2010 Annual Report – International Relations

International Relations Standing Committee
Velma Harasen, Chairperson
2010 Annual Report

Some 500 women gathered in Jerusalem in October for the Centenary Assembly of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) under the theme You Will Be My Witness. More than 60 countries were represented; 31 attended from Canada with National Past President Danielle McNeil-Hessian, National President-elect Betty Anne Brown Davidson and me as official delegates.

The Eucharist was celebrated daily, and spiritual reflections, study days, speakers, panels and business sessions were presented. All pilgrims were privileged to meet in this holy place, to walk on holy ground where Jesus walked. Pilgrims visited the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, travelled the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, sailed on the Sea of Galilee and attended an open air mass at the Church of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” rang out in the chapel at the Shepherds Field, a chapel built with donations from Canada.

WUCWO Vice-President for North America Agnes Bedard had invited the Canadians to bring school supplies for children in Bethlehem, which were presented to their grateful teachers before attending mass in Arabic in the Church of the Nativity.

Excellent speakers participated in two different panels. One panel of Christian women expressed gratitude for WUCWO’s presence in the Holy Land and for providing them hope for the future. They asked for prayers and support, The other was a panel of young women, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, who spoke of spending time together to learn of each other’s cultures, that the “other” person doesn’t mean “enemy” and that love is the only way to build a better world even in the most difficult of situations. WUCWO Ecclesiastical Assistant Fr. GianMaria Polidoro led daily spiritual reflections. He told participants that women have the great job of changing the world! He asked that they learn from the different cultures, customs and religions, love each other and know that God is present.

WUCWO President-General Karen Hurley reported financial stability, registration of WUCWO in France, selection of Mary Queen of Peace as patron and appointment of a new secretary-general. A cheque for over $18,000 was presented from the Canadian WUCWO Endowment Fund. WUCWO priorities, chosen under the theme Love in Action , included poverty, literacy, education of women, human trafficking and assistance to the Holy Land. Amendments to the WUCWO Statutes and Bylaws were voted on, as well as 13 resolutions. Board members were elected, including Luba Kowalcyk of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Maria Giovanna Ruggieri of Italy was elected president-general.

Honorary Life Member Agnes Bedard completed her term as WUCWO vice-president for North America. She played a very integral part in organizing the assembly, was ever-present as the cantor-choirmaster for the liturgies and was most attentive to her delegates.

Rejoice and Renew was the theme chosen by the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) to celebrate its 90 th annual convention in November in Washington, D.C. Betty Anne Brown Davidson and I were among the 617 who attended. The Canadian delegation attended six workshops with topics including the call to holiness, new responses to hunger and poverty, prayerfulness and reaching leaders in generations X and Y.

The business sessions had no reports from the chairpersons or vice-presidents. NCCW elected a president-elect (for the first time) via on-line voting by some 1,000 members. President Patty Johnson reported NCCW was going through major transition and responding to some economic challenges. A major deficit was reported, with no more investments or savings in reserve. The membership fee was $30.00 while the cost to provide service for each member was $114.00. They spoke of a turn-around necessary for NCCW to survive, and a plea was made to recruit more members.

There were exhibits, a silent auction, various fundraising efforts and many special events culminating in a visit to Mary’s Garden on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Mass was celebrated in the basilica by His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick (Washington). The convention concluded with the 90 th anniversary gala banquet.