National President and Chairperson of International Relations
Inspired by the Spirit: Women Respond to God’s Call, was taken to heart from every corner of Canada. The theme married well with the Objects of the League as provincial councils found new and traditional ways to respond to God’s call. National President Margaret Ann Jacobs was inspired to give free rein to provincial councils that helped members, parish communities and the broader community to act as all Christians were called to do. The theme of one fall workshop was “Living the Corporal Works of Mercy” with guest speakers on subjects such as homelessness, penitentiary inmates and the mentally ill. One provincial council’s two-year focus of homelessness emphasized how women responded through works of mercy and prayer to their sisters and brothers.
The duties of the president at all levels as stated in the Constitution & Bylaws informed the amalgamated report from provincial presidents. The president should:
a) inform the membership of the position of the League on current issues and priorities and new programs
The membership was informed using traditional and electronic means, dispensing communiqués, notices, memos on current social issues, and circulating newsletters both physically and electronically. Resolutions urging removal of the attestation clause from the Canada Summer Jobs program, excluding medical assistance in dying from palliative/hospice care facilities, protecting conscience rights of healthcare professions and requiring age verification for adult pornographic websites were most prevalent. There was work done on setting a standard for products marketed as “flushable,” eliminating the Goods and Services Tax from child safety products and requiring Gladue reports for Indigenous offenders. Discussion, standing committee chairperson-led action, newsletters/bulletins and speakers were main sources of education on these issues.
b) foster open communication with the spiritual advisor on all League matters
Approximately one-half of councils met with spiritual advisors monthly, though at least one noted a higher number and many slightly lower. The vast majority of councils reported spiritual advisors, though unable to physically attend many meetings, were highly supportive of the League’s work in the parish. As one president reported, the spiritual advisor said, “the League complements our spiritual journey.”
c) preside at all meetings and conventions of the council concerned
All presidents took their responsibilities seriously and provided active leadership by keeping informed, with assistance from their executives and leadership at levels beyond them. Presidents made consistent use of the Constitution & Bylaws, National Manual of Policy and Procedure, council policy manuals, Robert’s Rules of Order, Executive Handbook, national and provincial communiqués and The Canadian League magazine.
d) be a signing officer for all official documents
The majority of documents were financial, however presidents signed petitions, certificates and all official letters within and outside the councils.
e) provide active leadership
Presidents were active at parish functions (more than 90%), attended workshops, conferences, fundraising events and special masses, all diocesan meetings and conventions, and encouraged leadership development within the diocese. Presidents sought assistance from mentors such as past presidents and life members and represented councils at community events such as World Day of Prayer. Their very presence promoted the League and provided an opportunity to speak with women about the organization. Provincial presidents attended all diocesan conventions, providing opportunities to interact with members outside their immediate dioceses, to inform and to be informed.
A majority of councils reported not subsidizing costs to attend events outside the parish or subsidizing approximately one-quarter of the cost. Reports also noted a great attendance at workshops and meetings. Council subsidies to attend events included the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and Henri Nouwen Society events, and the New Evangelization Summit, as well as development days, days of reflection, retreats and business meetings.
f) initiate policy, in consultation with the officers of the council concerned
While approximately one-half of councils had policy manuals, most reported one would be beneficial, but assistance to initiate would be needed. Of those with policy manuals, most did not initiate new policies, but reviewed and updated present policies. One-quarter reported initiating new policies on general procedures such as travel and funerals, a spousal honour guard and payment of membership dues for members over 90, as well as many policies regarding financial support. Preparing an appendix to the policy manual was also noted.
g) keep fully informed on the operation of the League and report annually to the membership
Councils used the national website, The Canadian League magazine and communiqués to inform members. The majority of councils provided an annual report to the membership, orally and/or on paper. While this was a majority, there is still much to do regarding communication to keep members informed.
h) be an advisory member of all committees except the nominations and elections committee
Presidents at all levels acted as chairpersons of administrative committees. Presidents acted in advisory capacities on other committees such as policy review and resolutions review, as well as committees within and outside standing committees, such as in fundraising endeavours, catering and funeral services, and planned social events.
i) be the official spokesperson for her council
Presidents signed all letters from the parish council, some on letterhead, some not. They spoke with the spiritual advisor relating to any issue or activity and were the official spokesperson during visits with municipal and provincial governments. Provincially, presidents represented their council, met with their spiritual advisor to summarize activities and educate, and engaged in open dialogue.
j) perform such other duties as may be incumbent upon her office
Presidents attended all meetings designated by the diocesan or provincial council, and at the national level, executive meetings held in February, August and November. They completed surveys and made inquiries related to the parish, diocesan or provincial councils.
k) appoint committees
Presidents appointed members for various committees and sent members to conferences and workshops that would assist them in their duties and/or assist with collective spiritual growth. General committees were appointed for conventions, policy reviews, nominations and elections, among others.
l) perform duties as national president:
- Appointed National Past President Margaret Ann Jacobs to attend a second national roundtable on the attestation clause in the Canada Summer Jobs program, hosted by the minister of employment, workforce development and labour.
