Press releases, convention news and oral reports from the 95th annual national convention in Vancouver, British Columbia.
95th Annual National Convention
Vancouver, British Columbia
August 16-19, 2015
Guest Speaker Podcasts:
- Bishop Gary Gordon (Victoria) – The Abundant Heart and Our Mission’s Call
- Pavel Reid – The Synod on the Family and the New Evangelization
- Keynote speaker, Dr. Josephine Lombardi – One Heart, One Voice, One Mission
Report of National President Barbara Dowding
Report of National Spiritual Advisor Bishop William McGrattan (Peterborough)
Report of National Secretary-Treasurer Shari Guinta
Report of Executive Director Kim Scammell
Report of National Chairperson of Spiritual Development Anne Gorman
Report of National Chairperson of Organization Margaret Ann Jacobs
Report of National Chairperson of Christian Family Life Judy Lewis
Report of National Chairperson of Community Life Doreen Gowans
Report of National Chairperson of Communications Fran Lucas
Report of National Chairperson of Education and Health Nancy Simms
Report of National Chairperson of Resolutions Jacqueline Nogier
Report of National Chairperson of Legislation Janet McLean
Report of National Chairperson of Laws Betty Ann Brown Davidson
Report of National Chairperson of International Relations Barbara Dowding
Report of Alberta Mackenzie Provincial President Cathy Bouchard
Report of B.C. & Yukon Provincial President Pat Deppiesse
Report of Manitoba Provincial President Faith Anderson
Report of Military Ordinariate Provincial President Shelley De-Serres
Report of New Brunswick Provincial President Margaret McCallum
Report of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial President Ruby Sharpe
Report of Nova Scotia Provincial President Joan Bona
Report of Ontario Provincial President Pauline Krupa
Report of Prince Edward Island Provincial President Louise Doiron
Report of Quebec Provincial President Ingrid LeFort
Report of Saskatchewan Provincial President Jean Reader
The following oral reports were given at the 95th annual national convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. They may have been edited to remove non-CWL information and to fit the space available.
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Where did that cliché come from and what does it really mean? It means no matter what new things come along, there are some truths that will never change. It means while things may seem to be different, at least on the surface, the reality at the deepest level remains the same.
There is a sign that reads “hidden encounters” on a railing in a local park. When I first saw it years ago I was inspired even before I began thinking about a theme. It made me think of all the different ways and means we experience encounters with one another, some obvious, hidden, surprising or even perplexing.
When I first saw the sign, the view of the inlet was clear and beautiful; now the trees have grown so high, you cannot see through. Things changed; trees grew; but the inlet is still there in all its glory as beautiful as ever. It hasn’t changed—my view has.
This is the reality of the League and I have seen it over and over as I travelled across Canada. I have seen new changes and I have seen same old, same old!
But just as the cliché suggests, I saw these as a reinforcement of the status quo and the solid ground on which the League is built.
I think it is the same with the League as our view or perspective changes. I have seen so many ways to do the same thing, variations abound especially at convention, and yet in every instance there is the desire and intention to follow the nearly 100 year old practice. The more things change, the more they remain the same and this is a good thing.
The desire to grow the League, to promote its goodness and value and to enhance its reputation is clearly evident. Embracing change is not that easy. Yet, one of the endearing qualities of the League is the development of the person and the two year cycle of executive service so people have a chance to invite new ideas. By embracing our individual talents we ensure the League has freshness and life. We look to the past for direction and inspiration but the future needs thoughtful and brave new ideas. The church, family and society as we have known it, will change even more than we can imagine if recent statistics are true. For every one person that comes into the church, six leave. What has been successful to date may not be so for the next generation.
The League has a stellar reputation. All levels of government recognize the League’s contribution to society and, as was evidenced yet again in March, appreciate what members do for Canadians. The meeting with the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops proved to be fruitful and rewarding. I am sure we will see an increased collaboration going forward with Canadian bishops. I am not only grateful but excited for the possibilities.
We are grounded also by the Objects of the League which continue to guide and keep us focused. The theme not only calls for unity and truth that all women have an opportunity to encounter the risen Lord but the theme calls also for those personal encounters, walking in another’s shoes, and one on one relationships which give life and hope.
My travels were awesome! I loved every minute and am extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity to serve and promote all you do “For God and Canada.” It is an honour to be counted among those who have preceded me in this role. To you, esteemed past national presidents, thank you! Each one of you forged your own path with your unique gifts and your plan or theme. You brought newness and promise. Your legacy remains!
From Whitecourt, Alberta for the St. Paul diocesan convention to Niagara Falls for the Ontario provincial convention and nine stops in between, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Kingston, London, Toronto, I can tell you the League is holding its own and doing very well. Members gather because they are committed and because they care—about the League and about each other. They believe in the power of our many voices being as one and, even in the midst of disagreement, confidence in the process shines through.
You have just heard from the provincial presidents of the great work being carried out across the country. Did you notice what was different and what remains the same? Of the 11 conventions I attended, I loved them all equally for that very reason. I learned so much and the highlights are too numerous to recount here, but if you follow Be League and read The Canadian League you will have already caught up with me. I wanted to put what I learned to the test so I went back to the beginning.
Bellelle Guerin was the first to say it: “… it is time for us to rouse ourselves from our torpor (inertia) and easy indifference. … Each of us in our own place doing that which comes to our hand, finding the needs, all our united strength… “ She was referring of course to the need of the day in 1920 to come to the aid of the thousands of immigrant women arriving in Canada after the Great War. Women helping women. In her now so famous speech, we recall the words that still gives us shivers:
Oh, Catholic women of Canada, let us stand close together, so close, so close that we will hear each other’s heartbeats, that if a sigh or a sob or a call shall stir the air in the most distant part of the North West, it will throb down through us like an electric current, even to the shores of the Atlantic, awakening our sympathy and compelling our aid. Shoulder to shoulder; heart to heart.”
Times have changed a great deal since 1920 but it is the same profound sentiment that propels us forward. It is who we are that gives us purpose to help.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI blessed the fledgling organization challenging its members “…. to devote yourselves to the family. The family is the centre of all good and through the family will come the restoration of the world.” And here we are today, faced with immense challenges and struggles around all things family. Our focus remains the same—to strengthen the family, protect and care for it. With the synod of the family this fall, there is no doubt in my mind that the League can and must have a huge part going forward. We may have to do things differently or see with different eyes, but no one is better placed than we are to heal, comfort and love. This is a priority.
It was also in 1922 that the League and the Sisters of Service entered into a relationship that would span more than 80 year. It is from these earliest beginnings and the years of working together that the Catholic Women’s League Leadership Foundation was born. We are on the cusp of a new and exciting venture for women, looking at a new way of partnering on a path as yet untrodden.
Did you know that during the Second World War, the League raised $25,000 to support the government’s war efforts in Canada and the League appointed a war services convenor? The leadership of the day embraced the circumstances and the whole organization rose to the occasion. The issues of our day, from human trafficking to pornography to world hunger demand a different kind of action.
Through war and peace, the Second Vatican Council and the dramatic changes in society, the League remains steadfast and strong. “Rooted in gospel values” is a phrase we take for granted, but it is the rock on which we stand. Individually we are weak and powerless; collectively with One Heart, One Voice, One Mission, we will endure not on our own merits, but built on the legacy of so many others who have shouldered great burdens and sacrificed so much. How could we do any less?
We are facing a crisis in our country; a crisis of faith, a crisis that left unchecked will change how we live and more importantly how we die. I wonder if our national focus might be on mobilizing forces to work in end of life care—with the same zeal with which the League welcomed new Canadians nearly 100 years ago who needed company, support, love and care. This could be part of the new way to preach the gospel, to reach out, to encounter fully with a heart of mercy and compassion.
The League has always been ahead of its time with resolutions that effect change. In the encyclical, Laudato Si, the Holy Father focuses on water, quality of human life, practical relativism and the invitation for all “to a heart of ecological conversion.”
The League is in the forefront and will continue to take the lead on these important signs of our times. I believe we need to make bold plans for the future, discern new ways to hear God’s voice and prepare ourselves to be women of mercy with strong, clear, joyful voices. We pray for a holy courage to seek the new path, to go outside our comfort zone, to embrace the new idea. Standing on the solid ground of our faith and the League, we can see the future.
It was heartening and hopeful to hear spiritual advisors at all the conventions offer support and gratitude to the League. They really get what we do and are the first to say we are keeping too much to ourselves and need to market what we do and why we do it in new and modern ways.
Many pastors are faced with parish closures and reorganization. They understand the pain involved, but they too are hurting. One asked how we could change things to accommodate these new realities, how to encourage membership in stages or to join even when getting to meetings is not possible. How can we respond and be proactive rather than reactive? Maybe it is time to look at different kinds of membership that respond to new realities.
I have met so many wonderful women, from those who have served the League for decades to those who had come to convention for the first time and many more in between! What they have in common is enthusiasm and zeal. Special attention was paid to members of long standing for their gift of service and years of dedication. Their contributions are highly valued. Many are still mentors; some embrace change and even enjoy having someone else do the work! Some prefer the status quo and would rather nothing ever change!
I also met women like who are frustrated by the seemingly lack of progress, by what they feel is a resistance to make any changes! To you I say, you are the new pioneers. You have new visions, a prophetic voice and are looking to lead us into a new world.
You excel at communication and make things happen differently and in many cases quickly! I challenge you and all women who have ideas to share—make your voice heard. Be proud of wanting the best for the League; take charge of that in your parish and diocese. Be part of the future by sharing your expertise and helping us try some new paths, taking us by a different route so we can continue to live our mission. Look for ways to communicate your passion for justice and peace, new ways to engage your peers that they will see the value of the League’s collective voice at the federal level and beyond.
Think of the League as a giant ocean liner—it takes time to turn the ship even a few degrees! Deliberate maneuvers take time.
We can do so much as one. Together, let us honour the legacy and the 95 years of structure and the solid foundation on which we stand as we find ways to ensure another 100 years. The ship is solid, the mission is clear, the change is in the sailing.
