National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization
2017 Annual Report
As per the Constitution & Bylaws, the 11 provincial councils completed annual organization reports following the sub-headings. Women of compassion, courage and confidence worked diligently to keep the important work of the League moving forward in spite of parish closures and amalgamation of parishes and dioceses. Change is a part of life, and changes will be seen over the next several years, just as changes have occurred over the past 97 years. Members find it within themselves through tremendous faith and work ethic to promote the objects of the League, and they understand the vital need to maintain the organization that has given so much to Canada and the world.
Beginning more than one year ago, the League began a massive process of planning strategically to address challenges noted in most annual reports. Members have been blessed with more than 97 years of committed women working in the vineyard of the Lord “For God and Canada” and must continue to find ways to do God’s work in the new reality of this fast paced world. Attendees felt the energy at the annual national convention in Charlottetown and it continued to permeate the national board that represents all members. What happens next is in God’s hands; members are those hands. It was a privilege to serve with the members of the strategic planning committee where at every step, the membership was consulted via the provincial presidents and the entire national executive. The first phases of the process, conducted in 2017, were professional, organized and engaged in quality control through several workshops, and members were ready for whatever the Holy Spirit would have in store for Catholic women in Canada. I could not be more proud to be one of the “presidents three” who represented members as past national president, current national president and future national president.
The final phases of the process were planned to be conducted by August 2018, and the organization will have determined by then the direction it wishes to take for the next several years. What began in 2000 and 2008 with reports about challenges will have been addressed, and members will cast off into the future with God’s guidance and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother. May God bless The Catholic Women’s League of Canada.
Recruit Members and Maintain Membership
Membership as of December 31, 2017 stood at 80,169. “Recruitment is work that can never stop. It takes energy and needs that touch of sincerity and passion for our organization” (Glenda Carson, Nova Scotia). Keeping active as well as less active members abreast of activities in parish councils was one way members showed their attention to their sisters. The personal approach remained the single-most successful method of recruiting members, while advertising in various publications, holding “come and see” sessions, subsidizing membership fees for those aged 90 and over, speaking from the lectern at masses, welcoming prospective members when parish councils celebrate feast days for Our Lady, and circulating pamphlets and other League literature within the parish were also common. Social events engaged women of all ages, and social media, especially Facebook, was a more recent method used for recruitment. Parish councils also made and displayed promotional posters that attracted prospective members. Prizes were offered to parish councils that recruited the largest number within provinces. CWL Sunday and gift memberships were successful.
The following were also familiar and useful ways to recruit and maintain membership: welcome kits, mentoring workshops, new member ceremonies, service pins, invitation cards, certificates, prayer cards, display tables at parish events, membership teas, telephone trees and being visible through wearing of League pins and/or scarves. One provincial chairperson noted success in recruiting was very much a function of the encouragement of the spiritual advisor, also.
Keeping “faith, fun and fulfillment” uppermost when planning made for great fellowship as well as work accomplished. To maintain membership, parish councils held special events with potlucks or catered by groups other than themselves, and with guest presenters on various topics of interest. This engaged members and reminded all of the far-reaching work of the League. Making new members feel welcome at meetings was seen as an important way to assure they would return. The sense of belonging must be a part of membership. One parish council noted taking the meeting “on the road,” having it at a long-term care facility where several members reside. Member recognition was completed in many different and creative ways. Members came because they were invited; they stayed because they were fed spiritually and socially, and challenged to make parishes and communities better. Newsletters within parishes supported those unable to attend meetings in person. Getting members to an annual convention, whether local or national, was an excellent way to motivate and see value in keeping the League viable.
Attendance at meetings was a challenge for various reasons, but members and prospective members attended sessions that had a focus on spirituality, a social or fundraising event. This bore repeating.
Several parish councils were awaiting the Holy Spirit to move women to accept the position of president-elect. This speaks to the importance of having leadership workshops, inviting women whose gifts have been identified to run for office and supporting women at all stages of their lives as women of compassion, courage and confidence. Training sessions for all standing committees gave prospective leaders confidence to serve. Subsidies and financial assistance locally and through the national development fund were used to support training: mentoring, executive education, leadership training, specifically, as well as “Find your Voice”, “The Partnership of the Spiritual Advisor”, Catch the Fire!/S’Mores, and retreat days.
The majority of provincial chairpersons reported believing attendance at a national convention was one of the great motivators for members to accept future leadership positions. Parish councils recognized the many challenges with an aging population and difficulty in getting members to accept executive positions, but “…councils seem to have accepted this reality and are moving forward with innovative ideas to meet these challenges” (Judy Look, Alberta Mackenzie).
League Resource Material
The League has a wealth of resource material that has been accessible on cwl.ca for some time with the click of a button. This made searching for information so much simpler, regardless of where a council is located or how many members are in said council. As long as one member had access to the Internet personally or at a public place (library, school, town hall, community centre, for example), it increased the opportunity for all members to become educated. Also, most resources were printable for parish needs. The Canadian League was used most to keep members (and their families) aware of issues affecting the church and the organization.
Generally, more than 60% of parish councils completed the online survey, which allows the League to glean valuable information to develop programs and assist councils. When councils could not complete the survey online, the provincial chairpersons reported that hard copied reports were completed and forwarded. One provincial chairperson noted completing the survey with this information.
Working in groups made this a less onerous task, but whether done individually or in a group setting, information compiled is invaluable to the organization as a whole, but also to individual parish councils that may use methods other than the annual online survey to collect information for members. While having to write an annual report at the parish level may have struck fear within members previously, the online survey has made the task much more palatable. It will only get easier and more effective.
One must remember that information gathered in the annual survey sent directly to national office forms a database of information for the entire country. Individual parish councils that wish to support and recognize members will find ways to collect this information for their own uses.
A wealth of experience, wisdom and service made for a vibrant list of life members. Life members did and would continue to use their wisdom as mentors, workshop presenters, and to support and build their parish councils. The national executive was pleased to welcome nine new life members who were accepted by motion at the 2017 winter executive meeting in Toronto:
Hilda Aube Oromocto New Brunswick
Anna Brady Brantford, Ontario
Mary Capobianco Etobicoke, Ontario
Jeannie Coleman Maxville, Ontario
Louise Doiron Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Sharon Geiger Salmon Arm, British Columbia
Gisela Montague Chilliwack, British Columbia
Jean Reader Regina, Saskatchewan
Suzanne Wiseman Lachine, Quebec