By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Catholic Women’s League of Canada (CWL) members from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon held their 87th diocesan convention April 29 at the Community Centre in Foam Lake, SK.
Reports, future plans, displays, information, annual business and prayer were all part of the 87th diocesan convention, which continued to explore the CWL national theme “Catholic and Living It.”
“The Catholic Women’s League in the diocese of Saskatoon and through all four dioceses in Saskatchewan, let alone in Canada, has been a very potent force of evangelization, of faithful witness and of renewal of the Church. Your voices are very strong. The voices of faith-filled, service-oriented women in our culture today, are very important. They are heard strongly.” – Bishop Mark Hagemoen
MC Royanne Halyk of Christ the King Parish CWL council in Foam Lake opened the convention, welcoming delegates to the community.
Following the “presentation of colours,” Saskatoon diocesan CWL President Audrey Zimmerman then called the convention to order, acknowledging Treaty 4 territory and the traditional land of Indigenous and Métis people. “We acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and we are committed to moving forward in [partnership with Indigenous nations in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.”
Marion Laroque, diocesan CWL chair of spiritual development led the opening prayer. “Inspire us with the gospel message, that we may celebrate all that is life-giving, restore hope where it has been lost, and work to bring about change where it is needed,” assembled delegates prayed together.
Pastor Fr. Augustine Osei-Bonsu of Foam Lake, Wynyard and Wishart parishes brought greetings and welcomed delegates, and later he provided the keynote address exploring the convention theme “Catholic and Living It.”
During the opening celebrations, Shelley Thoen-Chaikowski, Mayor of Foam Lake, also brought greetings, expressing appreciation for the service and leadership of women. “There is something very special … when there is a room full of women,” she said. “I feel a sense of power and purpose. I know the power when you have women with a purpose that they can convey, and I am feeling that!”
Other special guests to bring greetings were Nevin Halyk Knights of Columbus, Council 5970, Foam Lake, saying the “CWL is the right arm of the church”; from Christine Kokoski of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church (which shares their church building with Christ the King RC Parish); from Audrey Rockochy of the local United Church Women; and from Marjorie Markusson of Gospel Fellowship Church, Foam Lake.
Representatives from sister CWL organizations also brought greetings: Prince Albert diocesan President Priscilla Wakelin and Regina archdiocesan President Janette Rieger.
Priscilla Wakelin reported on the recent 99th convention of the diocesan CWL in Prince Albert and provided a summary of work and ministry over the past year, including humanitarian collections, including items sent to La Ronge Sacred Heart outreach site, support for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, shoeboxes filled for Operation Christmas Child, and donation of household items for tiny homes built on a nearby reserve. “Our CWL councils are doing great things for our parishes and ourcommunities. We are walking together and showing that we are truly Catholic and living it,” she said.
Archdiocesan CWL president from Regina, Jeanette Rieger, spoke about the need for CWL members and councils to build relationships, and to include all members, regardless of their ability to be active and attend meetings. “We need to build relationships in our parish and our larger communities, without being concerned if these ladies will become members immediately,” she said.
Following the call to convention, roll call was taken and correspondence reported – including messages from the MLA and the MP for the area.
Outgoing diocesan President Audrey Zimmerman presented her report on the year’s activities across the diocese, and expressed her appreciation for all the “wonderful women and spiritual advisors” she has met over the past two years. She noted the challenges of returning to activity after the disruption of the pandemic, and the ingenuity and resilience shown by many CWL councils in parishes across the diocese. She also noted that some CWL councils in the diocese have or will be disbanding.
In spite of declining enrolment and aging membership, “we continue on, in hope, because much needs to be done to heal our broken world.”
CWL initiatives over the past year have included involvement in the IWIN – “I’m Worth It Now” project of outreach and assistance to assist human trafficking survivors by providing them with backpacks of supplies and by raising awareness about this important issue, Zimmerman reported. That has included supporting Hope Restored Canada’s work to support human trafficking victims.
“Your diocesan council purchased a city flag to be flown at (Saskatoon) City Hall on Feb 22, 2023 to mark Human Trafficking Awareness Day,” added Zimmerman. “Through the efforts of Saint Anne CWL Council, the city of Saskatoon proclaimed this day… Saint Anne council continues to work on the awareness aspect of human trafficking.”
That work by Saint Anne CWL council included the presentation of a resolution that was passed unanimously later in the day by the CWL delegates to the diocesan convention. The resolution calls upon the provincial CWL council to urge the provincial governent to proclaim Feb. 22, 2024 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Saskatchewan, and to observe the day annually. With the resolution passed at the diocesan level, it will now go to the provincial CWL executvie for consideration. If the provincial executive accepts the resolution it will be presented at the provincial convention in Saskatoon at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon June 4-5, to be voted on by members from across Saskatchewan.
