70th Annual CWL Provincial Convention

Courage was the word that stood out for me at the 70th Annual Catholic Women’s League (CWL) Provincial Convention held in Kelowna BC on June 15 – 17, 2017.

In her opening greeting, CWL National President Margaret Ann Jacobs referred to our 2017 theme: Inspired by the Spirit, Women respond to God’s Call, Leading with Courage. Those words were also echoed by Bishop of Nelson, Most Rev. John Corriveau OFM Cap, in his opening homily. 

Even before the Convention officially began we were asked to dialogue about five challenging Resolutions. I was outside my personal comfort zone listening to our table discuss: transgender issues as they relate to psychotherapy; age verification mechanism for pornographic websites; protection for healthcare professionals who refuse to follow Bill C-14; and including psychotherapy in British Columbia in the Medical Service Plan. Added to these challenging Resolutions was the much-debated Revoking of Bill C-16, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code as it relates to gender issues. 

There were many speakers during the Convention, covering a broad range of topics, from palliative care to refugees, from gender issues to the war against pornography. Speakers were compelling, passionate and sometimes humorous about their topics, and impressed on all of us the need to continue working diligently and courageously to address the issues we face, as women, as Catholics, and as the CWL as a whole. 

Many of the reports of the Diocesan Presidents reflected the challenges we all face in keeping our members motivated, and to reflect the wonderful work being done across BC and the Yukon. It did not matter if the Council was small, like Whitehorse, or large like Vancouver; all felt the same dedication and love. For me, Carol Vanderbyl, President of the Whitehorse Diocesan Council, defined Leading with Courage, impressing me with her ‘stick to it’ attitude despite membership challenges in their diocese. Provincial President Evelyn Rigby inspired us to show women in our own parishes how important the League’s work is in today’s world.

Facing Danger with Courage was the theme of the Most Rev. Ken Nowakowski, Bishop of the New Westminster Ukrainian Eparchy. Bishop Ken was funny, compassionate, and most of all honest, in his speech about the challenges facing the Ukrainian people when they immigrated to Canada, and now as they face Russia in 2017. 

Lest anyone think the CWL is all business the Elvis Teddy Bear pyjama party certainly attested to the playful side of our group. Everyone came with bears of all sizes and the Elvis DJ had to keep up with the ‘dancing queens’ who rocked and rolled to Julie Rose’s wonderful impersonation of Elvis. Some ladies admitted the next day that “they used muscles they didn’t know they had” but all admitted it was a great evening. I loved our President Evelyn Rigby in her pigtails and striped jammies, with her teddy bear’s dress to match. A 70-year-old teddy won the bear contest; it is good to know longevity exists for bears as well as members!

Closing Mass was celebrated by Most Reverend Stephen Jensen, Bishop of Prince George, and included the re-affirmation of the BC/Yukon Provincial officers for 2017.We concluded our Convention with a lovely dinner and bursary Awards.

There is a lot to think about, and much to bring back to our Councils to reflect on. Our Provincial theme, Leading with Courage, underscored our entire Convention and will be a beacon for the implementation of the many topics discussed. 

I am personally grateful for the grant given by Provincial and that of my Council. This was a worthwhile Convention and one that will see more rewards as the passed Resolutions go to the National Convention in August. I look forward to communicating the Provincial and National issues relevant to our Victoria Diocesan Councils on our new website which we anticipate will launch in September.