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Diocesan CWL convention held May 1 in Watrous

cwl flags

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski 

Reflections, prayer, presentations, and reports were part of the 82nd annual diocesan convention of the Catholic Women’s League held May 1 at the Watrous Civic Centre and at St. Ann’s Parish in Watrous. 

Representatives of local CWL councils from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon joined special guests – including provincial CWL president Jean Reader and national CWL president Margaret Ann Jacobs – in a convention focused on the 2017 CWL theme “Inspired by the Spirit, women respond to God’s call”. 

In her keynote address, Jacobs explored the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, using scripture as a starting point to discuss inspiration and challenges for CWL members and local councils. cwl jacobs

“There is no doubt that sometimes it is a challenge to work with so many women with so many gifts and talents, however, how we interact with each other is often what makes a difference in how vibrant our parish (CWL) councils are,” Jacobs said. “Through our actions we can build God’s kingdom.” 

She encouraged CWL members to reflect and pray on the purpose and the mission of the league in light of the Holy Spirit’s call. “As Catholic women we are empowered by the Spirit to renew our commitment to the call to holiness through service to the people of God,” she stressed. 

“We are the voice of Catholic women united in faith, promoting Christian values in the home and in the world. We offer hospitality, friendship, sisterhood, support and affirmation that empower women to reach their full potential. We provide faith based opportunities for spiritual growth, leadership development, and many avenues for service, advocacy and social justice,” Jacobs said, reflecting on the role of the CWL in light of the 2017 theme. 

“Inspired by the Spirit, women respond to God’s loving call empowered by the gifts of the Spirit, invited to bear fruit – we are challenged in our councils to be loving, joyful women who work patiently for people whose kindness and goodness touch the lives of all we encounter, who are faithful to the gospel message and who live lives of humility and self control.” 

In addition to her keynote talk, the national president also informed CWL members about discussions with bishops and Catholic ethicists about how CWL councils at every level must discern their support (financial or volunteer) for health care facilities that are involved directly or through referral in providing euthanasia or assisted suicide – known as Medical Aid in Dying or MAID. 

Providing support for a facility involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia could be a matter of “cooperating with evil,” she noted. Such cooperation would be morally wrong from a Catholic perspective. 

“The charitable support that the Catholic Women’s League provides for institutions that directly cooperate with MAID must be reviewed,” she said. “It is morally justified to withdraw financial support and funding to such health care institutions and hospices … and we need to clearly state the reasons in the hope that they will reconsider and revise their policies and procedures.” 

It may be possible for CWL councils to ask that support be allocated to areas of the institution that are not directly involved in providing assisted suicide or euthanasia, she added. “We need to have dialogue with parishes and diocesan spiritual advisors and our bishops,” she said. “This is something that we need to address. We can’t pretend that it isn’t happening.” 

Support for palliative care, including a day of prayer organized nationally by the CWL on May 4, was one of the areas highlighted throughout the day. 

The hall itself was decorated with lap quilts, prayer shawls, and hand-made blankets for the sick and dying that were brought to the CWL diocesan convention in Watrous by local councils from across the diocese of Saskatoon. cwl greetings

Saskatoon Diocesan CWL President Marlene VanDresar presented a report highlighting a range of initiatives – such as the CWL day of prayer for palliative care; a series of videos about palliative care, suicide prevention, care for the elderly and L’Arche (found online at produced by the bishops of Saskatchewan with support from the Knights of Columbus Charitable Foundation; as well as Pope Francis’ call to welcome, protect, promote and integrate newcomers and refugees. 

VanDresar announced milestone anniversaries for CWL councils across the diocese, including three that are celebrating 90 years – Immaculate Conception Council at Major, St. Michael Council at Cudworth, and St. Buno Council at Bruno. In addition, Sacred Heart Council at Eston is celebrating its 85th anniversary, while St. Ann’s Council at Watrous and St. Patrick’s Council at Young are both celebrating 80 years, while Our Lady of Assumption Council in Kerrobert is celebrating its 75th anniversary. 

In addition to CWL standing committee reports, the diocesan convention also included presentations on the diocesan Lay Formation program, and St. Therese Institute at Bruno, SK. (see related articles, below), displays by the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association, Development and Peace, and Universal Church Supplies, as well as Mass with Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, and a banquet. 

Those bringing greetings to the diocesan delegates included Rev. Richard Meidl, OSB, pastor of pastor of parishes at Watrous, Imperial, Liberty and Young; Watrous Mayor Ed Collins; Manitou Beach Mayor Gerry Worobec; Knights of Columbus District Deputy David Schaan; and representatives of a number of other Christian churches in the community. CWL representatives at the diocesan and provincial level also brought greetings, including Shirley Lamoureux, Prince Albert Diocesan President; Marilyn Schuck, Regina Diocesan President; and Jean Reader, Saskatchewan Provincial President.

