Margaret Ann Jacobs
National Past President and Chairperson of Laws
It was a unique experience reading and comparing the annual reports filed by past presidents, joyfully illuminating the work undertaken in their provincial councils with the online survey submitted by parish councils (143 pages). Indeed, Canada is vast with different demographics reflecting different parts of the country. The one constant shining through was the pride reflected by past presidents and their unfathomable desire to sustain and improve the League regardless of where they lived.
Serve in a Consultative Capacity
Nationally, 46% of past presidents had been a member for more than 25 years, with the largest majority reflecting the 65-74 year age group. More than one-half always attended executive, general and spiritual meetings and events. Eighty-three per cent of parish presidents felt supported and encouraged by past presidents’ help.
Archives and History
The majority of past presidents (70%) were responsible for archives with other members also appointed to this role. Historical files included photo albums (84%), books of life (82%), deceased members’ histories (61%), history books (51%), financial records, past executive lists, membership renewal data, executive and general meeting minutes, and records of pin and award recipients. Much of this was stored (indefinitely) in filing cabinets, bankers boxes, and on memory sticks, CDs and DVDs located at the church in the hall or office and reviewed only as required. One past president made a presentation to a parish council on the process of archiving while another distributed a brochure on archiving procedures.
Study and Implementation of the Constitution & Bylaws
Although 96% of parish councils reported having a copy of the Constitution & Bylaws and 90% had a copy of the National Manual of Policy and Procedure, 46% rarely (if ever) accessed either to help guide a decision or help with the processes or procedures. More than one-half of parish councils (59%) had their own policy manual, updating it most often whenever a policy was changed. Advice was rarely sought from the diocesan executive (37%), provincial executive (48%), national executive (49%) or national office (50%) and life members (never–37%, rarely–34%), although the spiritual advisor was consulted monthly (37%).
Other Duties as Assigned by the President
Past presidents actively promoted the parish council in church and community events; participated on the nominations and elections committee; explained resolutions and levels of the League; planned and attended conventions; organized spiritual, social and fundraising events; sat on task forces; prepared spreadsheets and agendas; accessed surveys/reports; offered technology training; monitored websites; prepared newsletters; and organized honour guards, prayer shawl ministries and centennial celebrations.
Nationally, 67% of past presidents supported the implementation of the envisioned future of the League through The Catholic Women’s League of Canada Plans Strategically 2018-2022 by presenting workshops, participating in surveys, reading updates in The Canadian League and initiating discussions and prayer at meetings.
Laws (National Level)
In an attempt to comply with the League’s communication plan, the toll-free number for national office was retired. Greater focus was placed on following the “chain of command” parish ↔ diocese ↔ province ↔ national. As national chairperson of laws, questions facing councils were addressed with the guidance of past or current executive members, honorary life members and the executive director. Every effort was made to offer consistent succinct advice with the guidance of wise mentors.
Challenges and Successes
The challenges facing the League were not new and included the reluctance of (younger) members to accept leadership roles, demands on time by other parish and community organizations, and computer literacy and technological roadblocks.
The greatest success stories were embodied in the glowing reports of unique parish projects planned and executed cooperatively with oversight by experienced past presidents. Comments were shared about the materials archived when churches closed and parish councils disbanded. Previous parish councils’ histories were documented and tributes prepared for deceased members, including stories of early years in the parishes. Brava! Past presidents set an excellent example for future past presidents and parish councils to follow.
Past presidents, may your knowledge, expertise and abiding love of the League sustain you as members move into the next century “For God and Canada.”