Nova Scotia Provincial Council President
This report reflects priorities and activities of councils as summarized by standing committee chairpersons and executive officers. It is not truly representative of all work done by parish councils as annual reporting remained at an average of 50%, depending on the standing committee. This was not a significant change from previous years.
Fostering leadership was an important priority. Councils reached out to leaders on other levels, particularly those on diocesan executives. Spiritual advisors were highly respected in relation to leadership and mentoring by more than 95% of councils. Life members were looked to for leadership support by more than 60% of councils. Despite this reported engagement of life members, some life members expressed feelings of not being effectively engaged. Past presidents also expressed willingness to support presidents and executive members, and took on leadership roles including planning workshops, conferences, conventions, guest speakers and fundraising events. Past presidents could also have been engaged more effectively by councils. Leadership development for councils was needed. Strategies to better engage untapped resources of experience and expertise appeared beneficial. A high point for leadership was the acceptance of Catherine Camp as an inaugural class member of the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation.
The provincial council biennial leadership retreat was held for diocesan and provincial executive members in September. Topics included report writing, team building and leading effective meetings. The retreat was well received, particularly by members new to executive roles.
Many councils were successful in attracting new members, largely through personal contact and invitations through media, such as parish bulletins. Social media was not as successful as had been anticipated. Lack of membership renewal continued to contribute to declining membership numbers. A survey at the June provincial convention reinforced that council spirit and engagement with members were key to keeping members interested and passionate in the League’s work. Appreciation of service was taken seriously by parish councils. Members were recognized with service pins, maple leaf pins and Bellelle Guerin awards. Reaching out—by phone and personal contact—to members who had not renewed was a strategy used to reconnect members with councils and understand why members left. At the direction of members at the provincial convention, an ad hoc committee was tasked with exploring the possible negative effects of declining membership and making recommendations, particularly in relation to council structure.
National initiatives were embraced by many parish councils. Effort was taken to disseminate information on the national strategic plan by diocesan and provincial executive members. More than 70% of councils reported gaining information on the strategic planning process from attending conventions and/or information brought back for discussion amongst members.
Accounting of history was attended to by past presidents who fulfilled important roles as stewards of archives. It was assuring to see effort by councils to maintain documents and historical items consistent with the archives recommendations from the national council, including digital strategies.
Prayer was a foundation of the spiritual activities of members through many forms, including reciting the League Prayer to open meetings, and leading the rosary with members, within parishes and with seniors in nursing homes. Honour guards at funeral masses were offered in respect of deceased members and in support of grieving families. Participation in special liturgical actions and spiritual celebrations were an important part of spiritual life. These included adoration of the cross and the celebration of Our Lady of Good Counsel feast day with special masses, either in home parishes or with other councils nearby.
Christian outreach activities were a high priority for councils. Actions focused on supporting youth events, having a strong presence during sacramental celebrations, and supporting the ill, disabled and the housebound. Seniors received home visits and acknowledgement through cards, special celebrations and entertainment. Ministering to bereaved families and widows, and remembrance of faithful departed sisters were universal priorities for councils. Sanctity of life also received great focus with councils hosting birthright showers and some councils participating in 12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care.
Members continued to be effective leaders in parish ministries, including pastoral councils, finance councils and liturgy committees. Participation in ministries was consistently high throughout the provincial council. Holding a “CWL weekend,” during which members participated in all ministries for a weekend mass, was a popular strategy amongst councils for maintaining visible presence of the League. Participation in the World Day of Prayer remained an important ecumenical activity for most councils.
Councils proudly supported various local, national and international organizations focused on helping the world’s poor and vulnerable. There was special focus by some councils in developing relationships with Indigenous people and learning more about their lives and challenges they faced. A KAIROS blanket exercise was hosted by one diocesan council with a positive response from members attending. Many members expressed support for the important work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace–Caritas Canada, despite an ongoing audit.
Clear and consistent communication amongst members and council levels has been a historical challenge. Diocesan councils reported more parish councils had e-mail access, facilitating more timely exchange of information. However, councils in more remote and rural areas of the province had difficulty with reliable Internet access. Councils at diocesan and provincial levels maintained websites to act as a source of information and for easy access to resources. Changes to the national website were positively received by some councils. While members followed the national Twitter feed, Facebook served as a popular form of communication among members.
Though legislation was an important standing committee to fuel action and resolutions from members, few councils had a standing committee chairperson. There was an ongoing struggle in councils to find members to fill all standing committee and executive roles. Despite this, members paid attention to what happened at government levels and raised their voices to needs such as protecting the conscience rights of health care workers and ensuring support for palliative care.
As with legislation, the resolutions standing committee often lacked a dedicated chairperson. However, councils followed resolutions important to members. The lack of dedicated leadership impacted the exploration and generation of new resolutions. The work of the national resolutions ad hoc committee that reflected on the process and procedures for resolution development promised to make development of resolutions a more positive and efficient process.
The education and health standing committee was often very active at the parish level. Topics embraced through council discussions and presentations included mental health awareness and palliative care. Concern for the environment was also a consistent theme among some councils, which looked at ways to protect and conserve natural resources and habitat through education and council action. Health needs of seniors was a priority, speaking to members responding to ongoing needs of one of the major demographic populations of members.
Despite ongoing challenges and areas of uncertainty for the League in Nova Scotia Provincial Council, annual reports from all committee chairpersons indicated it remained a vibrant and active organization. Passion and concern continued to be shown for faith, church and nation. Guided by the national theme, it was evident members strived to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus’ example of responding to the needs of the world and human family.