2010 Annual Report – Community Life

Community Life Standing Committee
Barb Dowding, Chairperson
2010 Annual Report

Sub-committee chairpersons:

Life Member Pat Battensby – Human trafficking
Life Member Lidwina Critch – Developing countries
Life Member Betty Coloneri – Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) 

As the second year of the theme, Women of Peace and Hope, wound down, the first communiqué urged members to go forward with renewed vigour and passion for all that is held dear. This compilation of the great work done in councils all across Canada is proof positive that members are living out their baptismal call and fulfilling the League mandate especially “through service to the people of God.” For over 90 years members have been caring, self-giving, helping, feeding, reaching out, advocating and truly making a difference. This annual report looks back over the past year and paints a clear picture of members rediscovering the League’s mission and purpose, of taking pride in taking a stand for the marginalized, and a definite sense of fulfilment even in the face of sometimes seemingly insurmountable odds.

Members have participated in Armistice Day and Remembrance Day services, worked for Habitat for Humanity and gathered donations for Operation Christmas Child.

Dignity and Rights of Persons

Concern regarding human trafficking remained a priority. Every council reported on at least one aspect of this affront to human dignity and inequity not only in Canada but around the globe. One council studied and discussed a report that gave a national overview of human trafficking activities including highlights of the efforts of various law enforcement agencies across the country to uncover, report and target trafficking activity. Others reported having speakers, presentations and focus groups, viewing the video Not for Sale and reading Invisible Chains . Letter-writing to all levels of government continued on this issue. One provincial chairperson worked with her local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to assemble an awareness package including materials to share with diocesan councils. Members reported great strides forward as a result of the 2010 Olympics giving credit for the increased awareness to the RCMP, the Salvation Army and the federal government but noted there is much work yet to be done. Several councils devoted prayer services to end human trafficking. Councils bombarded the government with letters regarding human trafficking, organized information sessions for membership, set up files containing television and newspaper reports, workshop material, and Web site information connected to the Olympics.

Members took part in ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the massacre of female engineering students at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, others attended vigils for victims of violence and domestic abuse and many reported recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Members also wrote letters on the privatization of water and mining abuses. Prayers were offered for those in the military and their families in times of separation and sadness.

Social and Economic Justice

Members continued to actively serve and care for the marginalized, feed the hungry and find shelter for the homeless and reported a hands-on approach to this ministry, often working with other organizations to meet the needs of the community. From food banks to soup kitchens, from homeless shelters to safe homes, members brought the face of Christ to the needy. Support for the Dignity for All Campaign began in some councils who indicated working on eliminating child poverty. Support was also given to Canadian Food for Children and and Pennies for Life . Provincial and federal governments were contacted, encouraging strategies to provide affordable housing for all.

Councils reported that members not only served on local non-profit community councils and boards for service to the disadvantaged but also belonged to social justice committees In addition, members attended conferences on social justice, migrant workers and human trafficking.

Speakers from the Salvation Army in Canada, Covenant House, and Habitat for Humanity Canada made presentations and offered insights into outreach that could be supported by all. Cold weather programs like “Inn from the Cold” are reported across Canada. One council sponsored a presentation by a holocaust victim.

Refugees, Immigration and Citizenship

Considering the League’s earliest beginnings came from the welcoming of women new to Canada, it was reassuring to see more councils reporting on activity relating to this topic. Notably, one report celebrated a League member becoming a Canadian citizen this year.

Members supported new Canadian families by donating household items, offering financial aid and arranging transportation to appointments and services. One council supported people in bringing their immediate families to Canada while another found funds to pay for the costs of extraordinary medical expenses for a special needs family. Assistance was offered by members with English language skills and helped immigrants to understand Canadian culture and expectations. New Canadian women were invited to parish gatherings and League meetings and were asked to share the story of their journey to Canada.

Councils sponsored speakers to address changing immigration and refugee policies, support and volunteer at centres for refugees and new citizens and two reported attending citizenship ceremonies.

Members supported parish refugee programs and fostered advocacy for foreign female workers. In one diocese several parish councils joined together to address needs and concerns of immigrant (seasonal) farm workers by holding potluck dinners at Christmas and Thanksgiving, assisting in arranging for a weekly Spanish mass and provided transportation. This group also provided a local workshop on the needs of migrant workers to raise awareness of the challenges they face.

Projects supported included Wells of Hope, Project El Salvador, missions in Le Sotho, Child Care International, Sisters of Charity, Teddies for Tragedy and street missions.

Local projects included CL Mustard Seed, CL In/Out of the Cold, drop in centres.

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP)

Support for CCODP was ongoing and mentioned in every report with special fundraising activities and collections to support the annual campaigns, Fall action and Share Lent as well as Save our Water. M any members responded to CCODP campaigns by voting “no” to privatization of water and “yes” to Life Before Profit. Petitions and postcards were sent to the government and Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace on good mining practices.

Members collected extra funds for relief in Haiti and other emergency collections for disasters including those in India and Pakistan. One council reported having a presentation on the situation in Haiti one year later to raise awareness that the situation was still dire and abuses especially to women and children continued to rise.

Letters were written about the bottled water initiative and many reported taking action on changing their habits to raise awareness so others would be influenced to boycott bottled water.

The 1% Program was reported most often with many councils collecting change at every meeting. Some saved stamps, one had an annual clothing sale with proceeds to CCODP, but councils definitely had some component of action to support the work that was done here and abroad. A few councils mentioned support of fair trade coffee and practices. However, councils did have CCODP videos at meetings and speakers on corporate accountability in mining that Canadian standards are upheld in developing countries’ mining.

The “Solidarity Way of the Cross” during Lent and the Poor Man’s Suppers on Good Friday are further examples of generosity and prayer for those less fortunate.

Developing Countries

Many councils reported supporting children and families through Catholic and Christian organizations. At least two families are supported from India and one from Iraq; there are foster children from Zambia and a family from Mexico, while one child has been adopted from the Philippines and two children through Friends of Honduran Children. Five families in Chixulub, Mexico were sponsored through the Chix Food Bank and received 100% of donations. Members sent money to mothers and orphans with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho and financial contributions to Loma Linda in El Salvador to support the building of a village church. As well, a tractor was purchased in Lesotho to help with farming.

Quebec, whose citizens are most closely affected by the issues surrounding the mining of chrysotile asbestos, sent 24 letters to Premier Charest, alone, advising against the opening of a new mine. As well, councils produced poster displays at meetings and conventions, wrote letters to members of parliament and federal ministers, and followed media reports and documentaries on the subject at front of mind in the membership.

Support for international aid groups includes Chalice, Save a Family Plan and Child Care International. Members sent a variety of donations to the Sudan, soccer balls to Zambia, 75 pairs of runners to Ethiopia and knitted teddy bears for distribution by Doctors Without Borders. Many members supported Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse Canada. And one member travelled to developing countries to provide much needed dental care! One council alone reported 4,065 volunteer hours!