Military Ordinariate Provincial President
- Eleven of 13 base councils reported.
- Ten of ten provincial standing committees reported.
As president of Military Ordinariate Provincial Council, I was happy to report that while base councils continued to face struggles in areas of membership retention and recruitment, as well as needed improvement in communication and training, the membership was dedicated to their communities, the League and country. Each member belonged to one of the 13 base councils located across six provinces.
Though missing two base council presidents’ reports, 100% of the provincial administrative committee reported in a timely fashion. This allowed me to collate the activities of the provincial council and membership to reveal an accurate depiction of endeavours.
The national annual report survey asked base council presidents to report how long they had been a member. Seventy-two per cent of them reported having been members for 11-25 years. I, too, fell into this range, with 23 years of service.
Base council presidents were returners; seven of 11 reported having held the position previously, though it was not known if at the same council. There were also returning past provincial presidents in base council president roles. Leadership development continued to be an area in need of attention. Despite providing training at the convention, the provincial council had not been successful in implementing opportunities throughout the year. Online opportunities to meet and deliver strategic plan information were offered; however, the anticipated responses were not received, and sessions were poorly attended.
Base council presidents sought information from The Canadian League (100%) and national communiques (91%) to inform members. Both at 64%, provincial newsletters and the national website were also widely used. Members were media-savvy and used Internet searches to obtain information from sites such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Catholic Organization for Life and Family, and others. As provincial president, I relied greatly on national communiques and Internet searches for the information I shared with the membership. Having served on a national ad hoc committee that examined the CCCB document, Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation, I also relied on information from Catholic bishops. I made regular use of the Military Ordinariate diocesan website and the national website for information. The provincial council’s Facebook page was another resource, and had 107 members.
All base councils reported they acted upon and educated members on the national theme, Care for Our Common Home. Removing the Canada Summer Jobs Program attestation and excluding medical assistance in dying from palliative care and hospice facilities continued to be areas of interest and action for members. Resolutions adopted at the annual national convention were discussed and acted upon by members, with approximately one-half of councils reported they had informed members of the resolutions. Meetings, engaging standing chairpersons and inviting speakers to educate members were the top three methods used to inform members.
In 2018, the provincial executive obtained permission from New Brunswick Provincial Council to use its template for a postcard petitioning the removal of the Canada Summer Jobs Program attestation and had postcards made for distribution to members for personal advocacy. The project continued in 2019. The council educated members on the national theme at the provincial convention by inviting Dr. Cristina Vanin of St. Jerome’s University to speak on Laudato Si’. Provincial council was invited to assist with the Ontario provincial convention, and it created centrepieces for the banquet using locally grown, recycled and repurposed materials.
Sadly, two base councils experienced unsupportive spiritual advisors. One of the reasons listed for the lack of support was the spiritual advisor’s involvement elsewhere. It was also reported the spiritual advisor believed the members’ role was limited to support of the church, including donating all fundraising to the church. When military chaplains met in exercise, I wrote a letter to them. It was delivered by the provincial spiritual advisor. The letter expressed members’ support of them and thanked them for their support. Provincial spiritual advisor Padre Maria Codina presented a PowerPoint to the chaplains, which explained the League and the provincial council. Members were happy to hear she was permitted to exceed the initial allotment of 15 minutes and spoke for almost one hour. Provincial council would continue to reach out to spiritual advisors and seek their support for base councils, through education and self-promotion.
Base council presidents used national, provincial and their own council materials to help facilitate meetings. Most base councils reported using the Constitution & Bylaws, as well as council manuals of policy and procedure and the National Manual of Policy and Procedure. There was an increase in 2019 in the presidents’ use of the Executive Handbook; ten of 11 presidents reported using it to help them understand their duties.
As provincial president, national and provincial manuals were used and referred to weekly. At the annual convention in May, the administrative team was tasked with compiling a brochure-style handout for voting delegates to bring home. The information came from the Executive Handbook and provincial and national websites and was intended to be a quick reference guide. Also included in the brochure were links and contact information of provincial counterparts.
Base council presidents were active in their communities, representing members at functions, sacramental celebrations and meetings. Five of 11 respondents reported having attended the convention; however, in fact, voting representation from all 13 base councils was present. As provincial president, I represented members at national meetings and convention. I was invited to local diocesan conventions, where I brought greetings on behalf of the provincial council.
The online survey asked members if they provided a yearly summary of council activities to members. Seven responded “no” and four, “yes.” My annual report was distributed to base councils through a provincial newsletter, Maryline, which is published twice a year. Base councils were encouraged to submit a report of activities to Maryline as well. Providing reports following attending convention and meetings was an expectation of those who attended.
Base council presidents were asked about committees in their councils (besides the standing committees)—55% reported having a fundraising committee. Also reported were committees for donations, funeral lunches, social, annual projects, and scholarships and bursaries.
Two of eleven councils reported using League letterhead when corresponding. The only members permitted to use provincial or national letterhead were the provincial president and national president, respectively. Permission must have been granted to use letterhead as its use implied speaking for the members, and the provincial and national presidents were the voice of their respective members. When it was used, the members who were represented would need to be referenced, one of the two councils reported doing this.
The greatest challenge faced while transitioning into the role of president was not having a full slate of officers. Other challenges included recruiting new members, feeling overwhelmed, running meetings, meeting expectations, member conflict, using technology and organizational skills. One person reported outdated policies were inhibiting membership at base chapels. While she did not elaborate, the provincial eligibility criteria had come into scrutiny. At the provincial level, guidance from the spiritual advisor and bishop was sought to ensure eligibility requirements reflected the uniqueness of military chapel communities. I could relate to the respondents in the challenges they faced. I agreed that keeping members interested, feeling overwhelmed, recruiting, and I would add, communication were also my concerns. Some of these issues, I hoped, would be addressed and alleviated through the implementation of strategic planning. Interpersonal conflict and emotional intelligence also contributed greatly to the challenges in base councils.
When asked about the benefit of having a national theme and logo, nine of 11 respondents said they liked it. Eighty per cent responded they felt it was good or very good for the theme to change with each national president, the other 20% were okay with it changing. I liked the themes and as I looked back over my years in League, I recalled many themes which opened my heart and mind to new faith experiences and ideas.
I conclude by sharing some of the sentiment shared by members when asked to describe what they were proud of in their base councils. Words used were togetherness, sisterhood, willingness, generosity, love, kindness, accomplishment, support and commitment. They responded to their local and national communities with their good deeds and continually made a difference in the military chapels and across Canada. The League was a resilient group of women who exemplified the League values of faith, service and social justice. Members continued to make me very proud as they worked “For God and Canada.”