do?
Fines imposed for late annual reports were used to buy twin dolls. At the fall meeting, there was a baby shower for the “twins” who, along with the proceeds, were donated to Pregnancy and Family Support Services. A $250.00 donation was made to a charity chosen by the parish council having the greatest number of members present at convention.
The St. Boniface Annual Diocesan Convention was hosted by St. Mary Parish Council. St. Boniface Diocesan Spiritual Advisor Fr. Charles Fillion spoke of his journey to become a priest. Author and guest speaker Mariette Martineau discussed the spirituality that is in what we do for our families, churches and communities. She reassured us by stating, “you are enough”.
The diocesan president, past president and spiritual advisor meet annually with Archbishop Albert LeGatt (St. Boniface) to discuss dates for convention, honour guards at the cathedral and his New Year’s reception. Prior to Christmas each year, the executive enjoys a pot luck dinner hosted by His Grace.
The Keewatin-The Pas Annual Diocesan Convention was hosted by Our Lady of The Snows Parish Council in Snow Lake. At the Eucharistic celebration and banquet, participants met recently appointed Archbishop Murray Chatlain (Keewatin-The Pas). Later, a circle was formed around a fire pit and participants watched Snow Lake Mayor Clarence Fisher “light up their world.” S’mores were made with huge pink marshmallows. The senses of smell, taste, hearing, sight and touch were stimulated! The next day, Catch the Fire! brought these memories back and reinforced them.
All three archbishops were able to be present at their respective conventions. Archbishop James Weisgerber (Winnipeg) announced his retirement and bid participants a fond farewell.
Since 1979, The Catholic Foundation of Manitoba has been hosting a banquet and presenting the Caritas Award for charity and compassion towards all people. The League received the award in 1991. This year it was awarded in honour of Blessed Nykyta Budka, the first bishop of the Catholic Ukrainians in Canada, and of 100 years of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manitoba. Parish councils agreed to support a silver sponsorship for this dinner.
Life Member Liaison Dolores Blanchard hosted a luncheon for life members, and provincial and diocesan presidents. Sadly, we bid farewell to Life Member Helen Bembenek who continues her journey with God. Councils reported local services for, while otherstravelled to, the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The newest parish council in Winnipeg, St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish Council, has 75 charter members. One life membership and one Bellelle Guerin Award were presented.
The annual provincial convention was hosted by St. Boniface at St. John the Evangelist Parish Council. Archbishop LeGatt presided at the Eucharistic celebration, with five priests concelebrating. Manitoba Provincial Past President Jacqueline Nogier welcomed the new Winnipeg Diocesan President Lea Colbeck. Patricia Gyulay of Catholic Missions In Canada thanked members for their support and presented on the dire need in many missions. Six resolutions were adopted.
God gifted me with pure joy when I witnessed a keepsake binder, a labour of love, presented to Life Member Margaret Silverthorne. Congratulations to Our Lady of The Snows Parish Council for winning the waiving of national per capita fees for its members. There are four more Catch the Fire! workshops scheduled. With elections and appointments, I am happy to announce a full provincial executive. We will continue to build on outreach to members and all Catholic women.
This has certainly been a very eventful year for the military and Military Ordinariate Provincial Council. The military welcomed a new minister of national defence who is a former lawyer, married and a father of three children. As many as 8,000 army, navy and air force personnel are preparing for, engaged in or returning from missions locally and abroad. Ships are performing counter narcotics operations and transporting United Nations observers to peace support missions. Nine hundred Canadian soldiers are leaving for Afghanistan as part of Operation ATTENTION, the last Canadian Forces mission in the country, in which they will train Afghan soldiers and police officers. Youth of First Nations, Metis and Inuit ancestry were sworn into the Canadian Armed Forces in Esquimalt, British Columbia, as candidates of the Raven Aboriginal Youth Employment Program, designed to build bridges into aboriginal communities and to make youth aware of potential military or civilian careers with the department of national defence. It is interesting to note they were given the traditional option of swearing on a bible or with an eagle feather, a cultural symbol for the First Nations people. This fascinating program is in its tenth year.
