2013 Annual Report – Manitoba

Manitoba Provincial President Monica Brechka

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The Keewatin-The Pas, St. Boniface and Winnipeg diocesan councils celebrated their membership by hosting several Catch the Fire! sessions. With this program, members’ pride was nurtured. Members showed appreciation for one another through the presentation of certificates of merit, years of service pins (several 40s, 50s and 60s), new member pins, maple leaf service pins, a Bellelle Guerin award and a life membership. Members supported each other and the League by attending diocesan, provincial and national conventions, a day of reflection, a day of celebration, a resolutions workshop and the WICC conference on human trafficking. Flowers and cards were sent to those who were ill in hospitals, in personal care homes or who were shut in. A few councils paid membership fees for aging members, but this was becoming increasingly difficult due to shrinking membership. As a final tribute to a member, many councils provided an honour guard at the funeral mass and/or a brief League eulogy, as well as helped to prepare and serve lunch.

All councils did some fundraising through bake sales, teas, raffles, fall suppers, bazaars, a whist drive, “Keep Christ in Christmas” decal/magnet sales, a bingo canteen, a children’s carnival, or the sale of religious Christmas cards, angels or tickets for Sisters of the Holy Rock. In this way, councils kept the cost of membership to a minimum. Funds raised were given to the Coady International Institute, Velma’s Dream, CCODP, Life’s Vision (pro-life organization), a hike for life, Fellowship of the Least Coin, Alpha House (centre providing protective living for women leaving abusive situations), missions in Keewatin-Le Pas, Esk-Omi Missions, friendship centres, Save a Family Plan, Villa Rosa (prenatal and postnatal care for single women), a women’s resource centre, a bishop’s appeal for seminarians, scholarships for youth in parishes or dioceses, soup kitchens, Kids First North, Christmas Cheer Board, Operation Christmas Child, drop-in centres, food cupboards, Meals on Wheels, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Blood Services and the Philippines disaster relief fund. Some councils continued to collect tabs from drink cans to purchase wheelchairs. The projects promoted community and solidarity as members used their talents to praise and glorify God.

Members were active in their churches. They served as lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, leaders of song, musicians, sacramental preparation catechists and coordinators, sacristans, and as leaders of the rosary, chaplet of divine mercy, stations of the cross, Our Lady of Perpetual Help devotions and morning prayer. They participated in bible study, lectio divina, the living rosary, adoration of the blessed sacrament and prison ministry. In parishes with limited access to priests, members presided at the celebration of the word. Some members qualified as justices of the peace.

To raise awareness of the dangers of pornography, and child pornography in particular, members provided petitions to sign, and prepared and distributed white ribbons. Members also sent informative postcards, provided by the national chairperson of communications, to the prime minister and their members of parliament.

Members participated in ecumenical events such as World Day of Prayer, Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, and special bible study and Advent services. They served as board members of pastoral councils, town libraries, health auxiliaries, museums, friendship centres, chambers of commerce, First Nations band councils and the nurses’ union. They were very generous in the support they gave to their parishes. Gifts were presented to children and adults being baptized, receiving first communion, or experiencing their first reconciliation and confirmation. Money was donated towards the cost of an altar, lectern, baptismal font and for general upkeep. Members made banners, helped to decorate the church for special events, prepared palms for distribution at Palm Sunday, refilled holy water fonts and planted flowers around the church and rectory. In these and other activities, they worked with other ladies of the parish and the Knights of Columbus.

Communication between members was encouraged through the distribution of a member registry for council elections every two years. Members were kept informed through parish/diocesan newsletters, bulletin boards, church bulletins, e-mails, Facebook, Be League, The Canadian League and by word of mouth. One council made League placemats to use when hosting an event.

Diocesan presidents met with their archbishops on a regular basis. They organized members to assist at special services such as a New Year’s reception and a diocesan wedding anniversary celebration. With the Knights of Columbus, they provided an honour guard for the Chrism Mass and Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Spiritual advisors were truly appreciated and invited to events. Seminarians and deacons also received invitations to special events like communion luncheons. Archbishop Murray Chatlain (Keewatin-Le Pas) was welcomed. Farewell was bid to Archbishop James Weisgerber (Winnipeg) who retired and returned to Saskatchewan. Members prepared to welcome Archbishop-elect Richard Gagnon in 2014.

Fr. Jerry Talarski retired after more than 50 years as a priest, with the last 26 years of service at Corpus Christi (Narol) and St. Stanislaus (East Selkirk) parishes. He served as parish spiritual advisor for both councils and for at least two terms on the St. Boniface Diocesan Council. Seven diocesan past presidents attended his farewell banquet, a visible testimony to his gentle ways. Amidst the disturbing news about some clergy worldwide, Fr. Talarski maintained and renewed members’ faith in the priesthood.

Resolutions, gifts from the membership, were brought to the annual provincial convention in Morden. Four resolutions from St. Boniface Diocesan Council were Resolution 2013.01 Pedestrian Corridor for PR 207 in Lorette, Resolution 2013.03 Emergency Communication and Cellular Services for Southeastern Manitoba, Resolution 2013.05 Coverage of Psychologist Services under Manitoba Health Benefits and Resolution 2013.06 Employment Insurance Benefits for Cancer Patients/Caregivers. Two resolutions from Winnipeg Diocesan Council were Resolution 2013.02 Efficient/Effective Modes of Transportation of Supplies to Northern/Remote Communities and Resolution 2013.04 Restoration of Funding for Experimental Lakes Area. All six were adopted and offered as gifts to national council.

As many members have severe allergies, conventions had a no scent policy. One parish asked people to refrain from using scented products for church services. At convention registration time, gluten-free lunches and banquet meals were being requested more often.

Travel was an issue, more so in Keewatin-The Pas diocese. Two of the three diocesan executive meetings were conducted via teleconference. Travel time of eight hours is required to get from Snow Lake to Winnipeg and from Snow Lake to Lynn Lake. Very poor road conditions were also a concern, especially from Thompson to Lynn Lake. It is interesting to note that ¾ of the 15 members of St. Maria Goretti Parish Council (Lynn Lake) were members of Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Members were living national Resolution 2013.01.

Our Lady of the Snows Parish Council (Snow Lake), having the highest participation to membership ratio in the province at a Catch the Fire! session, won the waiving of national per capita fees for its members.

Despite the 2 ¾ hours of travel (one-way) for members of St. Ann Parish Council (Flin Flon), they surprised their sisters in Snow Lake by joining them for their Christmas party. Anyone who had helped at the children’s carnival and tea was invited―another way of encouraging membership through familiarity. Instead of gifts, they chose to donate $5.00 each to a charity.

I was fortunate to attend and enjoy five conventions. It was my first time at the national table―I was so excited and nervous but everyone was so nice that I soon relaxed. My husband and grandchildren came to hear me deliver my first oral report.

I brought greetings to the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada convention in Winnipeg. The theme was Rooted in Faith; Forward in Hope. I also attended the St. Boniface Day of Reflection; the speaker was Charlette Novak who presented on her journey to prison ministry. She has been interviewed by Fr. Thomas Rosica of Salt + Light TV. Since becoming president, I have chaired two meetings and attended one meeting of the national executive.

I am so proud of members of Manitoba Provincial Council. I thank them for the vote of confidence they placed in me; I hope and pray that I can live up to their expectations. I have seen the Lord in their actions and faces. The hugs that have been exchanged have given me the strength to go forward in peace and hope; know that I pass this strength onto others that I meet on my League journey.