Make old things new. As we prepare for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, let us get back to basics, beginning with ourselves and our parishes.
As members of a national organization we will certainly be part of this blessed time in church history. You will be hearing a great deal more about how this will unfold from renewing our acquaintance with the spiritual works of mercy to taking a pilgrimage. The holy year awaits, holy doors will be opened, pilgrims will travel and the Holy Spirit will show us the way we are to go. One Heart, One Voice, One Mission is our call to put mercy and compassion in to action.
And so we follow the vision, not just the footsteps. Keep the mission in sight and blaze new trails. The more things change, the more they stay the same—and in our case, I believe that is a very good thing.
I’m proud to say that I am completing my second year as national spiritual advisor and I felt I should give you first an update not on my activities, but on my presence in this role. One of the important aspects of my role is to pray for all deceased national executive levels. So each year I receive a list of those who have passed away with the request to celebrate mass. And I wish to say that I have done that, and continue to do that every day as one of a silent intention at the celebration of mass.
The other important spiritual work that I do is the annual mass that is televised on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. This is the most popular televised mass. The organizers of Catholic broadcasting are very impressed with the large participation and congregation that shows up. So I extend my thanks to the League members of Toronto, Hamilton and Peterborough who have attended.
The third aspect is my daily prayer for members of the national executive who are sitting before you. As Christians and Catholics, and especially as priests and bishops, we are asked to pray for one another. It is a very simple request and one that should not go without faithful response.
The activities that I have focused on in the last year have been primarily to support the committee work, the committees of spiritual development, Christian family life, education and health and resolutions.
This year there has been a revision to the spiritual advisors’ brochure. At the luncheon I encouraged all spiritual advisors to take copies to share that with other priests so that they’re aware of the role and activities of a spiritual advisor.
I have also helped with the protocol guidelines for funerals for members.
Under Christian family life, I have also received requests to review proposed letters, briefings and certain articles that may be of interest. I do this mostly to strengthen the voice of the League, in terms of tradition, and the theological and pastoral impact that they can make. It is a very small contribution that I do in terms of activity to review some of these documents.
In writing articles for the League I have focused on the new evangelization, and most recently, on maintaining our vigilance in promoting the gospel of life, in light of the Supreme Court decision of Carter v. Canada. In looking to the future, you have heard at this convention that we have the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, an opportunity for the League across Canada to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that are so evident in your history.
One gift that you give to the recently ordained, is a spiritual bouquet. I would suggest that in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that all across Canada, the League could gather this spiritual work to show people the hidden ministry of prayer that is part of the League, especially in this year.
The new evangelization must continue to be at the heart of the church and the League. This was evident at our luncheon with the spiritual advisors. I would suggest to you that membership drives are part of the new evangelization, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in the church. There are creative ways to reach out and one of the spiritual advisors has talked about his initiative to resurrect the local parish council which had decided to disband.
The audited financial statements for the fiscal year 2014 were prepared by Scarrow & Donald LLP Chartered Accountants of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A monthly statement is prepared by national office staff and sent to the administrative committee for review. As treasurer it is my responsibility to examine the statements including the report on revenue, expenses, banking and investment activity.
For the year 2014, per capita fees totalled $1,135,241. This is less than the budget of $1,170,600 and less than 2013 actual per capita of $1,176,692. This should be of interest to members as per capita is the League’s main source of income. Other income includes product sales, registration fees for convention, magazine subscriptions, life memberships, bursary donations and some miscellaneous income. Product sales and convention registration fees are offset by new product purchases, inventory and convention costs. Total income for 2014 was $1,351,021.
Expenditures for the year totalled $1,197,893 leaving a surplus of revenue over expenses of $153,128. In addition there was investment income in the amount of $161,636 leaving a grand total of revenues over expenditures of $314,764. Investments continued strong this year and are in two products—fixed income investments and Canadian equity investments. All investments are with morally responsible vehicles. The fixed income investment interest rates vary from 1.95% to 9.5% with maturities through to 2026. The value of investments increased from 2013 to 2014 in the amount of $521,168.
Per capita revenue accounts for 74% of the League’s income, 12 % from product sales, 11% from investment income and about 2% from convention registration.
Two items account for the League’s largest expenses, 44% attributed to the staff and operation of the national office, including office equipment and rent, and 21% for The Canadian League.
National Voluntary Funds collected for 2014 totalled $140,033.
Over this past year, in response to some questions from secretaries and treasurers I submitted communiqués to my counterparts as well as submissions to The Canadian League, with an extra memo distributed on the new insurance program as there was some confusion regarding coverage.
Along with the administrative committee, I met with the representative from Wood Gundy regarding the League’s investments. I met as well with the auditor privately to discuss the statements and various areas of the League’s finances and reporting done by staff. Once the draft budget is prepared by the executive director, it is discussed and reviewed and then presented to the administrative committee and finally presented to the executive. One item I will mention is the expiration of the office lease agreement this year, which Kim Scammell and I first discussed and then she negotiated with the landlord for a fair long term lease.
Overall, the year has been a positive one and I am quite comfortable and confident in the League’s finances.
I present my report on behalf of the eight full and part-time staff of national office. The 2015 season thus far has been filled with many of the usual duties, but also a few unique projects, which are always interesting and satisfying, as they add variety to our days. As you can probably guess, membership and orders are the biggest service we provide. Membership processing for 2015 began in October 2014 and peaked, as expected, on the very last day of February. Amanda McCormick and Diane Havens expect that most councils use the February 28th deadline as their target, and this year was no exception. The bulk of a year’s work tends to come in over a six week period, so this work is logged and processed on a first come first served basis. We maintain an updated widget on the website to inform members how long the delay might be before their membership package is processed. Please refer to it to determine where you sit in the queue.
Ordering is also at its busiest in the spring before the last parish council meetings of the season and going into conventions. The national executive determined at the winter meeting that service pins should be available in 5 year increments, beginning at 20 years. Some parish councils have chosen to play “catch up” and others have purchased these new pins on a go forward basis. Whichever was chosen, it certainly added a robust new level of busyness to the ordering and shipping department served by Valroy Anderson and Larry Peters.
Those members on staff who deal more with the national executive on a regular basis have had some intriguing opportunities to assist this year.
• Under the guidance of Margaret Ann Jacobs, members were invited to participate in a hospitality survey. I thoroughly enjoyed tabulating the results as they arrived.
• Erica Johnson created an online membership forum at the request of Fran Lucas. It is being moderated by Barbara Fawcett.
• Erica also had the pleasure of dabbling in coordinating the video footage of members taken across the country, another project overseen by Fran Lucas.
• You will have seen the brief annual report highlights for 2014 that were put in your registration kit. This was an initiative of national office that received the blessing of Margaret Ann Jacobs and Barbara Dowding. I hope you enjoy these and find them useful. Diane Kelln and I hope to make them better each year and would love any suggestions you may have about that.
• Erica had great fun helping with the design of the gratitude postcards and bingo cards that were in the centerfold of your spring magazine. And she and I have had even more fun watching members use them.
• Ingrid Taylor helped us to transition to the new system for parish council liability insurance, now that all parish councils are covered by the national treasury.
We have noticed some opportunities that we hope to accept as a new challenge over the coming months. The online membership had grown to over 50% of the total processing and the e-mails received from these councils can now top 160 per day, 110 more than can be handled promptly and professionally by one person, while still allowing time to complete other related essential job requirements. In this digital age, expectations on response times often exceed staffing levels of service providers. Recent statistics show that while 60% of people will wait two days for a reply, only 3% will wait a week. Every attempt is made to answer all e-mail requests in a timely and complete manner and we hope by “putting all hands on deck” when membership is at its busiest, can meet expectations.
We also notice, as I’m sure you have, that the annual reporting is very valuable and necessary, but cumbersome. We are looking at ways to streamline the process so that the levels that have to compile results for their reports, will have an easier time doing so. We are looking at online software that will assist in this regard, at least insofar as gathering some of the basic data from parish councils.
Madame President, on behalf of national office, it is always a pleasure to serve. I respectfully submit this report.
What other organization is so diverse that it holds the spiritual growth of its members as the epitome of its existence. In doing so, through education of members by studying and discerning how Catholic teaching speaks to us, we move further along the road of expanding the role of women in the church. Taking more leadership roles in lay ministries, evangelizing within our communities, offering assistance through prayer and good works for our mission sisters and brothers, and working with our fellow communities on interfaith endeavours, completes our mission statement.
We have truly seen the Lord! Franciscan Richard Rohr, among others, says we are more apt to see the goodness and mercy of the Lord through our weaknesses. The challenges each of us face, whether in our spiritual, economic or social life, is when we are most apt to find God with us. It is when we are weak that we are strong. The Lord, speaks to our hearts, especially when our western world is telling us to think and do what is contrary to God’s simple instructions.
An initiative was begun last fall and continues, the Rosary for Peace. With the encouragement of national spiritual advisor, Bishop McGrattan, members pray daily for peace throughout the world. The fruits of this labour of love will surely be seen.
The Year of Consecrated Life honours those who answer the call to religious life. Many councils celebrated the clergy and religious who give so generously to all. A jubilee celebration is scheduled on February 2, 2016, to close the year.
The process of welcoming a new hymn to supplement the present Hymn to Our Lady of Good Counsel began last term. Having received 15 submissions, a committee, consisting of Fr Stanislas Paulin, and Life Member Ann Doucet, short-listed that number to three, and at the national pre-convention executive meeting, a winner was chosen, though all hymns demonstrated the love of Our Lady and the League by the composers. The winning hymn is “Our Lady of Good Counsel” by Mary Ertel of St. Anthony Daniel Parish Council, Kitchener, Ontario. The hymns that were submitted are now part of their respective parishes/dioceses and/or provinces, so hopefully will be welcomed for use in their areas and perhaps shared with sisters throughout the country. Thank you to all whose gifts were used for this effort.
