Wednesday, August 17th convention write up

August 18, 2016

Wednesday August 17, 2016 — Mary Nordick

After Morning Prayer, we had the wonderful privilege of listening to Sister Nuala Kenney who was introduced as another treasure of Nova Scotia and what a treasure she is!  Sister is a passionate, clear organized, speaker who handles difficult topics with grace and clarity. Her first words were that she was “happy to be here but sad to talk about her topic, Medically Assisted Death:  Challenges for Christians Today.” Throughout her talk she stressed the importance of language, of understanding what is meant by the word used.  Medical Aid in Dying is not that according to Sister, it is Medical Aid in Death (MAD).  Euthanasia means good death illustrated by a picture of the death of Joseph in the company of Mary and Jesus, not the current use of the word. She outlined the characteristics of a good death:  non-abandonment and continuity of care; avoidance of unwanted technological intervention; respectful communication; completion of life’s “last things” e.g. saying I’m sorry; I forgive you; I love you. Hospice care aims to keep you comfortable so that you can accomplish the last things. The first goal of her talk was to “understand the SCC decision and Bill C 14 on Medically Assisted Dying.  To that end she talked about PAD(physician assisted dying) drawing attention to key words such as grievous, irremediable, enduring suffering and asking what do we mean by these words?  A key question is what is the difference between pain and suffering? She talked about the SCC decision describing it as a dog’s breakfast that assumed the vulnerable could be protected and Protection of conscience. She outlined the elements of BillC-14 and pointed out problems with them.  She noted that voluntary informed consent can be compromised by disordered insight and self-stigma, depression, hopelessness or other mental health issues or by inducements, influence, and coercion for example.

Goal number 2 was to recognize the importance of and misunderstandings hospice/palliative care describing it and quoting Pope Francis. For details check the website for her speech by the end of next week.

Goal #3 was to assess the reasons for requesting MAD.  The key determinants of interest euthanasia relate not to physical symptoms but to psychological distress and care needs. (First Major Review)Summary of Reasons for PAD:  loss of dignity; dependence; guilt of being a burden; uncertainty re. future and care needs; loss of control and hopelessness.  She returned to her question about pain and suffering and illustrated her meaning by contrasting Chest Pain vs Heartache.  With Mad the only way to get rid of suffering is to get rid of the patient.  Here she used a visual of Jesus in Gethsemane where suffering leads to Resurrection which we participate in by faith.

Goal#4 was to accept the challenges for the Christian community to respond to the suffering and do the works of mercy.  She reminded us of Pope Francis’s call for “Christians who make God’s mercy and tenderness for every creature visible today,… to have the courage to swim against the tide…cannot but use the language of mercy, which is expressed in gestures and attitudes even before words.”  We must Walk the Talk.  Who needs this mercy:  I was sick and you visited me (Matt.25:36; acutely ill and hospitalized.  Chronically ill and handicapped; mentally ill, frail and dependent elderly; dying; the bereaved.

Bill C-14:  An Opportunity for an Art of Dying Today:

  • Prophetic resistance to inappropriate us of technology
  • Resist the medicalization of suffering
  • Promote and improve palliative care
  • Be witness to mercy and compassion.

Today I finally got to look at the exhibit room.  Several organizations, for example Development and Peace, Catholic Missions in Canada, Salt and Light, EWTN, Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation, future Convention committees selling fundraising items and other sellers.  There was a wealth of information and lots of free draws.  I also had lunch at the concession provided and had great company in the form of friendly ladies from Ontario.  Sister Nuala’s words were reinforced when we talked about why CWL mattered to us and several mentioned the support experienced when a loved one was ill or died.

Highlights of the day were resolutions and elections (more on that later).  Five resolutions were presented to the assembly, each after the appropriate standing committee report.  There was much lively debate on some, but all were eventually accepted, some with amendments.  Look for the details in the League magazine and on the website.  Especially check out the action plans and resolve in your councils to act in some way on resolutions this year.  Numerous past resolutions were archived in a respectful ceremony.

The afternoon session featured some entertainment with a rousing invitation from Prince Edward Island to attend the 2017 convention in Charlottetown, the birth place of Confederation.  The lively group included a spokes-lobster who claimed to be tastier than the Nova Scotia ones, potatoes and farmers, Anne(s) of Green Gables and of course fathers of confederation.  They left us with the message “keen to be seen at this scene in 2017”.  PEI, here we come next summer!

The League will celebrate its centenary in 2020 and we had a surprise visit from a 1920 member (Betty Colaneri in 20s garb complete with long cigarette holder) who escaped the pages of the archives to encourage us to start celebrating for the next four years and then to put on the Ritz in 2020.  She showed a short video of the League’s early history.  She also challenged the creativity of present day members by announcing a Logo contest.  Details will be put on the website.

I especially liked the afternoon prayer service, though all have been very uplifting, Mission:  We Are Called which focussed on the words of the prophet Micah, to love tenderly, to act justly, and to walk humbly.  One part particularly struck me:  “There seemed once to be a policy developing among us of only choosing Syrian refugees who were Christian; so what about Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists who are fleeing violence and persecution.  Would we be welcoming of all from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Honduras, Central America and many others who are different from us? “

Finally, the election of a new executive, our new leaders for the next two years will be President Margaret Ann Jacobs; President-Elect, Ann Marie Gorman; 1st Vice, Fran Lucas; 2nd Vice Shari Guinta; Secretary-Treasurer, Janet McLean; Past-President, Barb Dowding; Chairpersons:  Joan Bona, Betty Colaneri, Doreen Gowans, Jacqueline Nogier, and Nancy Simms.  Congratulations to all.

The closing Eucharistic Celebration took us back to the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica.  In his homily Bishop Mc Grattan first reminded us of the week’s spiritual journey beginning with the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption which said to us “Blessed are those who hear the word of God.”  It is not enough just to hear the word; we must do it in the daily challenges of life.  Then the Feast itself featured Mary as sharing in the resurrection, as the first disciple and showed the joy of new life that she and Elizabeth shared.  On Tuesday we had the experience of going through a simple door trusting the God of living, of mercy to make all things new.  Today’s gospel parable’s key words are “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”  Bishop McGrattan noted the call to service, whether received early or late and how Jesus reveals the face of the Father, who is generous and acutely aware of individual needs.  In the context of the CWL election he said that the executive is the last called to serve so their good works further the kingdom of God.   The 1st Reading reminds them that their gaze must be on their members and they must measure their work by Matthew 25, the measure of the kingdom.  Jesus calls us to work in society so that the last become the first.

The closing banquet featured good food, good table conversation, and incredible entertainment from the Men of the Deep, a coal miners’ chorus.  Their songs and poem, “A Miner’s Prayer” almost brought me to tears.  My maternal grandfather was a coal miner in Durham England who emigrated twice in his life, first from Ireland to England and then bringing his family to northern Alberta in 1929 because he saw little future in the mine.  The banquet was also a time of appreciation and gratitude, to Barb Dowding as she completes her term as President and to the 2016 Convention Planning committee who did a fabulous job.  A thousand, thousand thanks!