Annual provincial conventions are hosted by military base councils all over Canada. To keep costs down and convention fees to a minimum, it is a general rule that attendees reside in military quarters, eat in mess halls and attend meetings in chapel annexes. When a base council does agree to host, it may only have the council’s and spiritual advisor’s support initially. It can be very daunting, yet exhilarating, when the council president goes home from convention and announces her council has been accepted to host a convention. Then the real work begins. The chain of events and procedures has to be exact and placed into a tight time slot, and the waiting game begins for approval.
For Queen of Heaven Parish Council (CFB Greenwood) that hosted the 46th annual provincial convention, there was an unexpected turn of events; a new procedure was implemented in October 2012 by the federal government. To aid you in understanding how changes in government procedures can affect the Military Ordinariate base councils, I will briefly clarify the new Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures introduced by the treasury board for all federal government departments. Extensive reporting is required when seeking event approval including the cost of travel for all participants, cost of facilities, where the event will be held, cost of meals being provided, where the funding is coming from to pay for the event and what type of hospitality will be extended. The higher the total, the further up the chain of command the event has to go for approval. When creating the application, the originating unit must also write a briefing note for each level of command and provide draft letters for each signing level to pass to the next level. The request must be sent 14 to 16 weeks in advance. In the case of Queen of Heaven Parish Council, the event, which was the convention, had to go through the Greenwood comptroller, its Wing commander, the commander of Air Division, the commander of the Air Force and then the deputy minister. This is all done before accommodations, food and meeting rooms can even be booked, which is definitely a test of endurance for a host council.
Military Ordinariate Provincial Council continues to take on the essential role of caregiver to military families. We see the Lord through easing the families’ burden. Members provide food and babysitting, run second hand shops on bases, support the military pilgrimage to Lourdes, send military dependants to World Youth Day, provide spiritual guidance or, perhaps, just have that cup of tea or coffee with a reassuring friend. My dad always told me, the family that prays together, stays together and he is right. The Military Ordinariate is a family, part of God’s family to all military members. With God’s help and direction, we will carry on supporting the military families, “for the happiness of every country depends upon the character of its people.”
As my two years as New Brunswick provincial president come to a close, I look back and think about how much there is to learn about the League. I have been blessed by Our Lady and was fortunate to work with so many of my League sisters. My first duty as provincial president was to attend the 92nd annual national convention in Edmonton. I wish all my sisters could have attended. I learned so much and met so many.
In September, the fall provincial executive meeting was held with full attendance and much business to cover. Following that, a regional meeting was held to provide information on Catch the Fire!I attended the 80th anniversary of St. Raphael Parish Council in my own hometown of Blackville. In October, I was off to the national fall executive meeting in Winnipeg and found these meetings very informative. In November, I attended rosaries and masses, funeral receptions and important meetings.
I had an important meeting at the Anglican church on the issue of euthanasia. The Anglican community is very concerned about euthanasia and abortion. In the latest attempt to legislate euthanasia, Quebec introduced Bill 52 on June 12th by framing euthanasia as a medical, not criminal, matter. Quebec hopes to bring the debate into provisional jurisdiction. The federal government has previously tried to address euthanasia. The House of Commons decisively rejected euthanasia by defeating Bill C-384 on April 21, 2010, with 59 votes in favour and 226 against, although almost every Bloc Québécois member supported the bill.
In December, the faithful prepared for the spiritual birth of Christ. Fundraisers were held for the needy and to help unwed mothers. Members baked, made donations to the food bank and distributed clothing. In January, breakfast was provided for the children in schools, and children with special needs were helped by providing food or clothing to their mothers.
