by Christa Grillmair, President, Victoria Diocesan CWL
On July 14, 2018, members of the Victoria Diocesan CWL team met in Ladysmith at the new All Saints Parish, the Ladysmith location of the recently combined St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s churches. The objective of the meeting was to have a good look at our CWL: Parish councils, Diocesan councils and the CWL as a whole.
We started the meeting with a Spiritual Reflection, lead by our Spiritual Development Chair, who focused us on affirming each other’s gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then we got down to business. We discussed what makes us strong, determined what we can improve, found out what kind of challenges we’re facing, investigated what our opportunities are, and talked about what is possible.
We decided that our major strength is that we are the largest women’s organization in Canada that can influence government and legislation because of our Resolution process which begins at the Parish council level and works through the Diocesan, Provincial, and National levels before being presented to Government. Many of our Resolutions have effected change and became law.
Other strengths: we are competent, deeply spiritual women with a variety of personal and professional skills who come from the same faith tradition and care about Church, world, and social justice issues and are willing to act on our beliefs. We work cooperatively and diligently towards common goals of the League and care about each other, respecting our diversity but sharing the love of our Catholic faith. We participate in a variety of ministries in our parishes and provide ongoing educational opportunities, spiritual programs, workshops and panel discussions on timely topics like mental health, and pornography, as well as stimulating conventions and meetings that offer opportunities for personal growth.
However, we also identified some weaknesses. Our membership is aging and our challenge to be relevant to the younger generation mirrors the declining attendance challenge our Church is experiencing. Some existing CWL members may be reluctant to change and adapt to new ways of doing things. Executive burnout results when members do not step up to accept leadership positions. Some outside threats are: a lack of understanding as to what the CWL really is; and, we may be viewed as non-inclusive and not relevant to current society’s secular values.
The team identified many opportunities with the overarching theme of ‘reaching out to others’. As an organization, we are a voice for all women and we need to be more open to visible minorities, immigrants and newcomers. Using social media and the website as tools to spread our message and partnering with other organizations on projects would expand our reach. In order to attract new members and keep existing members active, meetings must be more interesting, educate about relevant issues and provide opportunities for spiritual growth. We must be better in communicating our achievements on social justice issues, Resolutions to government, and the many services we provide to our church, community and country.
Our Diocesan Planning Day gave us the chance to take a look at ourselves as CWL leaders, to get to know each other better, to become energized and to share our ideas. This information will help us to develop a plan at our Interim meeting in October.