As one provincial spiritual development chairperson noted in regard to annual reports, “Of course, this is all the work of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed councils were very active.
Spiritual growth of members
Most councils reported a spiritual component to their meetings and many strived to achieve a one third guide for meeting time. Councils had mass or lay led liturgy before meetings and sought to include prayer during the meeting, if only to say the League Prayer. Good use was made of prayer leaflets. One council distributed monthly leaflets of “Apostleship of Prayer” and prayers to the Virgin Mary. One provincial council made prayer cards with various topics and saints for members. One council gave each member a pamphlet or bookmark at monthly meetings as a guide for personal prayer. The League theme was used as a focus for prayer and liturgies. Some councils were able to use their spiritual advisor as a resource and speaker, while others, unfortunately, reported that their spiritual advisor was not engaged.
One form of prayer reported frequently was the rosary, especially in May and October, and in many forms, e.g., living rosary, solidarity rosary, social justice rosary, rosary for special intentions (for example for the intentions of the pope) and a Josephan rosary in March. There was growing interest in using lectio divina. The way of the cross was a popular devotion for Lent, with councils using it at meetings and often leading it for the parish at large; two popular forms were a Marian way of the cross and the Solidarity Way of the Cross presented by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). Weekly, monthly and 40 hour adoration was promoted. Marian devotions were popular. Some councils introduced and promoted the Liturgy of the Hours. Prayer resources mentioned were Come Holy Spirit: Learning How to Minister in Power by David Pytches, The Beatitudes, the Prayers and Workshops for Women of Peace and Hope booklet and CWL Prays. Councils also made use of the Ceremonies Booklet for installations and reaffirmations of executive, reception of new members, pin awards and memorials. Councils promoted the travelling Madonna.
Study of Catholic teachings
Councils and members participated in bible studies and studied papal encyclicals, the lives of the saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Vatican II documents. Websites were accessed, including the Vatican and CCCB websites. DVDs, books and programs were mentioned as follows―Three Minutes a Day by The Christophers, Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly, The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, Living with the Prayers of the Mass by Bernadette Gasslein, Living the Faith: A Life of Tom Monaghan by James Leonard, The Garden Way of the Cross by Fr. Thomas Stanley, Life in the Spirit seminars by Catholic Charismatic Renewal, seminars by FacetoFace Ministries and Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron.
One council surveyed members regarding what topics or questions about the Catholic faith they would like addressed by the spiritual advisor at each meeting. Provincial councils highlighted Year of Faith presentations including a workshop “Year of Faith: Roots and Wings.” One provincial council used Koinonia, a quarterly online journal by the Paulist Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Office. In one council, members attended a faith rally. Pope Francis’ writings, e.g., Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), and any press coverage of the pope’s activities and comments were popular sources for discussion at meetings. Councils noted that they promoted study programs in parishes and dioceses and enabled members to attend.
Role of women in the church
Very little was reported under this heading and much of what was reported fits under other categories such as lay ministries. The most commonly reported activities were that members were actively engaged in leadership in their parishes and dioceses, and that councils encouraged members to take leadership roles wherever possible. Members were encouraged to reflect on their gifts and talents and to discern where these could be put to use in the church. One provincial council reported that one member served as a chaplain at Stony Mountain Institution, a maximum, medium and minimum security prison. Women continued to be essential in the church’s education and caring roles.
Evangelization and mission assistance
Support was given for Cursillo®. Members evangelized daily through being the hands and feet of Christ in outreach to the needy in their communities. Members requested and used Christmas postage stamps.
In Canada, Catholic Missions In Canada (CMIC), Esk-OMI Missions, missions in Keewatin-The Pas and Tuktoyaktuk, and other local missions all benefitted from League support, financially and in prayer. Several councils supported the CMIC calendar campaign. Many members prayed for missionaries.
Members participated in every possible lay ministry in the church, often in leadership, teaching and administrative capacities. They served on pastoral care and bereavement committees. They brought communion to the sick, the elderly and those in palliative care. At liturgies they served as lectors, sacristans, extraordinary ministers of communion, children’s liturgy leaders and greeters, and provided music as choir members, organists or other instrumentalists. They offered hospitality and saw that the church area was clean and appropriately decorated. As one provincial chairperson put it, “Members are an integral part of parish life.”
Ecumenism and interfaith endeavours
Members participated in ecumenical events such as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, World Day of Prayer and Fellowship of the Least Coin prayer services. Some hosted an Advent ecumenical retreat or prayer service; others organized concerts that brought together different congregations to praise God’s gift of music; others were part of ecumenical bible study groups and the Alpha Course. Many joined with fellow Christians to provide assistance to the needy, homeless and refugees or to work prayerfully on social justice issues at home and abroad. Some participated in Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada (WICC) meetings and conferences. Ecumenical way of the cross walks on Good Friday were held in many communities. Many members prayed for persecuted Christians around the world.
Interfaith endeavours were limited and only mentioned by a few, the main activity being attendance at an interfaith prayer gathering or social event. (Note: there seems to be some confusion as to terms when councils report: ecumenism refers to relationships with the different denominations within Christianity and interfaith refers to relationships with world religions other than Christian. Some reports seemed to use interfaith and ecumenism interchangeably.)
The most frequently mentioned challenges in this standing committee were the following―aging membership, reluctance to take leadership roles and to try different ways of praying, low attendance at meetings and absent spiritual advisors. I would add reporting activities that belong under another standing committee.
Being responsible for prayer services and liturgies at national meetings and the national convention was a huge task, but one from which I have learned immensely. The requests for copies of the Three Marys and the Emmaus scripts from the national convention have been most gratifying. I have answered questions on everything from the Book of Life to the appropriate use of the “Hymn to Our Lady of Good Counsel.”
To sum up League work in the spiritual development standing committee, I use the words of one provincial chairperson, “Being able to share one’s faith not only enriches the receiver but gives back to the giver.”