One would never know we were still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by the action-filled reports of the provincial presidents and national officers. Watching all of that activity certainly added fuel to my fire, and helped all of us propel the League through many challenges this year.
The excitement of attending conventions after trepidation that circumstances could change at any time was exhilarating but filled with caution. Masks and hand sanitizer were still my best friends as I happily travelled to diocesan conventions for Sault Ste. Marie (North Bay), Mackenzie (Yellowknife), Victoria (Nanaimo) and to provincial conventions for Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Quebec (Trois Rivieres) and Ontario (Ottawa). Unfortunately, COVID-19 side-lined my attendance at the Manitoba (Neepawa) and Saskatchewan (Swift Current) conventions. In most instances, attendance was lower than usual, but more than many thought possible. Members cautiously joined League sisters after the lengthy absences to be rejuvenated by the reporting and by personal contact with others. The words of the theme Catholic and Living It! have taken on a vibrant life, which is not surprising and is both affirming and uplifting. Attending diocesan and provincial conventions afforded the opportunity to see and hear first-hand the actions already taken and plans being made to demonstrate without any doubt that the League is of course Catholic and assuredly living it!
To keep members informed of where I was, my president’s outings were posted the first week of each month.
As in the previous year, participating in online meetings was the order of the day from strategic planning working groups to monthly administrative to many ad hoc meetings. Requests I made of executive members were accepted willingly and with remarkable results. These included requests of:
· Cathy Bouchard, who worked with Chalice Canada on an event called Love in the Kitchen: A Recipe for Holiness, which resulted in a YouTube video that aired during Pentecost
· Faith Anderson, who wrote an article entitled “A Journey Through Life” for the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization’s (WUCWO) Women’s Voice March magazine
· Margaret Schwab, who wrote article for WUCWO’s Women’s Voice on “From Celebration to Gratitude” which will be in an upcoming issue
· Chantal Devine, who organized the Ribbons for Ukraine project
· Glenda Carson and Rolande Chernichan, who worked for months on position papers
· Shari Guinta, who reviewed life membership
· Betty Colaneri, who is managing the website redesign.
· Anne Gorman, who worked on a policy and procedure project
· Marie Rackley, who worked on a project tied to the amendment for a per capita fee increase.
A first for the national executive/board occurred when four standing committee chairpersons (Cathy Bouchard, Margaret Schwab, Dorothy Johansen, Faith Anderson) collaborated on a joint communique and project related to WUCWO’s request for spiritual bouquets for Pope Francis. The spiritual bouquet was personally presented on June 11th by the WUCWO executive as it met with the pope.
Being part of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada specifically in the Edmonton area was a definite highlight. Working on Archbishop Richard Smith’s (Edmonton) fundraising committee was an honour as it was a tangible way to help with this historic visit. Through volunteering in various positions – before, during and after – and the many members attending the Eucharistic celebrations, the League was well represented. It was moving to see the great member support for the visit as it shows how much members recognize the importance of the healing that the pope’s presence can bring.
Many opportunities offered me education in a variety of areas, including personal growth. I participated in: a meeting with convention planning co-chairpersons Nancy Simms and Debbie Cloutier, and Bishop Greg Bittman solidifying the fact that we would, with God’s grace, be having a customary convention; the 8th and final board governance session on Removing Structural Impediments to Participation and Action; monthly webinar sessions with provincial presidents; the Canadian Society of Association Executives forum on contracts for events; a session on For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission; WUCWO’s webinar on Women, Crisis and Resilience; World Day of Prayer; Honorary Life Member Fireside Chat; and Edmonton and Hamilton diocesan online regional workshops. Fortunately, I was able to attend a few local parish council anniversaries and a meeting of a potential new council at an Indigenous parish. While in North Bay, I visited the office of Clark Marketing Communications, which works with the League’s marketing working group and national chairperson of communications.
On January 1st I made two resolutions. The first one was to call two members each day in the month of January. The second resolution was to solicit sponsorships for the annual national convention. I am pleased to say, “Mission accomplished”.
To ensure timely board action, two extraordinary meetings were called. One meeting was regarding the Ribbons for Ukraine provincial project and the second meeting involved a request for member donations to subsidize Pope Francis’ visit to Canada.
Life Member Cecile Miller is the League’s liaison to the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation (CWLF). She reports that:
· there were 15 graduates from cohort four in May 2022.
· thirteen members of cohort five began the program in May 2022.
· the board is looking into platforms that will allow cohort members to stay in touch with each other.
· St. Paul’s University is launching The Institute for Transformative Leadership and the CWLF Program is to be the first program.
· the spring newsletter is available online and includes photographs of cohorts four and five.
On occasion I have been asked, even by members, about the relevance of the League. My response usually sounds something like this, “We are faith-based women with 102 years of working history. Not enough? We are the largest Catholic women’s organization that gets to meet with and bring concerns to federal government and does so regularly. Still not enough? We are an organization of resolute women who see needs in their community or farther afield and take action to address them. That is plenty for me.”
For those who need more: When a council with slightly under 200 members can attract 10% more new members during a pandemic, when members who can no longer do their usual indoor good works pivot to cleaning community parks together, when councils use online formats to educate members in preparation for post pandemic days, when a vignette of a spiritual advisor is added to the website reflecting his total recognition of the League’s good work, when The Catholic Register can produce a 35 page summary of the League’s past 100 years while easily being able to double that content, when 27 parish and 17 diocesan councils have more than 100 years of service and aren’t slowing down, I would safely say we are relevant!
My request of all parish councils is to spend time with members, now, reminding or educating their sisters of League relevance. We need to hear it, we need to talk about it, we need to live it!