Community Life Communique #2

National Chairperson of Community Life Betty Colaneri, March 27, 2017

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“A world where women are marginalized is a barren world because women not only give life but they also transmit the ability to see beyond, to see beyond themselves. They transmit the ability to see the world with different eyes, to feel things with a more creative, patient and tender heart” (Pope Francis).

 Women at the Heart of Change

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s (CCODP) first Share Lent campaign took place in 1968, raising $1.35 million, and was used to carry out projects in 32 countries. “For Lent 2017 Development and Peace – Caritas Canada had chosen to put women at the forefront to highlight the very special importance and role they have in every aspect of development, whether it be social, environmental or economic” (devp.org/en/sharelent-2017).

An article by Michael Swan in The Prairie Messenger quoted the following, “The 50th Share Lent campaign for Canada’s solidarity organization has been launched under the theme of ‘Women at the Heart of Change.’ The next $8 million Development and Peace raises will be in the name of women. As part of the international Caritas network of over 160 Catholic humanitarian organizations, Development and Peace has based its campaign on a May 2016 prayer by Pope Francis ‘that in all countries of the world, women may be honoured and respected and highly esteemed for their essential contribution to society ’.”

In the article, Mary Hess, a visiting scholar at the University of St. Michael’s College faculty of theology stated, “Raising money for international development in the name of women makes perfect sense. There is a growing consciousness, globally, that if you educate girls and women you make huge impact on communities. When you focus on women and girls, when you put money there, it trickles up.” Given the opportunity, women can make profound changes to their communities.

Education for Truth and Reconciliation

Recently Wilma Vanderzwaag, my community life counterpart in Ontario and I attended a Kairos blanket exercise. This interactive learning experience teaches the indigenous rights history rarely taught. Covering over 500 years of history in a one-and-a-half-hour participatory workshop, participants take on the roles of indigenous peoples in Canada. While standing on blankets that represent the land, participants are engaged on an emotional and intellectual level, which effectively educates and increases empathy. In the words of Senator Murray Sinclair, “Education is what got us here and education is what will get us out.” Education is the cornerstone for change. What a powerful and moving way to have facts and figures I had read from the past come to life. Encourage councils in your province to attend or host a blanket exercise.

The season of Lent allows us to reflect and be even more mindful of the homeless and abandoned in our midst. One can’t help but be moved when looking at the statue of the “Homeless Jesus” created by Timothy Schmalz. The faceless figure, lying on the bench with holes in his feet, inspires us to take the time to see Jesus in others. Jesus taught us that we are not only to receive the mercy of God but to practice mercy towards others. Put into action your corporal works of mercy by visiting those who have no one, are lonely, in hospitals, care facilities and prisons or by helping the homeless.

Pope Francis encourages women to be the ones to make things happen.

Women at the Heart of Change

Betty Colaneri