I attended the winter national executive meeting in Toronto in February. In March, I handed the reins over temporarily to the provincial president-elect and provincial treasurer. They managed the annual provincial convention, and they kept me posted in my absence. In May, I accepted the invitation to attend a convention in Rexton, New Brunswick. It has been busy and I have been blessed. May our Blessed Lady be with you.
I am honoured to present this report as newly elected president, representing with great joy and hope Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Council. In preparing for this report, I read a review of the homily given by Pope Francis on Pentecost Sunday where he challenged the faithful to consider whether they were starched Christians or courageous Christians, ready and willing to live the gospel today. It is quite obvious the members of our province are anything but starched, and they show themselves as courageous women by facing the diverse issues in their church, local and global communities.
This was best witnessed at the fall 2012 meeting when members decided on focus topics for the next two years. They chose: evangelization and the Year of Faith, with intentions of evaluating at the end of 2013 and then deciding how to proceed for the 2014 year; the role of women in the Church, fifty years after Vatican II; and ecology, to promote the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of all creation, and to live in a spirituality flowing out of the sacredness of all creation. Two issues within this focus topic members decided to take action on are hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the local and global water crisis. In this regard, we are pleased Pope Francis has spoken several times since his inauguration about the need to protect all creation and safeguard the earth.
At the annual provincial convention, members had an opportunity to share happenings in their councils with regard to these focus topics, the challenges they are facing and where they may need support from the provincial council. These topics were chosen by members because of their importance, and members are optimistic they will encourage many younger women in their parishes to consider joining the League.
A challenge not unknown to most provincial councils is also facing Newfoundland and Labrador: the issue of membership. Hence, all members have been challenged to consider themselves responsible for membership recruitment and retention. The first step in doing this is to ask ourselves these questions and then discuss them at a council meeting:
- What makes the League different from other women’s organizations in the parish or community?
- What does it mean to be a member of the League today?
- What is my reply if a parishioner asks, “Why should I join the League”?
- What two things can I do to help my council better reflect on the objects of the League?
Catch the Fire! has reached over 50% of parish councils and plans are in place to reach out to the remainder of councils in early fall. The response has been positive and enthusiastic, and it is our dream they will continue to attract and motivate women of the parish to join the League and assume leadership positions.
We continue as courageous women, full of joy, hope, wisdom and generosity, committed to God and Canada.
It has been a productive and fruitful first year for myself and the very active Nova Scotia Provincial Executive, which started in August 2012 with a retreat to set priorities for the year and to look at a schedule for Catch the Fire! Starting with two facilitator workshops in September and October, we set forth to engulf the province in flames, strategically locating workshops to reach the largest audience possible. The response was tremendous with 1,400 of the 4,300 members (and many non-members) attending. It is amazing how the Lord works and this was evident in the young mother who attended, brimming with ideas of how to make the League attractive to her peers and to the inactive members who were in awe of the League. It was just as amazing how He worked in the faithful members to help them listen with open minds and hearts.
The executive spent time at its March meeting further developing the theme We Have Seen the Lord! and decided there were so many ways to see the Lord in our province. Being inspired by Nova Scotia Provincial Spiritual Advisor Fr. Doug Murphy’s recitation of Psalm 150, we decided to extend the theme to We Have Seen the Lord so Let Everything that Breathes Praise the Lord. We also had the 13-year-old son of one of our members, Dante Samson, depict the theme in a pencil sketch. The Lord certainly had a hand in it!
The 2nd Annual Halifax-Yarmouth Diocesan Convention was held in Yarmouth, and the guest speaker was Sr. Nuala Kenny, emeritus professor of bioethics at Dalhousie University and ethics and health policy advisor to the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada. She requested that attendees see the Lord in the church, take all the good they know and appreciate about it, and find ways to heal it, as she knows only League members can. She handed out manuals for each area of the diocese which included methods on how to proceed. The provincial executive will spend some time reflecting on the direction the Lord is asking it to take with this process.