- Appointed Life Member Ann Doucet as national life member liaison for 2018–2020 and Susan Melchiorre to the national resolutions committee; approved sub-committee chairpersons for national standing committees; invited National Chairperson of Community Life Marie Rackley to glean information on the ongoing Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace–Caritas Canada audit by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
- Appointed a national resolutions ad hoc committee to review and make recommendations for updating the national resolutions process. Committee members included National Chairperson of Resolutions Cathy Bouchard, life members Shari Guinta, Joan Bona and Becky Kallal, as well as Executive Director Kim Scammell and myself. Information was circulated to all provincial executives.
- Attended the annual plenary assembly of the CCCB. The president gave a comprehensive report on the church in Canada and challenges it faced, as well as several social justice issues. I received information on actions taken to date in Canada regarding protection of minors, strategic plans for Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Catholic Missions In Canada and Mission chez nous and an informative update on the Middle East by the maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East. The chairperson of research in theological studies at the University of Winnipeg spoke on the state of the earth, stating where there were extreme conditions, the poor suffered first and the worst. An animation by the newly formed palliative care working group gave credit to the League for its initiative, 12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care. A representative of Aid to the Church in Need spoke. Information was received from the CCCB department of Relations with Catholic Associations and Movements.
- In August, I attended the National Council of Catholic Women Convention in Pittsburgh, where the three commissions of spirituality, leadership and service made one hour presentations on the previous year’s accomplishments in the United States and abroad. The keynote speaker presented Disciples Called to be Joyful Signs of Contradiction in the World, a moving but joy-filled and optimistic hour—“hope” is noted 75 times in the New Testament, none by Christ. He made a spirited defence of the difference between happiness and joy. One commission reviewed a program designed to spiritually and temporally renew caregivers. The Holy Land Project saw letters written and sent from children in Connecticut to Catholic children in the Holy Land.
- Honorary Life Member Velma Harasen, National President-Elect and Chairperson of Organization Fran Lucas and I represented the League at the World Union of Catholic Women Organisations (WUCWO) General Assembly held in Dakar, Senegal in October. With the theme, WUCWO Women, Carriers of “living water” to a world which thirsts for Peace, we took part in the study days’ exchanges with sisters from around the world, the business sessions and beautiful liturgies. A report and an article for Women’s Voice were submitted. Velma completed her four year term as vice president for North America and board member from Canada; Marusia Kobrynsky of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League was elected as board member from Canada. The League made a presentation to WUCWO from the Canadian WUCWO Endowment Fund. Established in 2000 by efforts of Claire Heron and incorporated in 2008 as a registered charity. Since inception, the fund has generated $367,174 USD which was forwarded. Janet McLean became treasurer of the fund, succeeding Kim Scammell.
- Received and reviewed applications for the implementation committee and, in consultation with the administrative committee, selected four women to form said committee—Sharon Ciebin, Lisa Henry, Sr. Susan Scott, and Jacqueline Nogier. They were joined by Fran Lucas, who acted as liaison between the national executive and implementation committee. Kim Scammell and I acted in consultative capacities.
- Attended the annual national March for Life in Ottawa in May while making government visits. In the fall, I visited several ministries regarding current and ongoing issues.
- I chaired administrative committee meetings by teleconference on a regular basis beginning in late fall to keep up with financial, staff and communications issues. My goal was for this to prove an effective means of doing business, while having a shorter administrative meeting prior to executive meetings.
- The centenary committee under the leadership of National Chairperson of Legislation Betty Colaneri, enthusiastically continued to prepare for the 100th celebration of the League. Stories of League heritage in poster format received strong support from members.
The challenges of leadership, training and mentorship led the organizational issues.
Being in the early stages of implementation of the strategic plan, challenges will be met with the same energy evident since the striking of the steering committee. The Holy Spirit continues to bless the League with the right women at the right time and I am confident Inspired by the Spirit: Women [will continue] to Respond to God’s Call.