2014 Annual Report – Community Life

Doreen Gowans
National Chairperson of Community Life
2014 Annual Report

Subcommittee Chairpersons:
• Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace: Life Member Marlene Pavletic
• Poverty: Life Member Joyce Green

The role of the community life standing committee is to inform, educate and challenge members to take action on the corporal works of mercy―to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to minister to the prisoners and to bury the dead. Members speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves and help those in need. The reports from across Canada have shown the time and effort that has been given freely by the members is truly a service to God, Canada and the church. Great work!

Dignity and rights of persons
Through letter writing campaigns, issues affecting Indigenous peoples and the topics of domestic violence, poverty and human rights violations were addressed. Members signed petitions stating Catholic views and attended conferences, and parish councils supported The Joy Smith Foundation campaign, all in an effort to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking. Councils sent letters to federally and provincially elected politicians regarding human trafficking, cyberbullying and the rights of workers. One member developed a youth appropriate video presentation to educate them on how to protect themselves against being lured into human trafficking.

Councils were very active in promoting awareness of the need to pass Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, through letter writing, sending postcards, hosting or attending screenings of Red Light Green Light and participating in REED (Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity). One provincial council sent out 4,300 letters in support of Bill C-36.

Resolution 2013.01 Building Relationships and Partnerships with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples was discussed to help raise awareness with members. Attention was brought to the plight of First Nations and Inuit peoples. Presentations were given to bring more understanding of aboriginal women’s issues to enable relationships with them. One provincial council noted raising awareness of National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. One council invited a native elder to speak on his experience at a residential school and the healing that is needed on the path to reconciliation.

Social and economic justice
Members were involved in their various communities by sending donations to Canadian Food for Children, The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Society, YESS: Youth Employment & Support Service, Big Brother Big Sisters of Canada, Girl Guides of Canada, L’Arche and The Upper Room Hospitality Ministry. Funds were raised for Out of the Cold, inner city programs, homes for unwed mothers and various women’s shelters. Both monetary donations and compassionate care were offered to homes for homeless youth and Tim Horton Children’s Foundation for camps. Members shared their wealth by supporting soup kitchens, homeless shelters, Christmas hampers and food banks. They provided both monetary and physical help to Habitat for Humanity, and assisted with school breakfast clubs and Koats for Kids campaigns.

Donations of food and clothing were collected and given to various groups dealing with low income seniors, the homeless and those suffering from addictions. Members donated their time feeding the elderly, and knitting mittens, scarves, and toques for inner city children, and quilts for the poor and homeless. Hats and mittens were made for newborns, slippers for battered women and lap quilts for cancer patients. Members baked muffins and shared them with people at the bus stop during Random Acts of Kindness Week. A “sharing is caring” group encouraged people with vegetable gardens to bring extra produce to the parish to share.

Members in some provinces were informed of the new 211 telephone information service, a source of information on government and community-based health and social services that provides a live answering service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service was available in more than 170 languages in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Members were informed of Keep the Promise, a campaign against child poverty in Canada presented by students from grades 5-8 to the federal government. Members aware of the program were challenged to ask their members of parliament where they stood on the issue of eradicating child poverty prior to the next federal election in the fall of 2015.

Refugees, immigration and citizenship
Besides sharing gifts of food for refugees, some councils sponsored families coming into Canada. Eighty immigrants from 20 countries were welcomed at one reception. One parish council held two welcome receptions. Members worked with immigrants to help them communicate more effectively in English. Quilts were made and supplied to immigrant families. A collection of photographs taken by immigrants was put on display at an art gallery depicting their perception on how “we” live and the difficulties they face adjusting to a different lifestyle in Canada. Fundraising events were held to support refugee families. Upon arrival in Canada, members helped refugees to set up their new accommodation and assisted them while they adjusted to a new culture and style of living.

Councils studied legislation and resolutions, especially 2014.01 Restoration of Health Care for Refugee Claimants, resulting in action being taken through letter writing in support of the resolution. Guest speakers spoke on migrant ministry to help members better understand the needs of refugees. A student was supported on her Me to We trip to Kenya and upon her return she made a presentation to her council.

Refugee bags consisting of toiletries and other needs were presented to the new people in the area. One council sponsored a family of 14―two parents, 10 children and two grandchildren―from Uganda for one year until they were able to support themselves. They drove the family to church, school, shopping, appointments, etc., as well as provided monetary support.
Members took part in Remembrance Day celebrations by laying a wreath to honour those who gave of their lives so Canadians could enjoy freedom. Members were encouraged to wear red on Fridays to show solidarity with Canadian troops and their families. Councils encouraged members to exercise their right to vote in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
Money and postage stamps were collected and sent to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) to aid its fundraising campaigns. Councils held coin collections and other fundraisers to support the League’s 1% Program, the national voluntary fund for CCODP. Councils also sent donations directly to CCODP for the emergency relief fund in the Philippines. A donation of $430.00 was made towards a truck for the program in Haiti.

Members wrote letters to the federal government asking it to vote down Bill C-18 Agricultural Growth Act, which would affect the rights of farmers both in Canada and globally. Members attended workshops on the “Sow Much Love” education campaign and the “One Human Family, Food for All” Share Lent campaign presented by the various CCODP groups in their areas.

Developing countries
Prayers have been raised to heaven for all those suffering from religious persecution and war. Councils discussed or had speakers present on issues of child labour in developing countries and structures that put profit before people. Councils encouraged prayer and discussion for the 32 million girls who did not have access to primary school in developing countries. Transformation Textile’s Dignity Kits were made and given to girls who did have access to schools to enable them to continue to attend school through their menstrual cycle.

Monetary donations were made to support missions in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, the Ukraine, the Philippines, Brazil, Tanzania and Mexico, and provided by the Carmelite Nuns and the Don Bosco Mission Office in Canada. Organizations supported included Save a Family Plan, Buckets of Hope, Sweaters for Syria, Marty’s Dream, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (Velma’s Dream), Chalice, Canadian Hearts and Hands, Samaritan’s Purse, Holy Childhood Association and the Mother Teresa Foundation. Other projects given financial support included an orphanage in a “Stamp out Ebola” project and a family in India. One member founded an orphanage in Kenya that her sister members supported; another member arranged for a donation of $5,000 from her employer to support BeadforLife―beads made from rolled paper are made into jewelry and sold with the profits going to support education of women to help them discover their potential and to save them from extreme poverty.

Councils lobbied government through personal contact to discuss Canadian mining practices in the global south and to request an independent ombudsman in settling complaints of injustices. They collected used eye and sun glasses and brassieres, donated sleeping mats made from milk and/or garbage bags, knitted/crocheted pneumonia vests and purchased nets through Buy-A-Net Malaria Prevention Group. A “sock it to you” project collected 429 pairs of socks and they were sent to developing countries. Teddy bears were made and donated to an orphanage in Haiti.

In closing I would like to quote from Gladys Brown, Edmonton Diocesan Chairperson of Community Life. “What does ‘success’ mean? Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile. This is what the Catholic Women’s League means to me―in hearing and seeing what and how each member participates! Keep up the good work!”