2009 Annual Report – Laws

Laws Standing Committee
Lorette Noble, Chairperson
2009 Annual Report

Reading the provincial past presidents’ reports, all 11 of them, has been a heartening exercise. Tribute must be paid for following the reporting guidelines, which made it easier to collate the information. If only members who hold office would realize how much lighter the work of preparing reports could be when this is done. Sometimes in a given year not all the activities may have been undertaken, but it is clear that members are doing most of them with a sense of fulfillment.

Serving in a consultative capacity
This is where the virtue of patience came alive, as one past president put it. One must learn to wait to be asked to help! Past presidents made a point to attend their council meetings, shining examples of how to actively participate in the life of their councils. There is no better way of keeping in touch.

In more than one instance, when a council president died in office, the past president provided support, encouragement and help to the new president, easing the loss.

Past presidents: were consulted on policy, procedure and protocol, such as following parliamentary procedure at meetings so that they run smoothly; presented workshops to educate members, especially those holding office for the first time; were usually the chairpersons of nominations and elections committees, where their knowledge of the strengths and skills of those on the eligibility list was particularly helpful; assisted presidents to prepare meeting agendas and helped with the preparation of reports; encouraged job sharing to lighten the work load and foster companionship; encouraged members to attend conventions at all levels, especially the annual national convention; and acted as ambassadors of their council, sharing their enriching experience of the League. In one province, the past president organized an appreciation tea for her counterparts, which was very well received, underlining how important it is to affirm and celebrate each other.

Being responsible for archives and history
It was recognized that not every past president had a natural aptitude for maintaining archives and, where this was so, councils designated someone or a team of members to do this very important work. Archives keep alive the story of each council, and every opportunity was used to display this history, for example at conventions and special anniversary occasions. The archives reminded members of their past achievements and informed new members of them.

One commendable example was an outgoing past president who organized the archives she received at the beginning of her term, added to them, and reviewed them with the incoming past president. A wonderful initiative in passing on the torch!

Items archived were: council histories; minutes of meetings and motions books; membership lists; records, by year, of service awards, pins and certificates of merit; photograph albums, with all the subjects identified; scrapbooks, including newspaper clippings; funeral prayer cards of deceased members; and the Book of Life.

To keep archives in safe and accessible places, councils stored archives in local parish community or public library archives, or at diocesan centers that had archival storage space. Some councils began recording and storing their archives on CDs and DVDs, making two copies, one for archival safekeeping and one to be used on special occasions.

Some councils had memorabilia on permanent display and a collage of past presidents in parish halls. Noteworthy in this Year for Priests, a photograph tribute of all parish priests was prepared and displayed.

Facilitating the study and implementation of the Constitution & Bylaws
Whenever a question on procedure arose, there was the realization that the League has excellent resources in the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) and the National Manual of Policy and Procedure (P&P). Thus some parish councils made sure every member had a copy of the C&B, and also included it in the welcome kit for new members. Many parish and diocesan councils produced their own policy and procedure manuals and made sure these were kept up to date, with the help and advice of past presidents; it is easier to do so now that the P&P follows the order of the C&B.

These documents were especially useful during short question and answer sessions held at each meeting in some parish councils, and as a guide to help define the roles of the various standing committee chairpersons. Past presidents facilitated workshops which, together with the question and answer sessions, proved to be occasions of learning and education for both past presidents and parish councils. One provincial council produced a workshop as a PowerPoint presentation.

There were some councils however, that rarely consulted the C&B or the P&P except when the need arose, and relied rather on the advice of “older members”.

Performing other duties
These were the duties performed by various parish and diocesan past presidents in 2009: chaired nominations and elections committees and assisted in the installation and reaffirmation of officers; prepared a binder for the incoming president filled with resources for 2009, offering advice, guidance and reminders when asked for and needed; filled in for the president and standing committee chairpersons whenever called upon to do so; acted as a “sounding board” for proposed plans and projects and worked on them, especially fundraising projects; remained visible in all parish and community ministries and in interchurch activities; prepared new members’ lists and organized an installation of and a reception for new members on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel; led a diocesan team on parish council visits; and gave workshops promoting leadership.

The provincial past presidents have kept in touch with me and their counterparts at the diocesan and parish levels through communiqués and performed essentially the same tasks as those listed above, with the following additional activities: participated in discussions with and gave advice to a council considering disbanding; served on a provincial League development team and worked on the completion of a leadership workshop; acted as mentor on any queries on policy and procedure; reviewed minutes of provincial council meetings; wrote a weekly “bulletin blurb” extolling the virtues of the League for the parish; researched and worked on a resolution as sub-committee chairperson for developing countries; sent cards of appreciation, congratulations and welcome to past and current executive members and convention committee members; completed a summary of the two years as provincial president for the archives; chaired a provincial convention guide committee; prepared a C&B 10-activity package to facilitate its study and implementation; collated clippings and photographs of a two-year term as president for viewing at the provincial convention; and reviewed the C&B specifically with regard to eligibility for holding office.

This included the need for past presidents to feel valued and important to their councils. Past presidents were more than generous with their time and kept their councils functioning, so it was recommended that they be asked for their assistance and advice.

All past presidents need to make an annual report. In one province more than 100 parish council reports from past presidents were not received and, therefore, their work not reflected in the final report. In another province, 50% of the reports were missing.

It is necessary: to strike a balance between the demands made on past presidents – using their experience to the fullest extent, settling into the role of letting the new president run things and knowing when to stand back and mentor; to actively assist in recruiting members to chair standing committees or serve on the executive, as there is a diminishing number who seem willing to take on the responsibility or commitment; to keep councils alive with partial executives; to arouse members’ interest in the C&B; and to work through d ifficulties and challenges in the elections process. The storage of archives was usually a concern for councils without appropriate space to house their materials; past presidents were not always content to have responsibility for archives and history.

The Military Ordinariate faces the special challenge of parish past presidents being transferred to other bases and parishes during their term of office. It was fortunate however, that other parish council members were ready to take on the task of maintaining archives and helping out the councils.

Recommendations and Suggestions
Maintain a detailed and accessible archival index so that finding information is made easier. Continue to attend meetings at all levels. As chairpersons of nominations and elections committees, do your best to fill executive positions, especially those of president and president-elect, ensuring continuity. Purchase and study the C&B and the P&P.

National past president’s comments
During 2009, several questions came my way and I shared them and the various workable solutions to these questions, contained in the League guidelines, with the national executive, in magazine articles and in communiqués.

In relation to the comments above, show appreciation for the role of past president. Be humble enough to seek her advice, generous enough to share your needs, concerns and views with her, and appreciate her wise contribution to common League goals. Step up efforts to encourage members, especially new members, to consider running for office, and then follow through with support. Show lively appreciation for the time-tested guidelines (the C&B and P&P) which have helped the League flourish and grow these past 90 years. Make sure the records of the League’s glorious history are kept safely so that they may continue to inspire members. Seek professional help from libraries on handling and maintaining archives safely.

Repetitive action year after year is to be praised: should we stop visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, raising money to help those in great need, continuing to educate ourselves to develop our God-given talents to help others, advocating for the vulnerable and the voiceless, spreading joy through friendship, or continuing to work to create peace, even in the smallest ways, in the world? This is what every single member does through actions and prayers. Why then are we reluctant to tell each other that we are continuing to try and do our best, often even finding new ways to do “the same old things”, always sharing one vision and one mission: calling each other to holiness and serving each other and the people of God, with the help of Our Lady of Good Counsel? Surely, instead, we should joyfully celebrate and share our stories with delight!