I also attended the 91st Annual Antigonish Diocesan Convention in St. Andrews. The guest speaker was Sr. Dorothy Moore, the first Native sister in Nova Scotia. She encouraged members to see the Lord even in the trials they may encounter, sharing many stories from her own life.
The annual provincial convention was held in June and attendees were blessed to have National President-elect Barbara Dowding deliver a beautiful slide presentation with many thoughtful reflections on how to see the Lord and on different ways to praise Him. She invited attendees to share the passenger seat of their cars with the Lord when travelling alone and to see what conversation develops.
Phil Davidson, director of the St. Francis Xavier University Extension Department, visited and gave some insight into a project the council plans to support which involves our aboriginal sisters. As a result, a motion was brought to the convention floor to extend the fundraising project in light of the new theme and its challenge to perform corporal acts of mercy.
As you can see, the theme has given many great opportunities for members to see the Lord and praise Him. Nova Scotia Provincial Council looks forward to the next year of deeper and closer encounters as members go forward with hearts wide open!
We are on a journey. The road may not be Emmaus but it is on our way home to the kingdom of God. All around us sisters in the League are talking about things that are happening in the world. League sisters work together and share the same mission, values, vision and goals.
Our eyes are restrained at first so we don’t know Him. He wants us to know what He is saying. He wants us to see His people, especially the marginalized, elderly, poor, hungry, bullied and defenceless. He wants us to listen and learn from those we encounter on the journey so we can hear their needs and be the voice of those who have none.
As we journey, we are to ask questions, gather information and get to know His people better. In doing so they will feel valued because they have been heard. In our present society, it is easy to get caught up in the fast pace and walk too quickly.
Across Ontario, members paused along the journey for days of development to learn practical skills, grow in faith, foster League friendships, and share stories, ideas and ways to promote the League. In doing so, members acquired new confidence to take on executive positions and leadership roles.
Members have been attentive in this Year of Faith with spiritual retreats, bible studies and taking a closer look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They continued to support seminarians with the Bishop Bernard F. Pappin Memorial Bursary Fund, which was used to assist ten seminarians this year. This bursary is funded solely through the donations of members.
Members have put their faith in action by going into schools with programs such as The Rosary Apostolate, which teaches children how to pray and to make rosaries so they understand the true deep meaning of this beautiful gift from Our Blessed Mother. We Have Seen the Lord! has given members an opportunity to look at their personal relationship with Jesus and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world desperately needing His help.
We grew on our journey as we embraced technology with online memberships. The ON-Line Newsletter grew from 44 subscriptions in 2012 to 243. Each monthly online posting shows the good works of members at the grassroots level and features one diocese and one standing committee. The Trillium News and Views newsletter is produced twice a year in hard copy. The provincial executive introduced a Facebook page to reach younger members and new members, and keep in touch with existing members. It revised the provincial manual of policy and procedure and guide to hosting the diocesan/provincial convention, a true testament of pride and dedication.
An organization standing committee workshop was held in 2012 that brought a time of learning and fellowship, and the development of the catch phrase “Good Things ‘Glow’ in Ontario”! Did our hearts not burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened the scriptures to us? Burn they did as we participated inCatch the Fire! Flames have ignited on the national map, and members will be fanning the flames in fall 2013. A video presentation was given at the provincial convention showing the work that has been done so far and members becoming sparks of innovative ideas. Two parish councils from the Diocese of London were winners of the Catch the Fire! participation contest.
The provincial council welcomed four new life members in 2013. I was privileged to witness a random act of kindness at an annual diocesan convention when members heard of the plight of a speaker who was building schools in a developing country. Attendees spontaneously took up a collection to help with the costs. At the annual provincial convention, the same was done to help in Alberta with the flood relief fund.
You can never get enough HUGS – Holding Unending Grace and Spirit. Research shows that hugging is extremely effective at healing sickness, loneliness, anger and stress. Hugs lift one’s serotonin levels, creating happiness. Virginia Satir, family therapist, stated, “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth.” Hugs teach us to let go and be present in the moment, and encourage empathy and understanding. A hug can create a connection that one cannot express in words.