The spiritual advisors’ brochures have been reformatted and combined and are available from the resource list. At the request of members, a funeral protocol has been drafted, and will be presented at the fall national executive meeting for consideration. Also requested by members is a service or ceremony that will honour clergy and religious, and a ceremony for outgoing executive members in an election year. These will form part of my mandate for 2015-2016.
Pope Francis has declared December 8, 2015—November 20, 2016, as an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. He is surely demonstrating the compassion and loving face of God. This holy year is a way for the church to “make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy”. We often forget, because we are so blessed and affluent, that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven. All are poor in spirit in some ways. It is a true gift to be able to use the year to become one who says, like Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”
At the November executive meeting, direction for the League for 2016 will be determined and empowered for a second year by the theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission and inspired by the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Catholic Missions In Canada (CMIC) continues to remain deeply rooted in members’ hearts as a national voluntary fund. I am happy to announce the collection from individuals and councils towards CMIC for the period July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015 totalled $35,197.65
Please keep in your prayers the family, the most basic unit of society, and pray for the success of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, from September 22-25, 2015, whose attendants will gather from around the world to pray, learn and celebrate the gift of the family.
To conclude, I will quote the homily of Bishop Robert Harris of the Diocese of Saint John on the 3rd Sunday of Easter, when he said, “Be humble, but joyfully confident”. In a pluralistic society, Christians must live happily with many other faiths, as well as with those of no faith. Hence, we are humble in their midst, but joyfully confident being followers of Christ and part of His mission that has lasted more than 2,000 years. Is that not what we are celebrating in our theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Mission?
Affirm. Empower. Commission.
Affirm. Empower. Commission.
My challenge to every member here, particularly the organization chairpersons, is to affirm, empower and commission each member of the League.
Reaching out in hospitality, welcoming all women of our parish and inviting them not only to join the League but to share in the life- changing possibilities of our councils will make a phenomenal difference in the energy and willingness of our members to serve. From the hospitality survey we know members value the friendships and support of sister members but they want to get to know and interact with each other and be active participants in parish initiatives and new programs.
Recognizing the personal gifts of each member and being present to her as these gifts are nurtured and enhanced is so important. We need to be aware of these talents and look for potential gifts that can enhance the activities of the League. Even more importantly, we need to provide the personal enrichment women receive from this involvement. Affirming the contribution made by current and long-time members nurtures their spirit and contributes to the well-being of our organization. The presentation of pins, certificates, cards and notes are all ways that we can say “thank you” or “great job”. Have you passed on the gratitude cards you received in your League magazine? Do take the time to affirm all members!
As organization chairpersons, it is our role to empower the members we have by providing current, crafted-to-needs workshops, training and development. That may be Catch the Fire!, S’mores, or your own specially designed program. Remember that your enthusiastic animators or facilitators must be informed, motivational women whose faith influence and contributions will advance the education, knowledge and empowerment of all members of the League. Don’t wait to have a magic number of participants—make your plans, book a time/place/date and advertise, advertise, advertise! It is important that as leaders we have the most recent versions of League resources—we can’t assume that the protocol and documents and the way we “used to” do things are legitimate today. Much has changed. Give members a sense of fulfillment by empowering them to be more committed to the League, its mission and Objects.
Finally we must commission those members who have been affirmed and empowered to reach out to other women. We need to share the experiences we have had of training, development days, retreat days and conventions. We need to share the depth of love and sisterhood we have experienced with other women of like faith. We all need to feel this sense of responsibility to celebrate the good news of the League, the sense that we are commissioned to go forth as proud, informed and faith-filled Catholic women ready to respond to our baptismal call, strengthened by the spirit and alive in the knowledge that what we do “For God and Canada” does make a difference.
With one heart, we reach out in affirmation. With one voice, we empower members to speak with courage. With one mission, we commission members for joyful service.
CHRISTIAN FAMILY LIFE
Variety is the spice of life. The Christian family life committee definitely has variety with nine different aspects of family life to address. Christian family life undertakes many, many projects to comfort, shelter and provide financial and practical assistance to the most vulnerable in society.
We support traditional Christian marriage, family, youth, separated, widowed and divorced, and the mentally and physically challenged with programs suggested by them.
We cannot and must not be silent with our concerns about doctor-assisted euthanasia. The Supreme Court of Canada has given the federal government until February 2016 to replace the law against doctor-assisted euthanasia. This is a prime opportunity to speak to each of our federal representatives as they prepare for the federal election in October.
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia September 22nd-25th with the papal visit on September 26th-27th to discuss issues critical to a vibrant family life. This brings much hope for the value of family in society today.
Currently more encouragement comes with the report from the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations President General Maria Giovanna Ruggieri that The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has recently adopted an important resolution with regards to the protection of the family.
Some key points of the Resolution:
“-Recognizes the family as the ‘natural and fundamental’ cell of society and as an ally against poverty, saying that it should therefore be supported in sustainable development programs.
“-Encourages states to consider fiscal policies, investment plans and employment opportunities with respect to their impact on the well-being of families, and even encourages them, where necessary, to create observatory bodies to monitor family policies.
“-Takes into account in particular the families composed of only mothers and children, highlighting the need for policies that protect against domestic violence and discrimination against women.
“-Recognizes the work done by the associations of civil society to value the role of the family.
-Encourages the United Nations to incorporate the family perspective into the work of the Objectives of Post-2015 Development (SDG).
“-Requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the impact of the implementation by states of their obligations regarding the protection of the family.”
We stand as one voice filled with mercy, compassion and holiness, one voice united in harmony to speak the truth with courage, gentleness and zeal—women united in one mission witnessing the Good News of the gospel through personal encounter and joyful service and evangelizing by our actions more than our words.
The mission portion of the new theme states “witnessing the good news of the gospel through personal encounter and joyful service.” The role of community life standing committee is to inform, educate and challenge members to take action on the corporal works of mercy—to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, minister to prisoners, and bury the dead. The reports from across Canada have shown the time and effort we give freely is truly a joyful service to God, the church community, and the country. We are taking action on the theme.
Poverty in Canada is escalating, but there is hope as seen in young people who are taking action. Last fall through Keep the Promise, a bold new program to re-ignite the commitment of Canadian citizens against child poverty, students from across Canada met with the federal government to seek new innovative ways to re awaken the government to the urgent need to end child poverty. In Sydney, Nova Scotia two Grade 6 students and their teacher attended the National Student Summit on Child Poverty and came home determined to make a change. They staged a Cape Breton Youth Summit on Child Poverty where 120 Grade 6 students from the surrounding areas attended, were educated on child poverty and learned ways they can help. We can do our part to end child poverty by taking action on Resolution 2001.03 Hunger in Canada and 2003.01 Affordable Housing for Low-Income Canadians.
The League has been very active in promoting awareness to the need and successful passing on November 6, 2014 of Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. If you have a passion for preventing sex trafficking, bring the movie Red Light/Green Light to your parish council! Two filmmakers travelled ten countries to explore the human trafficking issue, attempting to answer the question, “How can we prevent sexual exploitation before it happens in the first place?” Currently the producers are in the process of making a DVD which will be available for purchase online.
Work with immigrants and refugees started with the inception of the League and continues today. Pope Francis dedicated his general prayer intention for the month of June to prayers that migrants and refugees be welcomed and treated with respect wherever they seek shelter. If you know anyone interested in sponsoring refugees, explore Catholic Crosscultural Services, a non-profit agency providing services to assist in the settlement and integration of immigrants.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is one of the League’s national voluntary funds. We continue to donate money through the 1% program and collect postage stamps to aid the fundraising campaign to support women and young girls in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Haiti. Donations for the period of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 totalled $64,691.48 down more than $4,000 from last year and are the lowest we have raised in the last five years. I challenge all members to help increase donations by 15% which is 11 cents per member for a total of $9,703.72. Will you help make this goal a reality?
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association continues to partner with the League to support Holy Land Christians by supporting Shepherd’s Field Hospital in the Bethlehem governorate, close to where Jesus was born. The hospital provides health care to the poorest mothers and babies. For the period of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 members donated $24,028.57. These funds have helped to supply the costs of blood sugar tests for pregnant women, clinic care for newborn babies, and vitamins and supplements for 650 mothers and babies. Keep the funds flowing as we continue to help those most in need!
EDUCATION AND HEALTH
In the words of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafazi, “When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful”
The League has been one voice in the struggle against doctor-assisted dying. As the government now works towards a response to the fateful Supreme Court of Canada of Canada ruling declaring physician-assisted dying a Canadian right, we must continue to raise our voice. Members of parliament are seeking consultations with their constituents on the best way to move forward. I urge you to contact your member of parliament to protect the rights of physicians to do no harm. We must also continue to communicate the importance of hospice and palliative care and request more government funding for these facilities. If governments provide the funding I know that we will be there making these homes harbours of peace and hope.
Hope was given by the many councils that joined the Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life program. Through members’ generous donations of blood, countless lives have been saved. I send out a challenge to every parish council in Canada, by next year’s national convention, to have become a Partner for Life.
Flavoured tobacco and electronic cigarettes have been in the news a lot in this past year. Thank you to everyone who took action on these two 2014 resolutions. Our voice was heard and these dangerous products are being made illegal. Yet, have you have spoken to your provincial government regarding Resolution 2014.04 National Standard for Newborn Screening Including Screening for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency? Many politicians are unaware of this medical condition and were interested to learn more. Change can only happen through education.
Have you read Pope Francis’ latest encyclical on the environment Laudato Si? I urge you to read it. It is beautiful, thought provoking and a genuine challenge to each of us. He expresses to us “….how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”
Through this bond that the pope so eloquently speaks, I encourage us to be one voice supporting Trinity Western University. This Christian university is working to establish a law school, yet is being blocked by provincial law societies trying to deny their accreditation, citing the school covenant discriminates against the LGBT community. The covenant requires students to refrain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage “between a man and a woman”. Christian students should have the right to receive their education where they choose and not be banned from working in certain provinces for doing so.
As a means of helping members continue their education the national bursary committee met in June by teleconference. Twenty six applications were reviewed and 21 bursaries were awarded for a total of $10,675.
