Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2000
80 years in the CWL
Wetaskiwin great-grandma took her mom's advice
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
There was no disagreeing with Mary Meraw's mother. When she signed Mary up for the Catholic Women's League, there was no getting out of it.
"Mother said 'You and your sister are going to join the CWL,'" Meraw recalled. "And if you can't pay the membership every year, I'll keep it up for you. It was $1 a year.
"In those days you just listened to your parents and did what they wanted you to."
That was 80 years ago in Major, Sask.
"I joined when I was 16," said the 96-year-old great-grandmother. "I was president when I was 18."
Meraw never thought much about joining the CWL at the time. But looking back, she feels fortunate to have been part of the organization for this long.
She was active with the CWL in her hometown for a couple of years before going to business college in Kerrobert, Sask. She worked as a bookkeeper and eventually became a department store manager at the age of 26.
Meraw moved to Wetaskiwin with her husband in 1940. The parish there didn't have a CWL. It was re-established in 1960 and in one year grew to almost 70 members. Meraw was also president of that CWL at one time.
Meraw estimated her council has about 60 CWL members today, but knows there could be many more. "Most people join when their kids are grown, when they have more time," she said.
But she encourages young single women and even youth to join. "The CWL is a lovely group to work with and no church would be a success without it," Meraw said.
The role of the CWL has changed over the years, she said.
They were once solely associated with church bake sales, spring teas and bazaars. They were the ladies behind the aprons at parish dinners. They ordered supplies for the parish, cleaned the pews after Mass and washed and pressed the altar boys' outfits. They gathered clothing for the poor and visited the sick.
"We're still doing some of the same things," Meraw said. "But now we're also interested in global affairs. It's quite an activist group."
Meraw still attends the monthly meetings at Sacred Heart Church. She's been doing it for eight decades and can't imagine stopping.
"I like to keep busy," she said. "I get tired. But I go to sleep and get up and just start doing things again."
As a youngster, she lived 50 km from the nearest church but always managed to attend Mass every Sunday. Since childhood, Meraw has said her prayers every morning and rosary everyday. Now she prays it several times a day.
She wishes she could attend daily Mass now but must settle for watching it on TV. "Four and a half blocks is a long way when you're 96."