In Ontario Provincial Council, we open our arms to the right, stretching across in prayer with our sisters in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Stretching to the left, we pray with our sisters in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. We give a big hug as we embrace our sisters across Canada with joy.
Our eyes have been opened, and we know Him in the faces of His people. Together with one voice we glorify Our Lord Jesus Christ and with excitement we proclaim, We Have Seen the Lord!
As I begin my second year as Prince Edward Island provincial president, I am pleased to report on behalf of the almost 2,300 members in the province. Of course, we have been very involved with Catch the Fire! To date, four workshops have been presented, with one more to present in November. Participants in these workshops were very enthusiastic and indeed have caught the fire. Last winter, an official provincial Facebook page was established in which we joyfully shared our activities with parish councils and those of you from across the country who have chosen to be our “friend”.
The provincial focus on the theme We Have Seen the Lord! is the corporal act of mercy of visiting those “imprisoned”. However, we have taken “prison” in its broadest sense to mean not only those who are physically incarcerated, but those imprisoned by poverty, disabilities, poor physical or mental health, addictions or even hardened attitudes. It was the physically incarcerated that were highlighted at the annual provincial convention when guest speaker Sr. Audrey Brocklehurst told of her work with inmates at the Provincial Correctional Centre.
In May, it was a great pleasure to have National President Betty Anne Brown Davidson at convention and share her workshop on We Have Seen the Lord! Although her time with us was short due to travel commitments, I can assure you her presentation was appreciated by all those in attendance. Also at this convention, two resolutions were adopted. Three provincial executive members met in June to discuss these resolutions with the premier and the minister of health and wellness. The delegation was well received and had a lengthy discussion, particularly on the resolution that dealt with addictions services.
The provincial executive is pleased again this year to offer a grant for parish councils that wish to join other parish councils in their area to pursue a project of interest or of concern to them. Four grants were approved that will involve a total of 13 presenting councils. These projects will take place in the fall and range in content from a retreat-type gathering for all women to a wellness session, to a session on women’s issues and a presentation on youth addictions. Councils are working together for the common good, and the executive is very pleased to support these endeavours.
This past year, two executive members were lost. The provincial chairperson of community life relocated to another province, while the provincial chairperson of Christian family life contracted a rare form of cancer that took her life in June. She taught all who knew of her condition about courage, faith and making the best of every day, as she lived the best she could during this difficult journey. It was her husband who designed the provincial logo, and for that we are very grateful.
Looking ahead, there are two fall conferences scheduled. One executive member journeyed to the Holy Land with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in June, and we are looking forward to her presentation at the conferences. Also, the executive hopes to increase readership of the Facebook page by encouraging every parish council to have at least one member who would check the page often. Not to get so caught up with technology that we lose the sound of our own voice, we hope to continue an initiative which began last year where we make an effort to call all parish council presidents and make that personal contact.
Prince Edward Island Provincial Council’s challenges are similar to what many councils face across the country, an aging membership which results in fewer members doing the work. However, the work does get done, sometimes in new and creative ways. I look forward to the rest of my year as provincial president as we pursue new ways to fulfill our provincial focus on the imprisoned and proclaim to all that We Have Seen the Lord!
Quebec Provincial Council is changing. There are now two diocesan councils and eight stand-alone parish councils. The total membership decreased slightly due to the decline of English practicing Catholics and thus increasing the challenge of attracting new members. Some months ago, and to the council’s great surprise, a few ladies encouraged by their husbands (themselves Knights of Columbus) decided to inquire about having a council in their parish. They responded to an invitation to attend Catch the Fire! They really enjoyed it and are now involved in the process of applying for a charter. How exciting is this! Is this not the Lord helping the League?
