Catholic Women’s League holds annual convention

(l-r) Barbara Dowding, national president; Fr. Mathew Pendanathu, spiritual advisor; Sharon Dickson, out-
going diocesan president; Shelley Tamas, in-coming diocesan president; Bishop Gerard Bergie; Betty Colaneri, provincial president, at the St. Catharines diocesan CWL convention.

by CATHY CRABBE

The St. Catharines Diocesan Catholic Women’s League welcomed over 200 guests at the opening Mass at Our Lady of the Scapular, Niagara Falls for the 57th annual convention held May 27-28, 2015. The theme this year was One Heart, One Voice, One Mission.

Bishop Gerard Bergie was the presider with CWL diocesan spiritual advisor, Fr. Mathew Pendanathu, and many priests con-celebrating. The church was filled to the rafters with the incredible voices of women and men in song who came to praise God.

Proceeds from the collection ($1160) will be donated to the Douglas Memorial Hospital Palliative Care Centre, Fort Erie.

Following Mass greetings from national CWL president, Barbara Dowding, and guest speaker, provincial president, Betty Colaneri were given.

Shine, shine, shine the light of the Holy Spirit through you in all that you do seemed to be the emphasis for the two-day convention. All speakers reminded delegates of the importance of showing the value in letting the light of the Holy Spirit shine out from within.

In his homily Bishop Bergie thanked the members of the CWL for their loving and generous hearts of service to the church, their country and one another. He entreated them to never give in to the sense of entitlement, reminding them that they are not doing what they do for recognition but to be servants of Jesus.

He shared a message from St. Philip Neri who led a life of service in Rome in the late 1500s,  “…in my house I will have no sad servants; cheerful people are more easily led to perfection,” and encouraged CWL members to have joy in serving others and to pray more often to the Holy Spirit.

“The words, Come Holy Spirit, should come naturally to our lips. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are designed to help us be the best that we can be and are conferred upon us on the day of our Baptism and again at Confirmation. Look at how radically transformed the apostles were after the Holy Spirit came down upon them. We should use the power of the Holy Spirit and the enthusiasm that comes through the Holy Spirit to ‘set the diocese on fire’. The Holy Spirit is the beacon that shines to bring us life, hope and keep us spiritually young,” Bishop Bergie said.

Barbara Dowding, national president, who has spent the last few months criss-crossing the county attending meetings and conventions assured those gathered that the CWL is alive and well across Canada. She encouraged members to take time to embrace each other during the convention the way Mary and Elizabeth did when sharing their good news.  From there on in, hugs and embraces became the order of the convention, even up to the waning hours of the event as everyone bid farewell to each other for another year.

Dowding’s message was that “…you should be humble and let your light shine so others will want to follow in your footsteps. Open your hearts to the Holy Spirit, he will help you with this, be patient, kind and compassionate toward others because, societal changes and technological advances grow in leaps and bounds and have immersed us into a materialistic world where entitlement is rampant. Globally the world suffers greatly with poverty, hunger, violence and abuse and there is nothing beautiful about this; walk with people where they are now and don’t judge. Be patient and compassionate with others.”

She commented that Pope Francis has opened the door a crack for women—we need to push our foot against the door to open it just a little more.

Dowding also addressed the issue of euthanasia suggesting that since the government has given people the option to die before God’s call, they should also give them an option to live out the end of their lives in comfort through palliative care. She encouraged members to contact their MP, letting them know the right to palliative care is an alternative that should be explored and more widely offered in Canadian communities.

Betty Colaneri, provincial president, also travels extensively in her position and she confirmed it is a beautiful and joyful sight to see the women across Ontario doing incredible things. While the overall membership in Ontario is almost 50,000 strong, declining membership is concerning. She encouraged us to recruit new members as if you were inviting someone out on a date. Let the love of Jesus shine out from within you, through your eyes and your smile; connect with them so they say yes to a second or third ‘date’. A litany of one-liners relating to a good wine and a good date and a lasting relationship ensued.

Colaneri encouraged members to consider attending the provincial convention at the Americana Conference Centre, Niagara Falls, July 4-8, 2015, to hear what is happening in other communities, and to see and connect with members across the province.

Keynote speaker Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO and founder of Salt + Light Television, Toronto, took to the podium at the Americana Conference Resort & Spa on Wednesday morning and mesmerized those gathered with his firsthand knowledge of the recent Synod of Bishops.

Synod means taking a walk or experiencing a journey together. The recent synod gathered together church leaders from around the world to have open, honest and charitable conversations with Pope Francis. Here they were able to share the diverse needs in the church and to create strategies to address the reign of misery throughout the world.

In North America what is perceived to be urgent pales in comparison to the troubles in the Middle East where Christians are being slaughtered, countries are at war, where there is massive poverty. The synod is where problems are put into perspective and solutions are sought.

Roscia reminded members that the needs in our country are not to be diminished and that we are instruments of mercy who should cultivate and grow mercy for our fellow human beings, welcoming them back into the fold in the way that the father of the prodigal son did.

During the course of the business section of the convention the delegates, numbering 335 strong, were pleased to greet Deacon Ron Jenkins from Chalice, who spoke briefly of the 50,000 children and seniors the organization assists in 17 different countries, and who reminded everyone if they let the light of Christ shine through them, miracles will happen.

Jenkins’ light shone brightly when Sharon Dickson presented him with a cheque ($7,530) representing the fundraising efforts of parishes across the diocese and St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, St. Catharines, for Chalice community projects.

The convention concluded with the diocesan election for the 2015-2017 council conducted by Wilma Vanderzwaag, past president and election committee chair. Installation of the new officers was conducted prior to the banquet. Shelley Tamas, St. Andrew, Welland, was elected to lead the diocesan council for the coming term.

Out-going president Sharon Dickson took the opportunity to thank the executive for their time and commitment to making her term of office a success and acknowledged their continued service to the Catholic Women’s League, to God and to Canada.