In her diocesan president’s report, Zimmerman also highlighted the recently-released study guide “Working Towards Freedom” (LINK), exploring the CCCB Pastoral Letter on Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Canada.
She applauded the efforts of CWL councils across the diocese in furthering Truth and Reconciliation, and in addressing a range of important social and justice issues in our world today.
Councils celebrating milestone anniversaries this year across the diocese include St. Gabriel, Biggar (75 years); Sacred Heart, Denzil (75 years); Sacred Heart, Watson (65 years) St. Anne, Saskatoon (45 years); St. Donatus, Cacctus Lake (45 years); and St. Augustine, Saskatoon (40 years).
Zimmerman also noted that the diocesan CWL council’s fall meeting will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023 at St. Patrick Parish, Saskatoon, beginning with Mass at 9 a.m.
Provincial CWL President Connie Crichton also delivered a report to the diocesan convention. She too noted the many challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, “but it also gave us the opportunity to acknowledge that we need each other.” She noted the j oy of the Easter season and reflected on what Easter means for Catholics: “As followers of Christ we are called to go out and share the Good News” she said. “Being Catholic and Living It means just that: sharing the Good News… in all that we do.”
Crichton also spoke about the “Walking Together” challenge she has given to all CWL councils in the province. “In response to the Pope’s request to continue the journey of reconciliation, I’ve asked them all councils to find some way to heighten their awareness of Indigenous history and residential schools,” she said. “I have also asked councils to send proceeds of a fund-raiser of at least $100 to our provincial council, to be presented at the provincial convention to the bishops of Saskatchewan for the TRC reconciliation fund.”
As chair of the Standing Committee for Organization and Spiritual Development – as well as being the incoming diocesan CWL President – Marion Laroque provided information about the national CWL website (LINK) and the resources and tools available to councils. Her report was the first of a range of reports presented throughout the convention from standing committees, including: Christian Family Life (Mary Kehrig); Community Life (Flaviana Rodulfa-Loken); Communications (Yvonne Wiesner); Health and Education (Mary Jacobi); Legislation (Beatrice Wacholtz); Resolutions (Avis Hardy); Archives (Past-President Ingrid Eggerman); Our Lady of Grace (Wendy deSa); and the CWL Clothing Depot (Louise Kowalski).
Bishop Mark Hagemoen also addressed the delegates during the day, as did spiritual advisors Fr. John Abban-Bonsu (diocesan) and Fr. Peter Nnanga, MSP (provincial), and together with Fr. Augustine Osei-Bonsu, they concelebrated Mass at the conclusion of the convention.
“Given the time we are in — and I think Fr. Augustine’s comments (in the keynote address) touched on this — God is calling the CWL to a deeper level of faithfulness, building on the tremendous blessings you have already received and already given the Church,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
“The Catholic Women’s League in the diocese of Saskatoon and through all four dioceses in Saskatchewan, let alone in Canada, has been a very potent force of evangelization, of faithful witness and of renewal of the Church,” said the bishop. “Your voices are very strong. The voices of faith-filled, service-oriented women in our culture today, are very important. They are heard strongly.”
Hagemoen cited the current work of the CWL in the area of human trafficking awareness. “Many are arguing that we would not have seen the progress politically, if it hadn’t been for the Catholic Women’s League, and the voices of men and women to speak to an issue that impacts all of society — but that women can speak to in a very special, perhaps unique way.”
He added that there are many other issues. “I do want to call you to trust in your vocation, first of all as Catholic women, but also as the Catholic Women’s League,” Hagemoen said.
“Continue to look at how the Spirit may be calling the Catholic Women’s League to open the wings and reflect on that unitive, intimate relationship with the Lord as the basis to discern how is God calling us to move forward.”
A new diocesan executive for 2023-2028 was elected during the convention and installed as part of the Celebration of the Eucharist at the conclusion of convention business. The new diocesan CWL executive includes:
- President – Marion Laroque
- Spiritual Advisor – Fr. John Abban-Bonsu
- Corresponding and Recording Secretary – Florence Sirman
- Treasurer – Yvonne Wiesner
- Faith – Wendy deSa
- Service – Kathy Jones
- Social Justice – Diane Cote
CWL members were invited to attend the 75th Provincial CWL Convention June 4-5 at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon – (LINK) – which will feature guest speakers CWL National President Fran Lucas and Cristin Dorgan-Lee, principal of St. Michael Community School in Saskatoon.
As well, Catholic Women’s Leagueof Canada members are looking ahead to the national CWL convention to be hosted next year, August 2024, in Saskatoon.