2013 Annual Report – Education and Health

National Chairperson of Education and Health Peggy Roche

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When we become members of the League, doors of opportunity open for us. We become more spiritually attuned to the needs of others, and we become more educated in the ways we can approach their needs. In our ministry we are helping others “through service to the people of God.”   As reflected in the works and acts of charity reported by provincial chairpersons of education and health in their annual reports, members continued to make a difference in the lives of many people at home and in the global community. I am very happy to share some of the highlights.

Catholic education
In provinces with Catholic schools, members took an active role by becoming involved at the school board level as well as by volunteering in schools. Members sponsored candidates and hosted receptions for candidates and families. They also volunteered on committees preparing parents for their child’s baptism. Some have acted as prayer partners for those preparing to receive the sacraments and assisting with organized retreats.

Literacy and continuing education
Literacy was discussed by members at meetings and some promoted literacy by having guest speakers present to members and parishioners. Members were involved in tutoring programs by assisting in GED upgrading, teaching English as a second language and through reading programs to help improve literacy skills.

Scholarships and bursaries
Members continued to be very generous when it came to supporting the Coady International Institute and the National Bursary Fund. Councils encouraged members to apply to the National Bursary Fund, which was available to help members who wished to further their education in pastoral matters and who were prepared to serve the church in their province, diocese or parish.

Scholarships were awarded to youth leaders and to those who had a calling for the religious life. Other scholarships and bursaries financially assisted students in elementary school, high school students in music festivals and sports, and students entering post secondary schools. Councils provided scholarships to students who were engaged in various parish activities such as youth ministry, Teen-Aid, Catholic Christian Outreach, Fully Alive or school lunch programs.

Wellness and sickness/disease
Members were becoming more aware that many youth in Canada face a lot of stress and other issues in their daily lives and a high number were dealing with mental illness. Mental health issues and the attached stigma were in the forefront, and members took a lead role in doing away with that stigma by being examples for others. In one council, members held an evening called Women & Wellness, a program that supports the important work of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Councils focused on educating their members on other issues such as abuse of prescription drugs, dying with dignity, and the importance of living wills and powers of attorney. In one diocesan council, a presentation was held on the benefits of the varicella vaccine to prevent shingles. Many councils facilitated workshops, invited guest speakers and distributed magazine articles on how members could take a proactive role in their health and wellbeing. Topics included Lyme disease, heart attacks and strokes, and cancer.

Members volunteered and canvassed support for health related organizations such as the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada, Canadian Diabetes Association, VON Foot Care, The Global Wheelchair Mission of the Knights of Columbus, Project Smile and MaterCare International, just to name a few. Members also distributed literature on vaccines, nutrition, and cancer and various other conditions, to members and parishioners. The diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease was raised with members, and the benefits of healthy nutrition and exercise were discussed. In one provincial council, most parish councils held membership in their provincial Catholic health association. Some members kept active by attending exercise classes and other physical activities, and they invited others who would otherwise be house bound to join them.

Environment
Most members reduced, reused, recycled and were aware of the issues facing the environment. The use of green bins and blue boxes were promoted, as well as reducing the use of paper at meetings by e-mailing minutes and agendas and by using overheads. Councils participated in a “litter-less” lunch program, planted trees and adopted a stream. Members were active in local environmental activities. Litter was picked up by members as they found it along their walking routes or when they were involved with outdoor activities. Councils were made aware that more research was needed on the issues of hydraulic fracking, shale gas extraction and wind turbine energy, and the effects these processes have on the environment. Letters were written to government officials protesting the establishment of these processes until more research is done to determine the environmental consequences associated with the processes. Members made a conscious effort not to use Styrofoam products at their events. Scent free meetings were promoted as well.

Genetics
Members became more informed about the issue of genetically engineered food and the short and long term effects its consumption has on humans and the environment. Councils discussed the research being done on human embryos and the status of DNA manipulation. Discussions were held on designer babies. As stated in one provincial chairperson’s report, “Stem cells are used in the treatment of over 50 cancers, immune disorders and genetic disorders. As technology progresses, it is likely that the field of stem cell therapy will become more advanced, and the future uses of stem cells will be limitless. Diseases treatable with stem cells are leukemia, anemia, thalassemia, MS and rheumatoid arthritis. At present one public cord blood bank is open in Ottawa.”

Activities Undertaken
During my term of office as chairperson for education and health, the experience gained strengthened my appreciation and understanding of the magnitude of this standing committee. Education and health do go hand in hand!

Changes to the National Bursary Fund expanded the fund to include several other options that applicants can apply for, along with an increase in the amount that may be awarded. A PowerPoint presentation was given at the fall national executive meeting informing members about the Coady International Institute.

Special research was completed on a provincial resolution regarding obtaining a Canadian Blood Services ID Number for the League. Contact was made with Canadian Blood Services resulting in a guest speaker presenting at the fall national executive meeting and the registration of the League with the program. Other topics that were given special attention for articles were provincial resolutions on developing a national strategy for suicide prevention and Lyme disease education and awareness.

I leave you with this quote from Pope Francis, “Nurturing and cherishing creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.”