Sheila Houle, new provincial president has been a member of the CWL in Morinville for 33 years.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Sheila Houle, new provincial president has been a member of the CWL in Morinville for 33 years.

June 13, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

FORT SASKATCHEWAN — The new head of the provincial Catholic Women’s League is a deeply spiritual woman that places God and the CWL at the centre of her life.

Morinville’s Sheila Houle, a professed member of the Discalced Carmelites secular order, was formally installed as president of the Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council at the CWL’s June 3-5 provincial convention at the Dow Centennial Centre.

“I’m very happy because I love the league,” she said in a June 3 interview at the convention. “It’s been my life for a lot of years. It’s been a very interesting trip.”

Houle, voted president-elect in Medicine Hat in 2009, spent the last two years “learning the ropes” on the provincial executive and says she is now ready to lead the women of the province. She replaces Fran Lucas of Edmonton in the position.

“My goal for the next two years is to concentrate on the spiritual and leadership aspects of our mission to work for God and Canada,” she said.

“I think the most important aspect of this goal is to enable our members to realize that everybody has special gifts and talents and that we have to see what we can do to help them utilize these gifts.”

To help CWL members realize that “leadership is not a scary thing,” Houle plans to concentrate on leadership workshops, leadership training and “just working with the members and helping them realize that they can do this.”

How can the league accomplish these goals? “We need to pray and have faith that all things are possible with God,” Houle said. “As my favourite priest used to say, ‘We must keep on being faithful to our religious duties. If we do, we will be blessed forever.’ That’s kind of where I’m coming from.”

Quoting from her favourite saint, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Houle said women, through the gift of self, would always be first — a message she would like the CWL to keep in mind.

“At the tomb (of Jesus) it was the ladies that were first and I think it’s important for the CWL to remember that women are important. They were first.”

Is Houle a feminist? “No; maybe a little bit but not very much. I’m very old fashioned.”

In the interview, Houle described herself as an inclusive leader who shares responsibility and knows how to delegate.

“I’m very organized and I like things to be neat,” she explained. “I don’t believe I am the only person that can do it. But if I ask somebody to do something, then my inclination is to believe that they will do it.”

MOTHER INSTRUMENTAL

Houle said her mother Dorothy Curtis was the prime motivator in her joining the league at Morinville’s St. Jean de Baptiste Parish 33 years ago. She invited Houle to a meeting one night and she was immediately elected treasurer.

“I’ve been a member ever since.”

Houle eventually became president of her parish’s CWL council. She served as president of the St. Paul’s diocesan council before joining the provincial council.

She said active membership in the league for decades has helped her mature.

“I know that I have grown spiritually because that’s what is imbued in the meetings,” she explained.

“I think it’s really important for us to encourage the members to go to the conventions. This is where the action is on a broader level and it’s fun; it’s interesting and we learn lots.”

In Morinville and throughout the St. Paul Diocese, Houle is virtually the face of the CWL. “To me the league is a way of life,” she said without hesitation. “I think if we are a good league member, then we can live a good Christian life.”

CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

In her spare time, Houle, a mother of four adult children and three grandchildren, does a lot of crafting, knitting and reading. She and her husband Lucien also enjoy camping.

As president of the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society, she works closely with the museum as well as other cultural groups and entities in the town.

A new slate of officers was nominated at the convention, including Dorothy Johansen as president-elect, Pam De Luca as vice-president, Ruth Boden as treasurer and Cathy Bouchard as secretary.