Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 30, 2004
CWL a place to grow in faith
New president says league lets women use their talents
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
Once a child who prayed the rosary on her knees every night in the living room of her farm home in southern Alberta, Agnes Bedard’s greatest wish is to offer the nation’s Catholic Women’s League members “love, acceptance, and a place to grow in faith and use their talents.”
Bedard is the incoming president of Canada’s CWL and brings with her a rooted faith, tempered with a realistic understanding of what her organization needs to flourish.
“I would love to promise a woman that she would find in her parish CWL a place of love and acceptance and the safest, holiest place you can find. But it all depends on the parish.”
And she realizes there is healing to be done in some parishes to make her dream a reality.
While numbers have dropped from 170,000 in the 1960s to just over 102,000 today, Bedard says the decline is slowing and they have two councils of young teens who meet under the CWL auspices.
Founded in Edmonton in 1912, the CWL works for the Church and Canada, helping the Church make the country a better place to be through resolutions and social action work
But why should a Catholic woman take time from her already crammed schedule to join this organization?
Bedard’s voice lightens with a sure joy as she replies, “We satisfy their hunger to know better the Jesus who walked the earth and we feed them the opportunity to grow spiritually.”
This openness to all comes from Bedard’s unique background. Her maternal grandmother’s Kentucky grandparents included a mixed race black mother and English father. Her father came from German and French Minnesota stock.
“So we are a real mix.”
The choirmaster for the church -– their farmhouse was smack dab next to the church graveyard -- Bedard’s father held rehearsals in the living room because it was too expensive the heat the church.
“So I learned to sing all the Latin Masses.”
The mother of five boys -- four are managers and one is an opera singer -- Bedard taught math and science.
And she discovered she has a talent to “give good workshops.”
So she wants to go out and speak with women and encourage the “league’s call to holiness, journey with Jesus and service, service, service.
“So many are gifted and are not encouraged to develop their gifts.”
Past president Marie Cameron, also of Calgary, agrees with Bedard.
“Women are challenged to go beyond what they ever thought they could do and deepen their own spiritual lives.”
A lawyer, Cameron said the volunteer position took 60 hours a week including most weekends, “but I did it with joy and love.”
She also called on past presidents, using them as mentors in certain situations and worked well with her executive.
But as she gave, she also received.
“During the two-year that course, my own spiritual perspective was enhanced to a tremendous depth. And though the work was heavy, it was joy-filled.”