The League also continues to support the Coady International Institute. The Coady reported that, “The League makes it possible for Coady graduates to return to their communities as empowered citizen leaders with the skills and tools necessary to exercise their voices, address challenges, and work towards positive social change.” In 2014 four recipients were awarded scholarships through the League. The collections from individuals and councils toward the national voluntary fund for the period July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 totaled $28,971.75.
The Catholic Women’s League is truly one powerful voice even when the rest of the world may be silent. I thank all of you for your dedication in keeping Christ in Canadian health care and education.
Over the past few months communications chairpersons from each of the provincial councils were tasked with engaging members in a mission to capture testimonial footage from members on why they first joined the League, why they remain as members or what they are most proud of as part of their League work. After much viewing, and editing, and then working with a videographer, some of the results of that work are ready to view.
If the League website, online forum, Be League, Facebook or Twitter accounts are unfamiliar to you please check them out. Members have a number of online resources that are easy to access. Your sister members can help you connect and will be happy to do so.
When the CWL online forum launched in December of last year a decent number of members registered for it but not as many as hoped. But after today I am sure that will change. Access the national website and find the picture of the laptop computer on the left hand side. Click on it and you are on your way to being registered and part of the members only online forum. Here you can share your thoughts on a topic, ask questions or provide feedback to others. Here one voice can be heard by many.
Be League is a member-driven electronic newsletter that spreads the good news of parish council events. Send in your photo with a brief description of a creative council event and it will be considered for publication. For the months of September through December Be League will be spotlighting articles tied to the Year of the Family. We look forward to reading and seeing your family or “League family” story and related photo.
Because members are involved in such diverse activities we would love to have you share news of them with all of us. Inspired by a member’s suggestion in October, a new one day project will be launched called A Day in the Life of a CWL Member. Watch for more details in the weeks to come.
The Canadian League is a treasure members anticipate three times a year. Did you know you can sign up to receive the magazine online? That would mean you receive your copy quicker and is another action to help you go green.
In the fall issue of The Canadian League we will begin a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. If you have a question that membership at large could benefit knowing the response to, please let me know.
Watch for the Pornography Hurts campaign this fall. Each member can easily be involved by sending a card to her government representative. For best results include your name, address and a question to which you would like a response. Let us continue our campaign to create awareness and to show our relentless work in this area.
As part of my communications role, I have begun a pilot partnership with Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation (S+L) to grow awareness and promote the League’s good works across the country, and the world. S+L will use their platforms (television, online, and social) to boost our profile locally and internationally—thereby giving others an opportunity to get to know the League story, learn what it is and the role that it plays in the church and Canada.
A Catholic Focus episode will be produced about the 2015 convention featuring a sit-down interview with Barb Dowding. The Catholic Focus series is syndicated throughout North America and internationally and is a wonderful opportunity for us to inspire women to deepen their faith beyond our Canadian borders.
We hope to strengthen our collaboration with S+L and encourage you to explore S+L either through your local cable carrier or online www.saltandlighttv.org. And besides, what better way to keep tabs on Pope Francis? Visit their display table to find out which cable carrier carries S+L channel in your area – or simply connect with them online.
And, think about how you can get your local media aware and supporting what the CWL does in your area by finding important points of connection with the greater community and showing how the work you’re doing is an important part of the bigger picture – a better world for us all.
We are all here because we love the League. We understand that all levels are important. Each level fulfills a valuable role. It is important to make the funeral lunches, make sure there is someone to welcome people into mass, and to provide a place and time for like minded women to gather and to share their love for their faith. As a grassroots organization it is vital that parish councils stay strong and guide the League.
Members strive to make Canada a better country for all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. When they see a wrong that should be righted, they research, educate themselves, and if needed, write a resolution. Members then connect with neighbouring parishes within their community and diocese, and eventually sharing these resolutions across our provinces and country. These concerns are then taken to both provincial and federal governments where concerns are shared with those who have the ability to make real change, the lawmakers. We are a unique women’s faith-based organization in this regard.
I am not the first person to feel that resolutions is an intimidating standing committee chair. Many, myself included, have thought “anything but resolutions.” It is an intimidating thing to consider taking any new position on any executive whether parish, diocese, province or here at this table. How easy it would be to sit back and let someone else take care of the job. Our first instinct is to think:
• I’m not capable.
• I don’t know enough to do this job.
• Someone better qualified will come along.
I have a secret to tell you. We are capable, we do know enough, and we are qualified. We have our love for the League, for God, and for our country. It might be our good friend standing in front of us asking us to be the secretary of our parish council or it might be a colleague on diocesan council asking us to consider stepping forward and letting our name stand for nomination on the provincial executive. But in reality it is God asking us to use the gifts he has given us.
When in Ottawa for meetings with the federal government in March, I was humbled to be part of the delegation representing the League and sharing our viewpoints in Ottawa. Our delegation consisted of National President Barb Dowding, National President-Elect Margaret-Ann Jacobs, National Chairperson of Legislation Janet McLean, and myself as National Chairperson of Resolutions. We visited countless government officials, members of parliament, and ministers’ offices over 3 days. We were blessed to be able to have good constructive dialogue with all of the offices that we visited. We were also able to secure a meeting with the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the apostolic nuncio to Canada. At every stop we explained about the League, how it is organized, and what issues members are concerned about.
At each meeting not only did we request specific action from the government we also asked what we could do as members. As in the past we were told that writing personal letters was one of the most effective ways to have our concerns be heard. We were told not only to write letters to ministers, but also to write letters specifically to members of parliament and members of legislative assemblies. When we asked about petitions we were told that they are a modest form of engagement, that they are necessary, but not sufficient. Petitions do have value but are only a small piece of the overall puzzle. As new resolutions are brought forward each year it is important to learn about the topics that our sisters in the League have worked on and are telling us are important and timely issues. We also need to remember and reference resolutions from past years as they are still valuable and important topics.
We need to have the heart, voice and mission to do what God asks of us. We might not be experienced when we start, but God doesn’t ask us to do more than we are capable. Many of us have heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified he qualifies the called” Women across the country have listened to God’s call. You have stepped forward and have been willing to tackle a new challenge. Thank you for being brave when you don’t feel brave. Thank you for trusting in God’s wisdom to know where you should go and what path you should travel to get there.
If you are that person who feels that you are not capable, that you don’t know enough, or that someone better qualified will come along, I challenge you to overcome your fear and to step forward. It is when we challenge ourselves that we grow in knowledge, grow in our faith, and grow in the League.
Each month, the pope presents a prayer intention for that month. The July intention was “that political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.” The moment I read this, it struck me that this was what the legislation standing committee is all about. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that laws at all levels of government, respect the rights of everyone in society. By taking the time to send an e-mail or write a letter to politicians, by questioning governments on their actions, by making suggestions and recommending changes, by encouraging others to become involved, we are performing acts of charity. Pope Francis’ July prayer intention is intended not just for politicians but for each of us. We need to ensure that our voices are heard.
And, right now, we have the opportunity to do just that! Because the Supreme Court of Canada, in the ruling in the Carter v. Canada case, declared certain sections of the Criminal Code of Canada of no force and effect as they pertain to assisted suicide, the minister of justice established a committee whose task is to engage Canadians on this issue. The committee will then prepare a report of the key findings and options which will be presented to the ministers of justice and health. I urge you to go to the Committee’s website at ep-ce.ca/en/ and take part in the consultation.
At the pre-convention national executive meeting, an ad hoc committee was established to review relevant League position papers and resolutions, church teachings and other informed sources in order to prepare a response to the consultation. The ad hoc committee will submit its response no later than September 21, 2015.
The October federal election provides another opportunity for you to be heard. This is my challenge for you here today as well as for each member of your own parish council. Ask the different candidates in your riding what their personal position is on topics of concern. What would they put in any legislation on assisted suicide, do they support palliative care and would they provide additional funding to the provinces? What is their position on the environment, foreign aid, refugees and numerous other topics? Look at the duties listed under the standing committees and I am sure many issues will come to mind. Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, is an encyclical on the environment, but it is also a wealth of information that will provide you with numerous topics for discussion with the political candidates in your riding. In fact, section 180 of the encyclical says, “Citizens: put pressure on your representatives”. Use the encyclical to help with your questions. Make sure that you vote in the election and urge your family and friends to vote as well. Each of us has the ability to make a difference and, as members, our collective voices can speak for the marginalized, the helpless, the innocent and the vulnerable. Remember how bold our predecessors in the League were 95 years ago when they tackled the issues facing Canada at that time—and they didn’t have access to instant communication and information as we do. We have no excuses; we are being given the opportunity now to make a choice so that future Canadian legislation will reflect Catholic values. Let’s take that opportunity!
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” observed William Shakespeare. Thoughts of this oral report came to me as I was on my hands and knees, uncovering my rose bushes. The work of the past president is a similar labour of love.
Down on the ground, alone under the sky, I realized that the League is like that sturdy, gnarly nob of a plant, hidden under the earth during the long winter. As historians, we gently dust away the debris of collected “stuff” to reveal the essence of our League events and moments in time. We handle them gently, bring them to the light, and respectfully examine the materials that are left behind to tell the stories. Then we proceed to preserve and protect them, for they speak of dedication, passion and effectiveness. The essential things we preserve in our hearts and in special acid-free envelopes. We give them the right temperature and light. Luckily, unlike plants, they definitely do not need water or food!
Down there at ground level, I noticed fresh shoots springing forth from the plant. Such a vision of hope! In the League, these could be considered as our fledgling leaders. As mentors, models and encouragers, we instruct, suggest and nurture them. We spend time with them; we accompany them to meetings and conventions, telling them stories from the past so they can carry the torch into the future.
Kneeling on the lumpy hard ground, I thought that life was not so easy or simple or perfect. Even beautiful things can grow from arid, dry, out-of-the-way places. Roses have thorns; councils sometimes have thorny challenges to work out. As past presidents, we know from faith experience that God and Our Lady of Good Counsel will gently guide and influence outcomes. All we need to do is to be a positive presence for our members. Then the sweet aroma and delicate beauty of our members’ generosity will bring joy to the heart for all who see.