In May, members gathered on Les Plaines d’Abraham with the Physicians Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia. From there, we marched to the parliament buildings under the banner, “Euthansie, Non Merci!” I saw the Lord in young parents with their children, various youth groups, members of different religious communities, priests and bishops, and individuals from all walks of life. It will be important for members to remain vigilant as Véronique Hivon, minister for social services and youth protection, hopes her bill to provide “medical aid-in-dying” will be adopted by the national assembly before Christmas. A resolution against physician-assisted suicide was adopted at the annual provincial convention. A French translation of this resolution was sent to the premier, leaders of the opposition and various ministers.
Most of you have heard about the tragic explosion and fire in Lac-Mégantic. One life member has challenged all parish councils to send a donation through the Red Cross in aid to the community. Many have already acted on this challenge. The Lord is indeed present!
This fall, there will be two Catch the Fire! sessions; we aim to visit every region of the province. It has been great fun presenting these workshops. Several members have expressed their enthusiasm for the League. I trust that the Lord will encourage members to renew their commitment. Recently, He sent me two members to fill vacant positions on my newly-elected executive and somehow I trust He will take care of the other two still needed.
I am here because I have seen the Lord. Why did I say yes to becoming provincial president? How will I get through the next two years? I have been blessed with ongoing support from my League sisters and my spiritual directors. Belonging to the League has deepened my faith, and I want to help maintain membership in La Belle Province. I admit having moments of hesitation, only to see the Lord. I enjoy working with others and the next two years will be a great learning experience. Vive, The Catholic Women’s League of Canada!
Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, has been described as “a celebration of Christian faith as the guiding light of a ‘successful and fruitful life,’ inspiring social action as well as devotion to God, and illuminating ‘every aspect of human existence’.” I think the journalist was describing the League and its mission statement. Through the standing committees, members have served and helped illuminate our human existence.
The embers are glowing throughout the province; Catch the Fire! is catching on. Although national funding has been fully used, more workshops will be held in the fall. We are happy to announce that St. Paul Parish Council in Vibank was one of the parish councils to have its 2014 national per capita fees waived. A first year member from Regina Diocesan Council was so impressed and enthused aboutCatch the Fire! that she personally made a commitment to recruit 30 members. In four to five weeks, 45 new members were recruited with the help of a few others. The torch is being passed on. We are happy to share this enthusiasm.
Much emphasis has been placed on adequate and affordable housing. This year, Habitat for Humanity Canada will fund 40 new homes to be built across the province. Previously, between one and eight new homes were built in a year. In Saskatoon, a new 34-unit rental housing project will assist families in need. Many parish councils are involved by contributing money and labour, and sponsoring lunches for the workers.
The three diocesan councils have held spring conventions, which were followed by the annual provincial convention in Saskatoon in June. A new provincial executive was installed at Holy Family Cathedral. National Spiritual Advisor Archbishop Martin Currie (St. John’s) was the theme speaker on the Year of Faith.
The Bellelle Guerin Award was given to two members who have been a guiding light in the League. They are Theresa Istace of St. Ann Parish Council (Kennedy) and Armella Rollheiser of St. Theresa Parish Council (Rosetown). The $1,000 annual Social Justice Award was shared by three recipients this year, Alanna Carlson, Angela Fornwald and Taylor Roy. The national bursary fund provided seven members with funding.
The highlight for the province, especially in the Archdiocese of Regina, was hosting the 93rd annual national convention. As chairperson, and now co-chairperson of the planning committee, it has kept me very occupied with the many tasks involved. A committee of exceptionally gifted members have shown us how to use computers and technology to our advantage. The committee tried to involve as many councils and members as possible by writing welcome postcards, helping with décor items, contributing to the health break fund so complimentary coffee could be offered, and contributing to all the other services needed to host a convention.
I marvel at the amount of good works and service you have provided to others in the name of Jesus. Each one of you has been summoned to walk with Christ and illuminate every aspect of humanity. We Have Seen the Lord! through the faces of League members. The provincial workshop in the fall will continue to develop the theme,We have seen the Lord!