faith | service | social justice

2019 Annual Report – National Chairperson of Community Life

Jun 22, 2020 | Annual Reports, National

Marie C. Rackley
National Chairperson of Community Life

Sub-Committee Chairpersons

  • Dignity and Rights of Persons: Life Member Dorothy Johansen
  • Refugees, Immigration and Citizenship: Madonna Clark
  • Developing Countries: Irene Gallant

Eleven provincial chairpersons of community life submitted an annual report.

Dignity and Rights of Persons
Members continued to participate in information sessions on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Parish councils respected those who could not fully help themselves and spent countless hours in aid of homeless shelters and soup kitchens. They continued to help those suffering from poverty with donations of clothing and food for their needs as reports of soup kitchens serving daily meals to an increased number of children and younger adults were heard.

Parish councils were generous in their support for those leaving abusive situations through financial donations to shelters and transition houses. They collected items for donations to shelters and supported walkathons and other fundraising events. Several volunteered at shelters and thrift stores that supported transition houses and provided Christmas gifts to families in shelters. Members provided phone support for a domestic abuse crisis line. They also had an educational component that included speaking at high schools and parishes about abuse and what help was offered.

There was an increase in bullying in schools, neighbourhoods and playgrounds, with children tortured by words and violence to the point of self-destruction. An increase in bullying through social media, where youth were targeted for all to see, was noticed. Several parish councils invited school guidance counsellors to their meetings for an anti-bullying information session, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and local police departments. Increased awareness of anti-bullying strategies was necessary to help children in need, and much information was made available on the League website.

Parish councils continued to pray for Indigenous women and invited them to monthly meetings so members could hear firsthand about their struggles within society. They took part in activities such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Faceless Doll Project and KAIROS Blanket Exercise, attended special masses for missing Indigenous women, visited those incarcerated, and on June 21st, celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day, sponsored by the federal government.

Many parish councils reviewed Building a Safe and Resilient Canada: Public Safety Canada 2018 Human Trafficking Consultations Report released by the federal government. Human trafficking continued to be a concern and caused great damage to youth (as young as 12 years old) who became actively involved in the trade. Several parish councils reviewed the article “Human Trafficking Today,” written by Life Member Dorothy Johansen and published in the fall issue of The Canadian League. They strongly supported the postcard campaigns on human trafficking by signing and sending the cards to government officials. Several parish councils invited the RCMP to speak at monthly meetings and opened these events to the parish community.

The Canada Summer Jobs Program attestation was a concern for many Christian organizations that had applied for summer students and did not qualify. Letters and cards were sent to the federal government as a follow up to Resolution 2018.01 Attestation Requirement on Canada Summer Jobs Program, and changes were subsequently made to the application. Parish councils continued to monitor to make sure the application was available for all organizations in Canada.

Social and Economic Justice
Parish councils were active in volunteering countless hours to help their communities. Members could be seen at local food banks, soup kitchens, Canadian Red Cross, hospital gift shops and school breakfast programs. They held fundraisers with donations made to Habitat for Humanity. Most parish councils participated in the HUG Project, where toiletries were collected and distributed to the needy.

Members visited women in local detention centres and worked with organizations such as the Elizabeth Fry Society, Coverdale Centre and John Howard Society. Guest speakers were invited to meetings and received a financial donation to help their cause. One parish council held a purse drive, with purses collected and filled with personal items and delivered to a women’s centre.

Refugees, Immigration and Citizenship
Members worked closely with refugees as hundreds arrived in communities from countries that had destroyed their families and taken away their freedom to live. Outreach programs were developed through parish councils, and members took part in English as a Second Language programs (ESL). Resolution 2016.01 Equal Access to Permanent Resident Status, an Amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, continued to be reviewed and monitored.

Development and Peace—Caritas Canada
Although the national executive/board had suspended the national voluntary fund supporting Development and Peace—Caritas Canada’s 1% Program, some dioceses supported the 2019 Share Lent program within their parishes. Parish councils also donated funds directly, but attached a note stating the funds raised were not to be allocated to the 52 programs under review by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Talks remained ongoing.

Developing Countries
Parish councils continued to support the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) National Voluntary Fund, financially and with prayers, to help the struggles of Christians living in the Middle East and in support of the many works of the local church. At the 99th annual national convention held in Calgary, a motion was made to designate one special day a year as a National Day of Prayer for Christians in the Holy Land. The day chosen was the Feast of the Holy Family on December 29th. Plans were underway with CNEWA to assign a particular day each year to celebrate this event. Support of Velma’s Dream through national voluntary fund donations continued.

Parish councils supported programs such as Buy-a-Net Malaria Prevention Group, Canadian Food for Children, Chalice, Doctors Without Borders, Sleeping Children Around the World, Operation Eyesight International, Save a Family Plan, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision to name a few. They kept in touch with women’s issues throughout various organizations and continued to monitor child labour in developing countries.

Parish councils needed to be praised and recognized for the work they did for those who needed assistance. Countless hours were contributed to the wellbeing of the organizations they worked with. Although many parish councils reported a vacant chairperson of community life, the work was done by the membership. As one member said, “it [was] what we should do as we [were] able and God’s people need[ed] help.” What a wonderful organization to belong to, a Christian organization that worked with Christian women for the betterment of Christ’s people. May Our Lady of Good Counsel continue to bless each of you in your daily work.