In her song, “The Rose”, Bette Midler sings:
“I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.”
The heart is built for love. Love is the heart of our mission as a gathering of women, united in Christ. As past presidents, let us love with a mother’s heart, always interested, always open and always accepting of those who come behind us.
Looking at the rosebush, I wondered what it had to tell me; did it need vitamins, more space or pruning? Observing and listening are the forte of a past president. Having had her turn “in the sun” so to speak, now is the time to watch, wait and pray that the future will unfold in a manner respecting the work of members in the past. Do the guidelines need to be clarified and tightened? What standards are important to maintain in order to facilitate the smooth continuation of League business?
Then I marveled at the immense size of the rose bulbs. They were just scrawny twigs when I planted them 10 years ago. Down through the years, they never budged, but they grew and matured. Looking back over 95 years of service “For God and Canada”, how the League has matured and grown!
The original women who first got their hands dirty with the work of the League were not just delicate tea party ladies. They were women of passion, practicality, courage and creativity. They noticed the needs of immigrants and the poor around them and they did something about it. Pope Francis would have liked those women:
• They poked under the layers of society and reached out to help and visit new immigrants.
• They offered them lodging, clothes, food, furniture and jobs.
o Do we have needy refugees in our towns and cities today? Are they confused and desperate?
o Do we have shut-ins who could use a bit of practical assistance?
• Those League pioneers, visited poor families and offered food, warm clothes and encouraged the children to go to school. They were shoulders for the over-worked mothers to lean on.
o Today, are there struggling families in our midst, too quiet to ask for our help?
o Can we sponsor events in our parishes that celebrate the gift of families?
• Our founding League mothers invited other women to work alongside them in their important wartime workshops.
o Are we as invitational to the privilege of performing the corporal works of mercy?
And finally, when one thinks of the immense variety of roses, one can imagine the different gifts and services that can be offered by the generosity of all members. In his famous book, The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupery exclaims, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes the rose so important.” May I suggest that time spent in the work of our League councils is not wasted but brings to perfection the work of Christ’s hands on earth?
Like Moses, God spoke unexpectedly to me from a bush. He didn’t set the bush on fire but He told me that He was delighted with our efforts over the past 95 years. What walkway stones can we put in place now in our call to holiness in order to prepare the garden for our celebrations five years down the road?
Our councils are our rose gardens with much beauty, sweet aroma, soft petals, a few thorns and many stories to share. Let us stop in our tracks and utter “Wow!”
Last fall I was delighted to attend the annual national convention of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) in Grand Rapids, Michigan with National President-Elect Margaret Ann Jacobs. It is a joy to be with like minded women who share our values and concerns. Their theme, Be the Voice of Catholic Women, resonated with me as it mirrored our own. The relationship that has been established between these two organizations is strong and highly valued. I was pleased to speak at the annual convention of Seattle Diocesan Council in Mount Vernon, Washington.
In October I attended the quadrennial plenary assembly for the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization (WUCWO) in Fatima, Portugal with 13 other official Canadian delegates including Honorary Life Member Velma Harasen and Margaret Ann Jacobs. The most memorable and exciting event was the election of Velma Harasen to the WUCWO executive as vice president for North America. It was a blessed time in that holy place as women from around the globe met, prayed and worked together for peace. Having an opportunity to hear the challenges facing women around the world help us appreciate the many blessings and freedoms we have in the western world and particularly here in Canada. Fatima is filled with a spirit of forgiveness and conversion, the perfect setting for an international meeting.
On Nov 11th, I was privileged to join Honorary Life Member Lorette Noble in France to attend the Juno Beach Remembrance Day celebrations. A commemorative brick sponsored by the League had just been installed marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day—an initiative spear-headed by Lorette Noble. The League was recognized and thanked during the ceremony.
In September, I will attend the NCCW convention in Orlando, Florida before travelling to Philadelphia to represent the League at the World Meeting of Families.
As noted by Paula Simons in the Edmonton Journal, “The land we are meeting on is the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. I am honored and grateful that we meet on this land. In this, our home and native land, we are all treaty people.”
The Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council has 9,560 members from Alberta and the Northwest Territories, 35 life members, four of whom are honorary life members.
A membership ideas booklet has been compiled from ideas shared by councils. Besides personal contact, councils report that vocal support of the League in the parish by their spiritual advisor promotes a strong council.
We have been working on a provincial initiative to lobby and petition for an independent senior’s advocate.
Many councils continue to support the recovery of people exploited by human trafficking.
The annual Calgary diocesan convention was held at St. Mary’s University College, the first Catholic university to offer an elementary level education degree specifically designed to prepare teachers for Catholic schools. The council raised over $1.4 million to support St. Mary’s and the CWL Chair for Catholic Studies. A song and a stained glass image have been created in their diocese inspired by the national theme.
The Edmonton Diocesan Council added a new council to its diocese from the recently created parish of Corpus Christi. During the next two years the council hopes to build on the theme of joy and how it is to be found in abundance when one belongs to the League. Another focus will be to find ways to attract younger members to the League and keep them.
Grouard-McLennan Diocesan Council focuses on activities which support its diocese and in doing so, finds ways to see Jesus.
The Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocesan Council consists of three active parish councils which cover a large geographical space with many travel challenges. Some of its focus includes research on homelessness, how the League can offer assistance and the best way to show support for missing and murdered Indigenous women.
In the St. Paul Diocesan Council the direction for the two year term will be challenging members to increase membership number ore women in commemoration of 60 years presence in the diocese. This led to grander thinking. It be wonderful if the 100th anniversary of the League might spur national membership back up to 100,000.
The provincial council is leading the way in fundraising for the Catholic Women’s League of Canada Leadership Foundation. Archbishop Richard Smith (Edmonton) was among 150 guests at the kickoff event, which raised approximately $8,900.
A League focus is the development of relationships with First Nations women. The reality of all relationships is trust, which cannot be developed overnight. It cannot come from a directive or resolution. If the League is going to be successful in this endeavour we will need to engage in meaningful conversations as equals and will require personal encounters. It is only through these conversations that mutual respect, will be achieved and through this respect possibly a relationship.
In the next two years, provincial council aims to examine the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and determine appropriate League action and support on the recommendations. Members will be encouraged, at events to which they are called to speak, to recognise whose traditional lands they are on and which treaty the agreement base they work from. Various standing committees will share work across their different mandates.
Newly recruited members want to know that they are making a difference with their time and that time spent together is used efficiently and effectively. Existing members can best speak to these concerns and demonstrate how women can work for change in society.
National President Barbara Dowding challenged those assembled at the annual provincial convention, “We are to abandon the complacent attitude that says we have always done it this way and embrace bold and creative rethinking, not alone but as a community.”
B.C. & YUKON
The provincial theme Joyfully Serving the Lord has been embraced by each of the executive members who have spent time not only fundraising, but participating in planning for this convention. It is a joy to welcome League sisters to beautiful British Columbia and to my hometown of Vancouver to “Unlock the Possibilities”!
This spring, a delegation visited the legislative offices in Victoria to present resolutions. Of particular interest and now very timely, was Resolution 2007.03 Hospice Palliative Care: An Integral Component of the Canadian Health Care System. The delegation affirmed the League’s opposition to euthanasia and assisted dying, asking the provincial government to take a leadership role in providing palliative care throughout the province. There were several questions asked, with a lively discussion of important issues.
The provincial chairperson of Christian family life represents the League as a member of the March for Life and members marched with her, carrying our CWL Banner, and handing out “Give Us Time” postcards and League brochures.
We facilitated a funny and interactive workshop at our six diocesan conventions about a CWL facelift which was hilarious, timely and appreciated by all. It focused on the ‘wrinkles and baggy eyes’ of our council meetings, giving remedies on how to Botox® them.
Members joyfully supported national’s request for a testimonial video and many powerful testimonies were gathered; it was difficult to cut them down to the requested six.
In response to Pope Francis’ declaration of 2016 as an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and encouraging pilgrimages to open holy doors, members were excited to be introduced to a CWL pilgrimage to California in May, 2016. Pilgrims will visit some of the historic missions established from Santa Barbara to San Francisco by Fr. Junipero Serra who is about to be canonized. There will also be time for some retail therapy and a visit to a Napa Valley vineyard. You are most welcome to join us. Check out the provincial council’s website.
The provincial convention was held in Prince George where members were warmly welcomed by Bishop Stephen Jensen and a team of joy-filled greeters decked in beautiful handmade fascinators.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic bioethics institute spoke on the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death as the foundation of our faith. She encouraged all members to write to their members of parliament imploring them vote to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
The executive director of Prince George Hospice Society spoke of the need for more palliative care facilities to help people die “gracefully, not fearfully”.
The president of Domestic Abuse Services, Our Lady of Good Counsel Society, updated members on the society’s current work. The society, an off-shoot of the Vancouver diocesan council, is celebrating its 20th Anniversary! The work of the society is closely tied to the new evangelization, and is an amazing example of what dedicated women can achieve “For God and Canada”.
Over the next few months, the executive will be invited to study the pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si and through their communiques, educate members about the spiritual and environmental crises in the world, investigating how change can be facilitated.
In regard to membership, some councils are disbanding and others are amalgamating. Leadership is a problem, with few real elections, and acclamations seeming to be the norm. We are attempting to combat this issue with continuing to provide Catch the Fire! and S’Mores workshops, and have provided a provincial leadership development fund for councils to access funds for training.
We were blessed to present life member pins to Caroline Ann-Alter, Evelyn Rigby and Jeanne Wilson who have demonstrated their love of the League in so many ways.
On February 4th, Manitoba Provincial Council was pleased to meet with Premier Greg Selinger and 17 ministers to present adopted resolutions for 2013 and 2014. Each time the delegation meets with the provincial government it is always welcomed with respect and acknowledgement of the variety of issues and knowledge brought to the table.
