Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 3, 2004
Toastmasters bury fears at Gospel Lights
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
It has often been said that speaking in public is humanity's greatest fear. People at a funeral have whispered they would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy.
But for an intrepid group of men and women who make up the Gospel Lights Toastmasters Club, overcoming whatever fears they might have had has been nothing short of fun.
Strong support for each other and a commitment to the group and its values are two methods that have helped the members refine their gift of the gab, says club president Connie Lunde.
"As a funny story, last year during a speech I said 17 'ums' and now I am down to four. So that's improvement," Lunde quipped.
"For myself, as well as most of the members in our club, we are involved in our churches. Some are quite involved in speaking at their parishes. In my own parish (St. Michael's in Leduc) I help out with sacramental preparation as well as the liturgy committee. I help to lead and organize parent meetings.
"Toastmasters provides the skills to introduce people at meetings and to keep a meeting flowing nicely. It has really helped me personally."
The current roster of 12 members meets twice a month in the Catholic Pastoral Centre. The club was formed almost two years ago, in part to help with Christian ministry, but also as a means of personal development.
A year ago, Gospel Lights was officially chartered with Toastmasters International. The group is looking to expand to a core of at least 20 members.
"The message we are trying to get across is that we are the Gospel Lights. There is one other Christian Toastmaster club in Edmonton, but they aren't Catholic," Lunde said. "We don't say we are exclusively Catholic because we are open to anyone joining, but we always bring our Christian values. We are somewhat unique in that way. We enjoy starting our meetings with a prayer."
Lunde believes the group, which welcomes guests at every meeting, is also unique in that its members are committed to attending the meetings.
"This creates an interesting community because you get to know everyone so well. That's what makes it so much fun."
Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage coordinator Rod Lorenz is an original member of the group. "It's fun and we get a lot of laughs," he said. "For people who have a certain interest in spirituality or in the Catholic faith, it's a very friendly place to come."
When he is at a meeting, it is his own time. Lorenz says that makes him feel comfortable.
"It's what I like to do for enjoyment. As far as public speaking goes, you become aware of how many 'ums' you say. People here tell you, you are doing this or you are not doing that, and it's all tremendously helpful particularly if you're involved in a job or an activity where you speak in public.
"With the fellowship here, we have become a big, happy family," he said.
A person who joins the club is given a Communication and Leadership manual. Completing the manual means giving 10 speeches, most of which are five to seven minutes long. Once completed, a toastmaster can move on to more advanced manuals.
Each meeting has a theme and a word of the day. On April 22, the theme was renewal and the word of the day was "courage." Members are encouraged to use the word of the day when they speak, which generates a gentle congratulation from fellow members each time.
Members are also asked by the table topics master to give an impromptu, two-minute speech on a question given to them.
After receiving several invitations from Lunde to come to a meeting, Father Paul Moret, the archdiocese's vocations director, did so April 22. Not only was his baritone voice unwavering when he spoke, he was later voted by the group as the table topics speaker of the day.
"I really enjoyed the meeting. I thought it was great," Moret said. "The whole atmosphere was very friendly and supportive. I felt comfortable and very at home."
Mary-Ann Yusep recently accepted the new position of director of the stewardship office for the archdiocese. April 22 was also her first meeting and she was so impressed, she signed up to join the group.
"I have done a substantial amount of public speaking but I'm willing to learn," she said. "I'll be making a lot of presentations for the archdiocese and I need to speak my best at all times.
"I believe that by joining Toastmasters and becoming a member of this group, it will help in my ministry which is to be a servant of the servants of the Lord."
More information about Gospel Lights Toastmasters is available by phoning 465-8030 or 469-1010.