National Chairperson of Education and Health
- Catholic Education: Life Member Peggy McNeil
- Wellness and Sickness/Disease: Life Member Dr. Rayleen De Luca
- Environment: Rita Janes
The annual reports captured the accomplishments of members committed to dealing with issues related to this standing committee. Their achievements were vast and members could be commended for their efforts in addressing topics such as Catholic education, literacy and continuing education, wellness and the environment, and for exploring genetics.
Parish councils were fully supportive of Catholic schools in their community. In provinces without Catholic schools, parish councils promoted the value of Catholic education and focused their energies on catechesis in the parish. Seventy per cent of parish councils reported being informed on local Catholic education and had made enquiries in regard to any needs; however, only 38% actively participated. Parish councils reported some members were teachers at Catholic schools and members of Catholic school boards.
Members identified needs and brought Catholic values to public schools through: donations of clothing, personal hygiene products and school supplies; assistance with school food programs, field trips, recess supervision, extracurricular activities, tutoring, Shrove Tuesday events, Advent activities; and by teaching the rosary. Some members participated in a parish volunteer program that involved entering the classroom once a month to teach a theme chosen by the school. One parish council provided funding for transportation for students to visit a local nursing home. Public speaking skills were developed through local and provincial contests. Grade 6 students were invited to write an essay on their priest and Catholic church, with a monetary prize provided for diocesan and parish winners. Parish councils supported a capital campaign to build a new school. Books were donated to a new school library and a donation plate was inserted in each book. Christmas donations were provided to students and families at a Catholic school. Supplies were provided to build prayer tables at schools and altar cloths for prayer centres in classrooms and chapels were donated. Christmas dinner for 400 students, teachers and staff was prepared. Parish councils helped high school students earn service hours. One parish council purchased Catholic books for a local Catholic school, encouraged use of a seed library and provided information to members on resources in the new library. Forty-four per cent of parish councils reported being aware of the family life programs taught in Catholic schools in their area or diocese. Members helped students read through the LOVE (Let Older Volunteers Educate) program. One parish council reported actively monitoring a new sex education program recently introduced in the Province of Quebec.
Some members were personally responsible for the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program and others sponsored candidates. They were involved in children and youth centred catechesis to adult faith formation through bible studies and parish and diocesan programs as well as volunteering as catechists and assistants. One parish council gave welcome cards to RCIA candidates at Easter.
Literacy and Continuing Education
Life-long learning courses in local communities were promoted to senior members. Nova Scotia Provincial Council reported, “Members [were] very supportive of working and assisting others in their communities to improve their literacy and English Language Skills.” Many mentored and tutored new immigrants and students, and participated in Family Literacy Day, sponsored by ABC Life Literacy Canada.
Scholarships and Bursaries
Approximately 50% of parish councils reported having a list of scholarships and bursaries available that could be accessed by Catholic women to further their education. Many (64%) provided bursaries and scholarships to elementary, high school (47%) and some post-secondary students. Thirty-four per cent of parish councils indicated supporting the National Bursary Fund and Coady International Institute. One parish council established a community service award for its local Catholic elementary school. Prince Edward Island Provincial Council reported parish councils were aware of and/or financially supported a Catholic girls bursary, while Nova Scotia Provincial Council reported the Marguerite Burns and Alice Egan Hagan bursaries were available annually to members. Parish councils also supported the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation with a few members enrolled in the course. Some provided funding for a Christian ethics awards, scholarships to Quill Plains Music Festival and to a music student. One parish council offered a bursary for students in Triunfo, Guatemala via Guatemala Hope. A bursary was provided by a parish council to a female student enrolled in an adult continuing education program. Bursaries provided by parish councils varied in amounts.
Wellness and Sickness/Disease
Parish councils undertook a variety of means to inform members on health issues. Community wellness challenge presentations, seminars on preventing falls and safety on ice and organ donation, speakers on mental health, and presentations on Canada’s food guide were some of the undertakings of parish councils. One parish council reported, “Members were made aware of the need for better resources and access to health care in our Northern communities.”