For the second year, in response to Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, members were afforded an important opportunity. The annual provincial day of celebration was held at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish. Mass was celebrated surrounded by Aboriginal culture and incorporating Aboriginal traditions. Those in attendance also experienced “the blanket exercise.” It is an experiential learning activity exploring the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and examines how federal policies and programs impact the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The day of celebration also included a presentation by the Catholic Health Association of Manitoba on its two year project Legacy of Care, Courage and Compassion, honouring women religious. Members participated in an honour guard in a celebratory mass at St. Boniface Cathedral to kick-off the project on March 4th , International Women’s Day.
All conventions held in Manitoba this year were held in rural communities. It offered an opportunity for members to travel and share in the wonderful hospitality that can only be found in rural Manitoba.
The annual Winnipeg diocesan convention was held in Swan River. It was an election year with Con Marks assuming the position of president. The afternoon presentation was on dementia. Over 200 different types of dementia are under this umbrella and Alzheimer’s Disease represents 64% affected. A resolutions workshop followed a skit on Why one would want to have a resolution. Fun resolutions were developed on the benefits of wine and chocolate.
St. Boniface diocesan convention was held in Cook’s Creek. Archbishop Albert LeGatt was in attendance for the entire convention including Mass and banquet. He commented, “I really enjoy coming to the gathering of the CWL and enjoy listening to the councils speak about what they are doing.” The afternoon presentation was on reconciliation. It was stated, “We humans can only go so far along the road to reconciliation. God does the actual healing. God restores the relationship. God restores our hope for the future.” Ste. Anne-des-Chenes Parish Council was welcomed. A resolution on youth engagement in Canadian democracy and governance was adopted and forwarded to provincial council.
Keewatin-The Pas diocesan convention was held in Flin Flon. The executive hold meetings by teleconference and although challenged by distance, they gather once a year in convention to celebrate all they do “For God and Canada”. An afternoon resolutions workshop was deemed “informational, interesting and fun”.
Provincial council took on a couple of new initiatives. A banner was purchased for display at the Winnipeg diocesan mass marking its 100th anniversary, with 14,000 in attendance. A banner was purchased for the March for Life held on May 14th. The pouring rain did not dampen the spirits of those attending. Provincial council undertook the task of reviewing all Manitoba resolutions and held an archiving ceremony at provincial convention, archiving 52 of them. This is definitely a worthwhile exercise to consider.
The provincial convention was held in Dauphin. A spiritual program was developed around the national theme using a candle and theme symbols during the program. An audio presentation on the seven steps in the prayer process was also presented to delegates. The delegates heard a presentation on the national theme and after each component had an opportunity to share in small groups.
Our councils have lived out the national theme of one heart—providing support to a family whose daughter was paralyzed after surgery, helping a day care that burned down to obtain supplies, making dresses for girls in Africa, having prayer shawl ministries, providing food for the homeless; one voice—hosting a speaker on the legal implications of the Supreme Court ruling on assisted dying and having active letter writing and postcard campaigns on the ruling; one mission—raising funds for Christians in the Holy Land, providing bursaries/scholarships, having a prayer network for members and leading the Rosary in the months of Mary.
Our Manitoba provincial community life chairperson recounted these words of wisdom which I now share with you. I want you to drink, steal, swear and lie… Drink from the “everlasting cup” every day; steal a moment to help someone who is in worse shape than you are; swear that you will be a better person today than yesterday and last, but not least, when you lie down at night, thank God you live in Canada and have freedom.
The past year has been an active one for the Military Ordinariate Provincial Council. The council could not offer services to many of our area’s citizens without the commitment of volunteers who have provided more than 6,800 hours of service in 2015.
In May we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the provincial council at the annual convention in Ottawa. Many past presidents and life members were in attendance which offered workshops based on the national theme, One Heart, One Voice and One Mission. A review of standing positions affirmed one mission; League prayers were made with one voice; and mass concluded with a congregation of one heart. Two special financial projects that came from the convention. First was continued support of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative, http://www.childsoldiers.org/ and second was a financial undertaking of a new educational bursary. The fund provides support for members who would like to continue their education for the good of the church and the League. Finally, during the banquet there was a special roast for past presidents and life members. We thank all who attended and made this gathering such a memorable occasion.
Financial help was given to military chaplains to attend their conference and meet with the Dallaire team. On June 5th-6th in Cornwall, Ontario, the Dallaire initiative engaged 18 chaplains from Canada along with representatives from the United Kingdom and New Zealand Chaplain Services to discuss the role chaplains can play in preventing the recruitment of child soldiers, as well how to mitigate moral injury stemming from interactions with children used as weapons of war. This incredibly unique and innovative research initiative was made possible by the generous support of the department of defence, the military ordinariate and Kutoa.
Members also supported pro-life initiatives, crisis shelters and women’s shelters, assistance to Catholic Missions In Canada partner, St. Ann’s Mission in Watson Lake, Yukon. They also supported missions by donating to Sleeping Children around the World (SCAW), and PIME Missionaries
Monetary donations were made by our councils to the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre, local food banks, Coady International Institute, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, SCAW and Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.. Support for YESS, Youth Empowerment Services Society http://www.yess.org/ , missionary work in Zambia, and donations offered for the most crucial needs of Chalice were by no means forgotten.
Information was presented on arthritis, fracking, heart disease, euthanasia and assisted suicide, cervical cancer and pap smears, chemicals contained in dryer sheets and fabric softeners, crimes against women, human trafficking, the holy door, safe technology, e-cigarettes, building relations with Indigenous people.
This past year has seen many changes for members. As another posting season come, we had to say goodbye to new members and hello to “seasoned” members. One of the good things about the military ordinariate is, no matter where you are posted, the chances are you already know at least one member in your new parish council. We were very sad to see Padre Hope Winfield leave us, however we have been blessed with Fr. Chinedu Chukwu as the new spiritual advisor.
In closing, I would like to quote a sister member from Edmonton who said in her annual report, “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” “Give her a reward for her labours, and let her works praise her at the city gates.” “The more I ponder this verse, the more I treasure what God has to say about women.”
In turn, I also treasure what God has to say about women because it is evident through this report that women who set out on missions can bring forward great changes.
I am happy to be reporting to you and telling you about League in New Brunswick.
Members were shocked to hear in early March of the unexpected death of New Brunswick Past President Marion Fogan. I received many emails and cards from across the country extending sympathy to members and to Marion’s family. Thank you.
We celebrated with spiritual advisor Fr. Stanislas Paulin the completion of his 10 years of service to provincial council. Many of you would have met him as he loved to attend convention.
The provincial council has been busy this year on members’ development and activities. A new two-fold plan is in place that all hope will be effective.
Fall workshops will be presented province to educate members on the League and reduce the fear factor of taking on leadership roles and create excitement at the parish level. New Brunswick Provincial President-Elect Marie Rackley has taken on this project with enthusiasm. She and her team of presenters are ready to go out and spread the good news.
At the same time, and with the support of the bishops, members will visit parishes that do not have League councils. Starting with one parish in each of the dioceses, members will ask to speak at the end of the weekend masses and invite all women to stay to receive information about the League.
For both of these initiatives we have prepared a prayer card that we will be distributing to every member and as many women as possible. This prayer card has League contact information included on it.
Supporting this, the provincial website is being updated and upgraded. This is a work in progress with a target completion by the end of the year.
Attempts have been made to meet with the provincial government, mainly to discuss provincial resolutions on Canadian women living in poverty and public awareness and diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Despite sending many letters and e-mails, and speaking to members of legislative assembly, the council has been unsuccessful in securing a meeting with the premier. A delegation has met with the assistant deputy minister and two directors of the executive council office—women’s equality branch. Discussions were informative and the delegation received a 120-page statistical profile on the equality of women in New Brunswick.
To finish off this wonderful and busy year I will be striking a committee to review the structure of the League in the province. The provincial council represents 2,300 members with four diocesan councils (including five regional chairs) and 47 parish councils. If every executive position was filled at every level it would require 630 members from parish to provincial—over 25% of our membership. The committee will visit parish councils and encourage open discussion on the pros and cons of the current structure. This is planned as a two-year project and could possibly result in an instructed vote on League structure in the province, but it may well result in renewed interest and activity to maintain the status quo. Time with tell—prayers will help.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
As the newly elected provincial president, I am honoured to bring good news from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The provincial focus topic up to June 30th has been “Seniors—We Value their Presence and Wisdom”. Much emphasis over the past year has been on this topic. The provincial council adopted a resolution in 2014 to lobby government for the implementation of an independent seniors advocate. All parish councils engaged in letter writing campaigns to their local government officials. This campaign was extended to the province at large. The provincial executive has communicated with each of the political parties, and has garnered great support for a senior’s advocate.
This past April, representatives from the League provincial council, myself included, met with the provincial minister for seniors, wellness and social development to discuss the need for a seniors` advocate. The government is fully informed of the desire and the need for the advocate. A follow up meeting with the newly-elected government is planned in the coming fall. Most importantly, the provincial government is fully aware that we are not going away!
Education and development are always important components in League work. In February, 2015, the provincial council held a members and facilitators’ workshop. The workshop had three main components:
• A presentation by the Mercy Center for Ecology and Justice titled “The Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor are One”;
• A presentation of Evangeli Gaudium with a focus on the interconnectedness with the Objects of the League;
• A review of the Supreme Court ruling on physician-assisted dying, followed by small group discussions and identification of possible action plans by League members.
Members hold steadfast to the fact that they are women of action. Councils have recently adopted a resolution on the new evangelization. In addition, two motions were passed—to request the provincial government to implement a palliative care strategy and to request the hydraulic fracking review panel to hold meetings on the east coast of Newfoundland. Members remain committed to these very critical issues. These actions will form some of the goals for the coming year.
In June, in honour of the Year of Consecrated Life, two women religious congregations were celebrated. In recognition of their ongoing support, a tribute, along with two plaques, were presented to the Sisters of Mercy and the Presentation Sisters. In addition, the provincial awards committee will establish an award, to be given in their name each year, to a member who best exemplifies the values and virtues of the two congregations.