Presentation on Lay Formation program at CWL diocesan convention

The powerful spiritual impact of the Lay Formation program was described for Catholic Women’s League members from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon at their annual convention May 1 in Watrous.

Coordinator Mona Goodman and CWL member Connie McGrath, a graduate of Lay Formation, presented an overview of the diocesan program which this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Launched in the fall of 1987, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon’s Lay Formation program was part of the diocesan response to St. Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese.

“It was Vatican II’s call to the laity to be church,” noted McGrath. In response to the Holy Father’s call, the diocesan program was established to help adult Catholics fulfill their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus through a process of formation and faith education.

Some 900 people have graduated from the program in Saskatoon over the past three decades.

The program is two years in duration, with participants meeting one weekend a month for ten months from September to June. Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal provides a beautiful and prayerful setting for the participants, said McGrath.

“The Lay Formation program is not ministry training. It is a journey that fosters deep, spiritual transformation. It is designed to awaken, enrich and deepen our faith,” she said.

“You grow in faith, deepen your spiritual life, understand the gospel, expand your heart, mind and soul, and develop life-long friendships,” she said. “I loved the lectures by top-calibre speakers who explained the history and teachings of the church and the Bible. I developed a deep respect for the huge organization of the universal Catholic Church.”

Activities and prayer time allow for much-needed discernment, she added. “In our busy life we often fail to ‘be still and know that I am God.’ I love the quiet time, the time to contemplate and to grow closer to Jesus.”

Everything is well organized, with 10 weekends a year set for the length of the program, and a warm welcome each time, McGrath described.

As a live-in program, Lay Formation happens without distractions. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Lay Formation provides an enriching experience of Christian community as Catholics of many backgrounds journey together, praying, learning and sharing life, she said. Small Christian Community prayer is part of the Lay Formation experience.

Lay Formation is a shared experience, with three streams: Diocesan, Eparchial and Aboriginal, she noted.

In the fall of 1999, participants from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon joined with participants from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the first experience of a shared formation program. Based on the success and the model of the shared diocesan-eparchial program, Lay Formation was expanded to include an Aboriginal Stream in fall 2007. Prince Albert, Keewatin-LePas and Saskatoon dioceses work together to provide the program for Aboriginal Catholics at Queen’s House.

Roman Catholics – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – as well as Ukrainian Catholics, study common topics together while also meeting as separate streams to explore faith and spirituality in the context of their own traditions and cultures.

“And there is lots of fellowship, lots of breaking bread together,” McGrath said, stressing how participants are all on the same spiritual journey.

“The Lay Formation program helps you to grow in many, many ways – and of course, to grow, you have to be involved,” McGrath said. “We grow in our understanding of the Catholic Church… and we grow in our relationship with Jesus.”

Areas of study include scripture, theology, morality, liturgy, spirituality, justice and peace, as well as Church history, Vatican II, Christology, ecclesiology, sacraments, Church traditions, ecumenism, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic social teaching, Canon Law and Mary. Lay Formation participants also explore Aboriginal spirituality, the medicine wheel, Aboriginal worldview/treaties, the healing journey, images of God, contemporary spirituality, spiritual pastoral care, youth ministry, stages of faith, adult learning styles, collaborative ministry, and spiritual direction.

Deepening a relationship with God through prayer is an essential component of Lay Formation. Participants engage in daily personal prayer and have many opportunities for communal prayer on the weekends.

Participants gather for the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and in the evening, and the liturgical seasons are celebrated with special liturgies on Saturday evenings. The Lay Formation weekend concludes with celebration of the Eucharist/Divine Liturgy on Sunday afternoon. Participants prepare and provide the lay liturgical ministries for Eucharist, and lead the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayer services.

Lay Formation introduces participants to various prayer forms and the varied and rich ways of prayer that are part of the Catholic tradition – including centering prayer, Taizé prayer, Aboriginal prayer, the rosary, praying with icons, and praying with scripture as well as Franciscan, Ignatian, Augustinian, and Thomistic prayer traditions.

McGrath also shared some comments from past participants, such as: “My faith was strengthened and renewed at each Lay Formation weekend; it was a blessing in my life.”

Goodman described how the Bishop’s Annual Appeal pays for half the cost of the program, with each participant and their home parish splitting the other half. Bursaries are also available through the CWL and for teachers through Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, she noted.

