Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 4, 2004
CWL launches a vigorous membership drive
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The Catholic Women's League of Canada predicts its own demise within 70 years unless current membership is shored up and bold initiatives to attract new members are introduced.
Speaking to a group of about 140 members Sept. 25 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Fort Saskatchewan, CWL diocesan council president Fran Lucas said the enrollment decline speaks for itself.
"The numbers tell the story. In 1985, there were 128,518 CWL members and in 2003, the number dropped to 101,536," she said. "When I became president in 2003, the message being delivered to all of us was loud and clear. The CWL needed to actively attract new women and to retain the ones who were already members."
The challenge was there, the goal was clear and the diocesan officers discussed the issue at every meeting. One comment made repeatedly was the majority of current members could bring more to the fold, but they were at least 40 years old. The feeling was that younger women could encourage both young and more seasoned ladies to join, Lucas said.
The biggest challenge to increase membership involved reluctance by members to offer a personal invitation for fear of being rejected. Perhaps there was also an uncertainty with what the CWL does. Some people have the belief that the largest women's group in Canada only meets for tea and to sew quilts.
A membership package was produced outlining the activities of the CWL. Lucas hopes to simplify the process to educate women about the important roles of a member.
"The CWL is looking to offer a variety of gatherings to attract a variety of ages of women. A vital component of the group is to maintain the inter-generational aspect, being aware they can learn, grow spiritually and just have a good time together."
Lucas, along with president-elect Mable Solomon, hand-picked five energetic, 20-something CWL women who will travel the archdiocese in hopes of increasing membership.
Calling themselves the Bizarre Women's Group, Crystal Campbell, Shelly Barabash, Charissa McKay, Chrisitine Gonkowicz and Angela Vitale are a joyful group with a four-point plan to recruit new members. A combination of enthusiastic speeches, catchy and informative bulletin announcements, genuine personal invitations and humorous skits is what the CWL needs more of to bring in new members.
They told the gathering that they are willing to come out to councils and help with membership drives.
The five women are enthusiastic about their new role because it provides them an opportunity to spread God's love and to bond closer as sisters in Christ.
"My experience with this group has been exceptional," Barabash said. "We are very passionate about the CWL and about it being an organization that will last in Canada and affect our society on a lot of important issues."
McKay is a CWL activist who takes her oath of the CWL seriously. "I have a need to feel I am making a difference. When Fran said the membership numbers were declining rapidly, I thought it would be a real loss for all of Canada and the Catholic Church to lose such a strong and meaningful organization.
"Being a CWL member has been a growth journey and the more I learn about the CWL, the more excited I become and the more I want to share with the women in the Church. Women, working together, have the power to make changes."