Lastly, our provincial council championed a collection of some 300 knitted scarves for presentation to Special Olympics, Newfoundland and Labrador. The scarves will be presented to athletes and their coaches at the national Special Olympic Games being held in Corner Brook in 2016. The scarves were knitted by members, their families and friends of the League.
Members have been guided by the theme One Heart, One Voice, One Mission. Together, they have found spiritual enrichment while standing in harmony for social justice. Their voice is being heard and will continue to be heard! In 2015, members will focus on spiritual communication with God, to the new evangelization, to honouring the earth as outlined in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si and of our pursuit for social justice.
It is indeed a great pleasure to share the vision of members for the present and the future in the context of the League’s theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Mission.
Our partnership with the StFX Extension Department at St. Francis Xavier University (St. F.X.) has finally been realized and we presented a cheque in the amount of $8,357.55, which represents donations from members in support of the Women’s Aboriginal Project. The partnership with St. F.X. will serve to help empower women to assume leadership roles and work on projects that will enhance their project management skills within their First Nations communities. St. F.X. will identify the projects and we hope that skills learned by our Aboriginal sisters will assist them in their endeavours. This mission has taken three years of meetings and planning discussions. We are thrilled that we are able to assist our Aboriginal sisters in their efforts.
We are approaching Year two(the final year) of our provincial vision document which was initiated as a result of a workshop held in September 2014. The workshop was made possible through the National Development Fund. Each standing committee chairperson is working through the suggested action plans and we will have opportunity to review these plans at the fall executive meeting which will be the midpoint of the action plans. One project emanating from the document was to revise the annual report forms. We invited input from members throughout Nova Scotia and a focus group was formed and met in June, prior to the provincial convention, thus the birth of a new template format was realized. The new and improved annual report templates will be user friendly. Additionally, some professional development will take place at each diocesan fall event. It is hoped that the new format will ease some of the concerns raised through the information gathering process. The voice of our members will be shared through their ideas and suggestions.
Again the voice of our members was heard when Nova Scotia Resolution 2015.01 Coverage for Psychologists under the Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance Program for the initial assessment, diagnosis and therapy for adolescents with psychological and emotional disorders was adopted at the provincial convention in June. We have long waiting lists for youth awaiting initial assessment, diagnosis and therapy and we hope that psychologists’ services will help ease the backlog and provide much needed support for young people sooner. Currently, only psychiatrists are funded under the provincial medical insurance program. Former Senator Michael Kirby’s presentation last year at the annual national convention sparked a flame with members of St. Joseph’s Parish Council (Kentville) and their foresight was well received at the diocesan and provincial levels. A request to meet with the provincial health minister for our second annual visit is awaiting confirmation. As noted in last year’s oral report, we met with the provincial health minister in September 2014 and were invited back again. The province has banned flavoured tobacco products with credit to a national resolution from 2014. Additionally, as a result of a provincial resolution from 2014 regarding nursing home placement by crisis priority – we are taking full credit for the implementation of this new direction. We are thankful that the health minister is sensitive to the needs of Nova Scotians but is also open to meeting with us to bring members’ issues to the forefront.
As a result of decreasing membership (over 700 members in six years), it has become necessary to explore an increase in provincial per capita fees in Nova Scotia. Our membership stands at 4,261 members as of December 31, 2014. A notice of motion to increase per capita fees effective January 2017 was approved and will be circulated to councils in the fall. This decision was not taken lightly, but increased costs associated with meeting expenses and commitments have caused us to explore this necessity. Currently, the per capita stands at $3.00 per member and $1.00 of this is used to offset costs associated with the hosting of the national convention every 10 years. Our per capita of $2.00 per member, set in 1996 is the lowest in the country. As noted at convention, it is still the best deal in town. We have taken measures already to try to offset costs but the downward trend in decreasing membership is causing challenges. Although we have a decreased membership, the heart of all members causes them to persevere with ways to retain and recruit.
The provincial convention next year will be hosted by Holy Redeemer Parish Council (Whitney Pier) with a new executive being elected. The ladies from the Pier on beautiful Cape Breton Island will have the hospitality mat rolled out with their hearts a blazin’.
Nova Scotia will definitely be the poster child for the Be League December issue and members are on high alert.
We are planning for some Nova Scotia hospitality when you descend upon Halifax for the national convention in August 2016. Get yourselves ready for some wonderful east coast hospitality. The east coast salt, sea and air will do you good. Host planning coordinator and Honorary Life Member Danielle McNeil Hessian and our group of convention planners have met and will continue meeting throughout the next year. Come early or stay later and explore our beautiful province.
With the theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Mission, fascinating scenarios of theme development are constantly being achieved. Members continue to grow spiritually, foster good relationships and want to know more about the League. They honour their deceased members, attend conventions, celebrate, assist with the needs of their parishes and are tuned to what matters most!
Members have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of their own communities and the province as a whole. With an election call, they will certainly not miss a beat to ask the hard questions and pursue letter writing in areas of social justice, euthanasia and palliative care. At the parish level, members continue to react to the parish demographic changes through amalgamations and restructuring. You can count on members to be a presence to each other in their needs, triumphs and aspirations.
This is my final report to the convention as provincial president, but I know that our members will be well represented by Peggy MacNeil.
Because you know, “I had the time of my life….and I owe it all to you!” No dancing…just blessings!
I am humbled to be standing before you representing the near 50,000 dedicated League members across Ontario. I have spent time pondering and reflecting on what has brought us to this moment in time. We have literally been Cast Out into the Deep but paddled hard to join our Companions on the Journey. How simple it became to Love One Another as Women of Peace and Hope when we were all Centred on Faith and Justice. In the most recent past together as sisters in the League, We Have Seen the Lord and are forging ahead with One Heart, One Voice, One Mission.
Throughout 13 dioceses members embraced our national theme in their ongoing social justice projects. Chalice, a well-known Catholic charity, was the catalyst for collaboration with schools and parishes netting a donation in excess of $7,000 in one diocese. Food banks and women’s shelters continue to be recipients of food and other essentials. In Eastern Ontario a diocesan council focused its attention on the stigma of mental illness. Depression and other issues facing our senior population were the topics chosen for this year.
The personal stories of those who were victims of human trafficking created an awareness that led to participation in knowledge – gaining workshops and the Walk with Me endeavour. The smallest diocesan council continues to help The Bucket of Hope Consultation project initiated by members to support the missions in Honduras. Over the years this group has assisted in the building of a small school including a library. With the encouragement of their bishop, members across one diocese rallied to support the Children’s Treatment Centre. What makes this project so unique is the fact that it is entirely funded by the community it serves and receives no government funding.
Many diocesean councils chose to focus on two specific resolutions. Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and ON.14.02 Feathers of Hope – Empowering First Nations Youth. In September Doctor Cindy Blackstock, executive director, First Nations child and family caring society of Canada, made an unscheduled stop in Thunder Bay to speak to the community. This happened as a direct result of members emptying their pockets to collect the necessary funds to cover her costs. This information and awareness session has had a ripple affect.
In a northeastern diocesan council, members formed a partnership with Matachewan First Nation. They taught some of the members their crafts including moccasin making. Plans are in place to meet with members again so that their new-found friends can learn to make greeting cards.
Two diocesan councils embraced Shannen’s Dream having founder Charlie Angus, member of parliament for Timmins – James Bay, speak at their conventions. Shannen Koostachin, a youth from Attawapiskat First Nation believed children deserved a chance to go to a real school and feel excited about being educated. When she used social media to challenge the government’s decision to cancel their school building project, youth across the nation responded and her plea went viral.
In March of this year members in one diocese participated in “the blanket exercise”, an experimental way to explore the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. During their conventions two diocesan councils participated in a feathers of hope workshop facilitated by one of the resolution’s authors.
As part of the culminating activity for a workshop entitled “The World as a Field Hospital – Support for the Wounded”, the Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle and Health Centre in Sioux Lookout were chosen by a diocese to be the recipient of gifts for young mothers and babies. The generosity of this diocesand council filled a van with their offerings as well as three suitcases filled to send to Sioux Lookout.
One regional chairperson used her own resources to facilitate an “Our Dreams Matter Too Walk” in June of this year. In southern Ontario one region hosted a National Aboriginal Day mass. Participating in the celebration were First Nations elders, a sacred drummer and League members.
In building relationship through projects amazing things have happened. To quote one diocesan president, “With one heart centred on Christ we welcome our Aboriginal peoples’ history and learn from it. With one voice we share their story and our role in it with courage and a desire to share it with others. With one mission we are educating our members to Aboriginal situations and a desire to bring about change.”
The provincial executive instituted an annual social justice award beginning in 2015. This award is presented to a member who works for social justice in an exemplary manner. The first person presented the award was Colleen Martin for her work with Feathers of Hope and passion for equality for First Nations youth. Colleen was a co-founder of the Mikinakoos Childrens Fund that addresses child poverty on remote reserves.
Provincially, the website and Facebook page continue to be updated attracting many visitors. Website subscriptions to Trillium News and Views and the ON-Line Newsletter have increased in popularity by a significant percentage. Three seminarians were awarded the Bishop Bernard F. Pappin Memorial Bursary. This year’s mass collection at the provincial convention bolstered this bursary by nearly $1,500. In an effort to be more fiscally prudent, League development for diocesan organization chairpersons was held via teleconference. Members agreed, “It was a good use of our time … one hour … from the comfort of own own home we were provided with a solid frame to share in a concise manner”.
June of this year saw the provincial government committee at Queen’s Park for a fruitful day of networking and idea sharing. We even managed to shake the premier’s hand as she entered the chamber. At the provincial convention in July we were gifted with five resolutions. The topics seem to have generated a keen interest at the grassroots level.
Pope Francis’s proclamation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and the national theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Mission form the framework for the Ontario provincial project 2015–2016.