Presentation on St. Therese Institution of Faith and Mission at CWL diocesan convention


By Kiply Lukan Yaworski


WATROUS – Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission at Bruno, SK. provides spiritual formation for young Catholic adults trying to find their place in the world, Chris O’Hara told delegates at a Saskatoon diocesan CWL convention held May 1 in Watrous. 

“St. Therese exists in order to provide something for these young Catholics who desire to serve the Church, who desire to live out their faith, but who feel like they are alone and don’t know where to turn. So we are a school for 18 to 35 year olds… to come and learn how to live out their faith actively.” 

Some 200 alumni have graduated from the formation program over the past decade. 

Originally from Halifax, O’Hara himself experienced St. Therese when he took a break from university to enroll in the nine-month formation program offered at the former Ursuline convent in Bruno, SK. 

“I signed up about seven years ago, and encountered a wonderful community and a bunch of teachings that challenged the way that I lived, and that ultimately challenged me to recognize who God was – a Father who loved me perfectly, wanted to take care of me, who I could trust entirely, just as St. Therese of Lisieux did.” 

After returning to Halifax to complete a degree in music, he eventually returned to St. Therese as coordinator of program promotion. He is also studying for his masters in theology, and teaches introduction to scripture at St. Therese. 

O’Hara described the St. Therese program as a blend between a university curriculum and a spiritual retreat. 

“It is a nine-month retreat where the sessions that you take are the classes,” he said. “We have Mass every day, rosary offered every day, opportunities for Eucharistic adoration multiple times a week, (and) times for prayer together as a community.”

He added that sessions offered during the day are university-calibre courses in subjects related to Church history and teachings, critical thinking and philosophy, scripture and “the fundamentals of Catholic life.”


St. Therese alumni can also apply to transfer credits toward classes at several post-secondary institutions, including St. Stephen’s University in New Brunswick, Trinity Western University/Redeemer Pacific College in British Columbia, St. Philip Seminary in Toronto and Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut, USA. 

“We have a very strong academic formation where students are challenged to learn, to study, to try their best,” O’Hara said. “What we find is that when students really embrace their vocation as a student, approach it with an attitude of prayer, that they do try their best and really glorify God through the excellent work that they are doing.” 

However, the program is primarily about spiritual formation, rather than academics, he stressed. 

“We are there to teach young people how to be involved in the Church, how to encounter God in a more deep way, how to learn how to pray and be close to God at all times – so that when they leave St. Therese they will be equipped with the tools they need not only to stay strong in university, in their vocations, in their careers, wherever God might be leading, but actually to be a light of Christ to the world, bringing young people back to the church, bringing their peers and coworkers and family members back into communion with the church.” 

St. Therese alumni are serving as leaders in many settings, he noted. 

Some graduates are getting involved in mission projects or youth ministry initiatives; while others are going on to discern religious life or the priesthood. “Roughly a tenth of the men (sent forth from St. Therese) are going off to the seminary, so I guess that’s a good sign. And there are young women who are pursuing religious life all over North America, and there are more every year signing up to do vocation years at different convents.” 

O’Hara added that all the academic and spiritual growth takes place in the context of Christian community, with enrolment kept at about 40 students each year in order to foster a family environment. 

“We often pray to the Holy Family, we like to talk about Nazareth spirituality,” he said. “Students can learn how to relate to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, how to practice virtue, how to pray for each other, how to really do what we would see as an ideal Christian community,” he said. “St. Therese is a training place for all that to happen – not so that it stays in the bubble of St. Therese, but so that students can go outward and create these Christian communities all over North America, wherever they might go.” 

O’Hara encouraged CWL members to think about young people in their own lives who might benefit from the formation program at St. Therese, with registration now underway for the fall of 2017. 

He also noted that throughout the year St. Therese holds conferences and events that are open to the public. This includes a series of week-long intensive Springtime of the Faith courses open to the public on subjects such as Ignatian spirituality, theology of the laity, or St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, as well as Advent and Lenten conferences featuring top-notch facilitators and speakers from across North America. 

St. Therese has also partnered with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon to be a host site for the New Evangelization Summit, live streamed from Ottawa May 12-13. Another upcoming event is a 10th anniversary celebration and commissioning of this year’s class on May 20, with special guest, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada. Donations to support St. Therese are also appreciated, O’Hara added, pointing to a fund-raising project underway to repair the roof of the former Ursuline convent. 

“We are truly blessed to be able to carry on the legacy and heritage of the Ursulines who were spiritual teachers – witness of lived Christian life. St. Therese is continuing that legacy into the next generation.”




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