faith | service | social justice

2017 Annual Report – National Past President and Chairperson of Laws

Sep 24, 2018 | Uncategorized

Barbara Dowding
National Past President and Chairperson of Laws
2017 Annual Report

At this point in time, the Constitution & Bylaws lay out very clearly the responsibilities associated with the role of past president. At all levels this role includes serving in a consultative capacity; being responsible for archives and history; facilitating the study and implementation of the Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) and performing other duties as assigned by the president. At the national level, the role includes being the chairperson of laws. (Part XIII, Section 1(10)).

Serve in a Consultative Capacity
The past presidents who reported are positive, supportive and anxious to help the council president do a good job. Past presidents report feeling useful to the president in most cases and report having enough work to do. Reports indicate this role is respected and appreciated. However, it is a sign of the times to see a good number of past presidents are recycled and find themselves being president again. This situation seems to be relatively common particularly at the parish level. In one province eight of 20 active councils report having no past president. Even the most diligent past presidents had huge challenges in collecting reports. The reasons are not clear; however, the statistics on reporting are alarming, even more so than usual. One provincial president noted her report statistics were almost identical to those from last year, suggesting the role does not change. In addition, she noted, there is little new to report that has not been said before.

Archives and History
Most past presidents report looking after archives as part of their role. They feel, given the importance of maintaining history and records, this is an area where more education and direction is needed. One past president initiated a new way of keeping archives that is easier and saves space. Still others report seeking direction from the national level looking for advice and are grateful for the recently reviewed guidelines which can be found on the League website. Photograph albums continue to be a popular way to create lasting memories and history of the council. In fact in one area, photograph albums are the main source of history. Some use memory sticks, CDs and even DVDs. It seems to be pretty even how many photo albums are kept in relation to history books! There is great disparity in how long various files are to be kept. In some cases, archives and history are given to another chairperson or volunteer. Past presidents who have difficulty with this task could consider inviting a volunteer with expertise and love for archive and history to assist. One past president reminded others not to wait until the big anniversary arrives to start researching council archives.

Study and Implementation of the Constitution and Bylaws
Reports indicate this is rarely done outside of a workshop setting and then only once in a while. It was noted helping members become familiar with the bylaws makes them more appreciative of how things work. Finding time and an interesting way to deliver these basic “rules” is the challenge. The C&B defines procedures while policy manuals explain how to get things done depending on local circumstances. The National Manual of Policy and Procedure is also underused possibly because members have quick access to the national website where most questions can be answered. Councils at all levels are encouraged to have their own particular policy manual; however, it is clear more than one-half of parish councils do not. Even the newest executive member can see what the council has done and why – an invaluable resource if it is kept up to date.

Other Duties as Assigned
Duties reported were varied and expected depending on the level. Almost all are involved in nomination and elections procedures and in recruiting members to stand for office. They assist or represent the president when asked. For the most part, they are happy and willing to take on activities as needed, most often involving fundraising or chairing events such as conventions, meetings and workshops. One past president put it this way: “As past presidents we embrace this opportunity as a privilege and blessing in offering our knowledge, wisdom and support to our council members.” The burden lays heavily on those past presidents who are asked to become president again. Our bylaws preclude this, but councils feel compelled to keep things going and do so however possible.

National Chairperson
As the national chairperson of laws, I was called upon many times to help members understand and work within the League’s framework. Sometimes it was a simple case of clarification regarding terminology, while others took much time and careful consideration. As members and councils struggled to adapt to their own circumstances in order to keep the League going, more and more innovation and unique were used to get work done. Everyone who sought advice did so with respect and love for the League.

I sat on the national strategic planning committee along with others who have been presidents at all levels. The committee worked hard to listen to League sisters as we called upon lived experiences and when working  in person and by conference call. So many issues in this report and no doubt in many of the others are relevant to going forward with a new vision.

My duties included writing memos, communiqués and articles for the The Canadian League. I was privileged to assist in revising the “Archive Guidelines for League History” after visiting the archives at national office in Winnipeg. The strategic plan was highlighted through the League magazine, “The Art of Remembering, Joy of Discovery”. Through online reporting, a few revealing comments serve to remind past presidents of the reality that is their role:
• “The new president is a fairly new member, so we spend a lot of time reviewing upcoming meeting agendas to ensure that we are serving the needs of our council. We chat biweekly or whenever a new issue comes up.”
• “My successor has been president more often than I have, so advice is rarely required.”
• “We don’t have executive meetings – all of our meetings are regular meetings – otherwise no one would come.”

Past presidents at all levels have knowledge, expertise and a profound love of the League. The hold all of us up and will surely play a large part in the future of the League.