This project is the springboard for all that we will accomplish over the next 12 months. It encompasses prayer, action and celebration. Each diocesan council will choose a “Blessed” proclaimed by Pope Francis and the standing committee chairs will choose a saint canonized by him. Using the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and the Beatitudes as their framework members will emulate the virtues of their chosen person to pray, celebrate and do. Reports of their activities will be ongoing during the year. A culminating activity will form their oral report at the 2016 provincial convention. In Ontario members will embrace Pope Francis’ words, “A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just”.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Councils continue to work diligently and faithfully “For God and Canada”. The 2,121 members remain very active in every aspect of parish life. Spiritual growth is enhanced for all, by their examples and by the many activities in which they participate. Last August many members participated in the Blanket the Island with Prayer initiative against abortion. Some members were involved in sessions discussing Sr Nuala Kenny’s book Healing the Church while others joined a group talking about Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium. A member, of one council, led a book study for her parish on Left To Tell by Immaculée Llibagiza who told her own story of discovering God amidst the Rwandan holocaust. Members gave their input to questions on the Synod of the Family document that was then sent to our bishop. Members of one council collected items for their project called Underwear for Jesus which they donated to places that support the homeless. Members were invited to participate in a 28 day unique campaign called Taking Care of Women’s Business to fulfill a need for feminine hygiene products at the various food banks.
Education is a key component of all councils. Two different councils hosted the two fall conferences. The program was on the provincial focus Imprisonment in All Its Forms. Members received information on family violence prevention programs, grief, conflict resolution-win-win solution and the role of the Catholic Family Services Bureau.
Executive members reviewed and revised the provincial manual of policy and procedure. They also compiled guidelines for each council chairperson to follow in completing their annual report referencing the Constitution & Bylaws. At the four area meetings in March, provincial council presented a workshop on Objects of the League—A Spiritual Perspective. Handouts of spiritual programs for council meetings or retreats were prepared and made available for members to take back to their councils.
In April, provincial council was pleased to welcome Executive Director Kim Scammell to join us in touring the Delta Prince Edward hotel in Charlottetown, host venue for the 2017 national convention, and taking part in the set-up discussions. She joined us that evening at a planning meeting of all volunteers, chaired by the planning committee co-chairpersons.
The provincial convention was held in a very comfortable venue which was greatly appreciated by members. The new theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Mission was elaborated on by two guest speakers. One speaker told the members that “…you may not change the world by going to church, but you may change things by bringing church to the world.” This inspirational speaker had much wisdom to offer. Our current provincial focus of seniors and their concerns’, another speaker from Catholic Family Services Bureau related her role as a music therapist and how music helped struggling individuals become more communicative and social. Members were impressed. Also at convention, six members were interviewed about their League journey, which was taped and made into a DVD to be sent to national office.
At our Eucharistic celebration, a sizable collection was taken up for the Prince Edward Island Hospice Palliative Care Association. Provincial spiritual advisor Father Paul Batchilder announced to the members that he would be willing to go out to councils to speak on the new theme. Councils were later informed that Father Paul’s mileage would be paid by provincial council.
Plans are well underway for the provincial executive’s fall meeting when we will also be hosting all the presidents of parish councils to a two-day overnight meeting at Belcourt Spirituality Centre. An invitation, by personal contact, is being done by executive members asking for any input or concerns to be added to the agenda. If presidents can’t attend, presidents-elect are welcome. It is hoped that this will be a great learning experience for all and help lessen the fear of taking on an executive position at any level. Members are encouraged to see this as a positive step to help strengthen the ties between provincial and parish levels. As we continue to use e-mail, Facebook and the website to communicate, we also want to demonstrate to members how to use the national online members’ forum.
As for the future, increasing membership is still a struggle. Right now Prince Edward Island is still in the battle of trying to keep abortion from being carried out on our red soil. Members and the general public have signed a petition to the provincial legislative assembly to stop the push for abortion on demand. Once there is a new federal government in place, postcards concerning pornography and euthanasia will be sent. All peoples are stakeholders in this society that we live in and thus we all have a responsibility “For God and Canada.”
In 2015, what is the state of League councils? In every council we can find dedicated women who love and serve the Lord, as is customary across the country. This does not prevent us from facing challenges. Provincial churches are also facing great challenges in faith, faith education and in attendance at mass. Some parishes have fewer and fewer families taking an active presence within the faith community. Some councils are based in parishes that are growing and thriving, whereas others are in locations with very few new parishioners. A big challenge, likely shared in other organizations or church groups, is that of leadership. At times, women who have taken on several roles in leadership feel called or dare I say burdened to continue on in positions many years for lack of anyone else willing and able to replace them. Then in a few places we have newer members accepting the call to take on positions but not necessarily benefitting from the wisdom and experience of previous leaders who may have moved to a new region or passed on.
He has worked wonders through the Catch the Fire! workshops and will continue to do so through new workshops this year. The Lord has always shown us through our bible and faith history that nothing is impossible with God. He was worked wonders through the Catch the Fire! workshops and will continue to do so through our new workshops this year. I have had the privilege of being on the provincial council for several years—a team of women with the richness of diversified gifts and talents able to take on the challenges of our times.
Our vision for the future is one of shared leadership, training and mutual support for the newer presidents and newer members, spiritual nourishment and time for faith sharing among members from different councils and workshops that will dip into the heritage that the people of faith who built our province have left us.
Members can count on St.Brother André, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Blessed Mother Marie-Rose Durocher and St. Marguerite d’Youville whose remains are in churches within two diocesan councils. There are no parish councils within the churches that house them, however members have connections in varied ways to all four of those holy witnesses. Their love of God pushed them to serve the poor, the uneducated, those who did not know of God’s love and those in search of consolation. In today’s society, members walk hand in hand with many people suffering from loneliness, difficulty in finding work, health concerns, family problems and existential and faith crises.
More time will be spent this year researching League and provincial history to find the inspiration and focus for the challenges of our time. Bellelle Guérin and the first women who were part of the League in many of our first councils in Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Saint Lambert and of course Montreal faced challenges that though, different from today’s world, have answers that are not so different. We are called to share God’s light with those around us, those God placed on our path and in our parishes. Widows, orphans or strangers may not have the same face as they did in 1920 but they are as needing of God’s love and of a place in our parishes and parish councils.
Three very different workshops are planned throughout the year. One will take a closer look at First Nations spirituality as well as the history and present day concerns of Aboriginal women. Another will be a back to basics, hands on experience for those wanting a refresher regarding meetings, procedures and leading an executive. Last but not least, a workshop where everyone brings or borrows whatever they regularly use at home, a computer, an iPad, a smartphone, or just internet to explore and maximize the wide array of possibilities available through these new tools. Whether it is finding the mass readings for a future Sunday or downloading the Executive Handbook from the national website, we want to have a workshop event that is fun and enriching.
When I was in Grade 2 and made my first communion, I remember feeling grown up and part of something so much bigger than myself. I started reading along in the missalette, turning each page like it mattered to everyone around me. If any of you have seen or been to my home parish in a small town in Northern Ontario you might see how funny that seems. I never imagined that growing up, our world, and especially our church would be able to communicate and share the Good news so easily across borders and languages through all the new means of communications that we have today. How good is the Lord.
I conclude my report with a profound sense of thanksgiving for all that this first year of my mandate will hold. Meeting many members who have wisdom and a sense of history from which I hope to learn, participating in life-giving workshops, and as a League, building God’s kingdom with One Heart, One Voice and One Mission.
This was an election year for the Saskatchewan Provincial Council and we have a full slate of officers. Our learning curve, especially for me, is very steep. The diocesan councils of Prince Albert and Regina had elections as well so we start our year getting to know one another and sharing our gifts. Prince Albert had an increase in membership while Saskatoon and Regina did not fare as well. We were extremely pleased to have National President Barb Dowding join us at our provincial convention on June 1st -2nd . One of the highlights was to honour Marlene Schnell of Holy Trinity Parish (Regina) with the Bellelle Guerin Award, presented by Barb Dowding. Adding to Marlene’s special event was that her three daughters joined the League that evening and Marlene presented them with their pins.
We had no resolutions this year but have done letter writing concerning euthanasia and pro-life issues. Our social justice award of $1,000 went to Melanie Fauchoux, daughter of provincial chairperson of spiritual development Margaret Schwab. We are working hard to bring women into the League which is an ongoing work in progress plus we are still promoting Catch the Fire! Workshops.
Councils have celebrated their accomplishments, especially anniversaries. We have had anniversaries from 90 to 25 years and everything in between. Certificates were presented by diocesan presidents and the provincial president.
This year the Saskatchewan Provincial Council has made a concerted effort to build bridges with the Aboriginal community. At the provincial level, we invited Elder Loretta Wilson to address our full executive and executives of the three diocesan councils sharing her life experiences including her experiences at residential school. It was very enlightening, as well as giving us a humorous insight into her life. She explained how she combined her Christian faith and her Native heritage, which was most interesting, especially how it applies in our world today. Dioceses and parishes are working hard to extend a hand in friendship to Aboriginal sisters. In Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Indigenous People the Regina diocesan council has had many Aboriginal guest speakers; Saskatoon runs a clothing depot; and in Prince Albert a store was set up between the League and Aboriginal people, plus they have special meals and spiritual gatherings for all to share.
All members have concerns and have helped the over 15,000 residents fleeing from the fires in Northern Saskatchewan.
The sisters legacy project in Saskatchewan is finally completed, a bronze statue will be erected in Regina honouring the nursing and teaching Catholic sisters of our province. It was the sisters who founded the first schools, they owned and operated 43 boarding schools and taught in 270 public and separate schools. They ran orphanages and homes for the aged. The sisters owned and operated 25 hospitals and served in 20 public hospitals. Our province has been served by 57 religious orders of Catholic sisters. The approximate number of individual sisters who have served or are serving here totals 5,500 which would account for over 85,000 sister-years of service. The provincial council has donated a plaque, to be placed on the statue, honouring these women.
An issue that we will be working on concerns Resolution 2014.02 Electronic Cigarettes and Resolution 2014.03 Flavoured Tobacco Products Ban. The provincial government seems reluctant to move on these issues until more research is done. We will be monitoring this closely and perhaps meeting with the minister of health and education.
We thank members who are working so hard in churches and communities as a result of natural disasters and events in the world. With One Heart, One Voice, One Mission, we can accomplish much together.