Finding, identifying and expressing joy in Catholic Women's League membership will be a focus for Mary Hunt, the new president of the Edmonton diocesan council of the CWL

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Finding, identifying and expressing joy in Catholic Women's League membership will be a focus for Mary Hunt, the new president of the Edmonton diocesan council of the CWL

May 4, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Mary Hunt radiates the warmth of a sister, liberally giving hugs and dashing smiles everywhere she goes.

Growing up in Calgary, the “cradle Catholic” also demonstrated the commitment of a sister, often hurriedly walking two miles to make it to school for the 9 o’clock bell, after attending the 7 a.m. Mass most days during Lent.

As a teenager, she even harboured dreams of being a sister one day, and perhaps becoming a canon lawyer.

Despite such a beginning, Hunt never did end up taking her holy vows — opting instead for a distinguished career as a civil servant.

But her destiny would hold a different type of sisterhood, which she eventually found in her thirties, when she first joined the Catholic Women’s League.

Hunt, 58, of Edmonton, is the new archdiocesan president of the league. She was installed in the position April 18, during the closing ceremonies of the Edmonton diocesan council’s convention in Edson.

“I believe that now is the time to remind our members and prospective members of the joy to be found in being a member,” Hunt said.

“In our faithful service for God and Canada, the CWL really is a fun organization to belong to. It reminds us of who we are and who we want to be as Catholic women.”

The sisterhood of the CWL is an aspect of the organization that Hunt has experienced first-hand, most notably in a time of personal tragedy five years ago, when she was nearly made lame by a disastrous fall on Christmas Day.

On her way to be a proclaimer at 12 o’clock Mass, Hunt forgot a Christmas present for her priest at home. Rushing down the stairs, she lost her footing and fell. She perforated the patellar tendon in the front of her thigh so badly that she needed a transplant.

Her CWL sisters made her realize she was not alone.

“I got phone calls every day. I had meals brought to me, they presented me with a prayer shawl, I got cards and notes and when I was able to be a little bit more mobile, they took me out for lunch,” she recalled.

“You know, that was really nice because my convalescence period was basically from Christmas Day all the way till April so that’s a long time to be on your own, but I wasn’t on my own because of them.

“It confirmed in my mind that I had made a really good choice (to join the CWL), that I indeed was receiving what I had hoped to through the league, and that was a feeling of family, a feeling of sisterhood.”

In calling each other sisters, the women are reminded that they “belong to a faith family that is there to support and nurture one another.”

Hunt has been dedicated to the league for nearly 20 years now, holding positions at the parish and diocesan level.

Taking the helm of the diocesan council – which is comprised of 67 parish councils with more than 4,500 members — is a daunting task.

“I asked Father Jozef (Wroblewski, spiritual advisor to the diocesan council) this morning for a blessing because I did feel a little nervous,” she said on the day before her installment.

“You just want to do the best job you could do because it’s important. You’re representing 4,500 women and you want them to feel confident in your leadership.”

As president-elect, Hunt had ample time to prepare for the presidency, and much of her preparation was spent in deepening her prayer and spiritual life.

“I’m hoping to be graced by the Holy Spirit in all that I do. You want to make sure you’re motivated by all the right reasons and I’m motivated by my faith and guided by the Holy Spirit so I make better decisions and will be able to connect with more people because of that.”

In addition to the community’s commitment to social issues and political engagement, CWL membership is an opportunity for spiritual growth, service, generosity, acceptance, fulfillment and joy, she said.

“To belong to the CWL means to walk in friendship and faith.”

ATTRACTING THE YOUNG

Her mandate over her two-year term will be to find creative ways to attract younger Catholic women to the league.

Initiatives to that end that have already been introduced by the league include book clubs, fashion shows, theme nights, movie nights, and babysitting for moms attending special events.

She also sees young Catholic women being drawn by the league’s political clout – as demonstrated by the federal government’s acceptance and enactment into legislation of many CWL resolutions over the years.

“Together, you have the force of 4,500 women, and 10,000 in Alberta,” she said.

Retaining existing members will also be a priority during her term, with a focus on finding, identifying and expressing joy in belonging to the league.

FIND THE JOY

“I really want prospective members to see that there is joy to be found in it and we’re an effective force in society and in the Church,” she said.

Hunt’s first directive as president was to give every council 10 months to provide a photo of a joyous occasion in the council such as the installation of officers, serving a funeral luncheon, or serving a meal to the poor and homeless.

Those photos will be used to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to be shown at next year’s convention.

“The photos will be used to celebrate the good works happening throughout the diocese as a way to share the things we are grateful for, that give us joy, in the hope of inspiring others.”