CWL provincial president Cathy Bouchard of Red Deer chairs the annual convention's business meeting June 4 in Westlock.


CWL provincial president Cathy Bouchard of Red Deer chairs the annual convention's business meeting June 4 in Westlock.

June 13, 2016

Members of the Catholic Women's League are busy focusing on advocacy and service concerns ranging from assisted suicide to sponsoring refugees.

The 9,800 CWL members in the Alberta-Mackenzie region have organized petition drives, lobbied the provincial government on behalf of Catholic schools as well as the need for a government-appointed seniors' advocate.

They have formed partnerships with Development and Peace and Catholic Missions in Canada as well as attending events put on by Covenant Health, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Assoc. and other groups.

"We live out the Gospel message by serving God and Canada," provincial president Cathy Bouchard of Red Deer said in her report to the league's annual convention June 3-5 in Westlock. One hundred and fifty women from across Alberta and the Northwest Territories attended.

Bouchard, however, said while league members are blessed to share their time and acts of service with each other, they are drawn to join and stay in the CWL through their desire for spiritual enrichment.

"The reality is that members join and stay because they want a relationship with God and their spiritual sisters," she told the convention.

Later, in an interview, Bouchard said that in earlier times, the CWL gave women an opportunity to get out of the house and experience a wider world.

"Today, women are now out working and out evenings with their kids and all their activities," she said. "We are so busy."

Now, what Catholic women need are opportunities "to have a connection with God through their sisters," she said.


"Today, there are so many windows open for women, we can't pick which one to look through," said Bouchard. Although women have much more of a voice than in previous generations, the CWL offers "a women's voice gathered."

Members learn through the league how to approach societal and political issues by writing letters and other forms of lobbying, she said.

The CWL voice is important in Alberta. "The president speaks for 9,800 women, but that's understated because we also speak for husbands and families and other people in our influence."

Membership growth remains an ongoing issue. While the CWL continues to bring in new members, those new members are not numerous enough to replace those who have died.

Bouchard said the league needs to bring in younger women as well as women who are new Canadians.

Inviting women who come from a different culture is not a simple process, she said. "It's not as simple as saying, 'Come and join us.'"

There needs to be a process of inviting them through which the league comes to understand them and they are introduced to the league, she said.

Provincial convenors and the five diocesan presidents all gave reports to the convention.

Sheila Ryan-Hachey, president of the smallest diocese, Mackenzie-Fort Smith, said the three councils and their 99 members were spiritually rejuvenated by hosting last year's provincial convention in Yellowknife.


The Mackenzie group is also looking forward to hosting listening sessions with indigenous women in their area, Ryan-Hachey said.

The convention in Westlock also passed four resolutions, the first two of which will go to the national convention in Halifax for further consideration.

They want the league to urge the federal government to provide physical and financial assistance to those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.


They also urged action by governments, companies and individuals to reduce the environmental impact of disposable hygiene products, ranging from diapers to sanitary napkins.

As well, the Alberta CWL will write to federal and provincial government and opposition leaders calling on them to develop and promote widespread access to palliative care.

The Alberta league will also set up a fund to aid the victims of last month's Fort McMurray wildfire with the first $2,000 going to St. John the Baptist Parish CWL in Fort McMurray and the remainder to the St. Paul Diocese for its relief efforts.