Parish councils continued to support a variety of organizations including the ALS Society of Canada, Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Arthritis Society, Autism Canada, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadian Red Cross, children’s treatment centres, Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Diabetes Canada, Grief to Grace retreats, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Kidney Foundation of Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Relay for Life, Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, Terry Fox Foundation and VON Canada. This truly was an indication that members supported organizations that function for the betterment of health of Canadians.
Only 15% of parish councils used the Mental Health Postcard to voice concern on mental health in Canada. Thirty-nine per cent were not aware of the postcard campaign and 46% did not take action. Parish councils (7%) reported supporting Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life Program by donating blood.
The “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” initiative was well supported by parish councils. Nova Scotia Provincial Council reported, “Many councils [felt] that Palliative Care/Hospice Care [was] a very important issue and want[ed] to ensure that the increased awareness and focus remain[ed] and [was] not diminished especially in light of the legislative changes to Bill C-7.” Services were held in parishes and homes. Parish councils invited neighbouring churches, distributed prayer cards, invited speakers, and provided refreshments and information. Some collected goodwill offerings for palliative and hospice care. Participants were invited to share their personal experiences. Letters were sent to government expressing members’ concerns.
Parish councils supported the health and wellness of members and the community by financially supporting a Eucharistic ministry in a hospital and having a paramedic teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Presentations on genetically modified (organisms) foods were held. Donations were given to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation that reached an amount significant enough to be listed on the donor wall.
Parish councils (49%) reported participating in the “National Water Pledge Challenge.” More than 2,000 pledges were received confirming members were consciously aware of their use of water at home.
B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council indicated 50% to 90% of parish councils participated in the challenge. Concentrating on water in 2019, councils acted on resolutions 1999.09 Bulk Fresh Water Resources, 2001.04 Water Quality in Canada, 2004.07 Water Use in Canada and 2005.06 Developing Countries and Water. Parish councils were aware of environmental issues and knowingly recycled (73%), eliminated styrofoam products (67%), eliminated use of plastic water bottles (52%), reduced water use (47%), used green bins for organic waste, composted, reduced paper use at meetings and avoided single use or disposable items. Members encouraged the use of reusable containers. B.C. &Yukon Provincial Council reported members were encouraged to restrict the use of plastic bags and cloth bags were used to distribute food hampers.
There was some participation by parish councils for the United Nations’ World Water Day, Earth Day and the Earth Action Initiative promoted by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations. Members participated in outdoor community clean ups, roadside or adopt-a-highway programs, planted trees, kept creeks and beaches clean, held a prayer service for the United Nations’ World Water Day and cleaned church grounds.
Educational presentations around the national theme, Care for Our Common Home, were held. One parish council reported hosting a spiritual reflection luncheon with Sr. Susan Scott on the topic, “If Not Me, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When?” Saskatchewan Provincial Council reported hosting guest speaker Sr. Judy Schachtel who spoke on “New Understanding and Awakening of the Universe (Mystics and the Catholic Faith).” Parish councils studied Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and several reported becoming more aware of climate change. One parish council reported attending the climate change strike in Montreal, while another introduced FOG (fats, oils, grease) cups. The cups and lids were compostable, biodegradable certified and approved for use in green bin programs. Funds were raised for a well for a needy community and one parish council reported sending water postcards to government. Another placed a water bottle at the back of the church and money collected was donated to the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. Small inserts were placed in the parish bulletin regarding Care for Our Common Home. Parish councils made concerted efforts to become aware and be educated on the environment and climate change.
Some parish councils reported they had a good understanding of genetics and received the free newsletter from the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. The annual survey indicated there was still a need for more information in this area and its relation to the teachings of the church.
All reports indicated parish councils were very active addressing the areas in this standing committee. So many initiatives were undertaken and this report was only the tip of the iceberg of activities. Parish councils indicated involvement in Catholic education, health and wellness, and environmental issues. The national initiatives provided such as “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” and the “National Water Pledge Challenge” continued to be well received. Additional awareness on the Mental Health Postcard campaign, Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life Program and genetics was needed. More information on the National Bursary Fund and Coady International Institute would need to be explored in the future.