Friday, August 21, 2009

Off to The Rock and the CWL National Convention in St. John's, NFL

This year's Annual Convention of the Catholic Women's League of Canada was held in St. John's Newfoundland. I was pleased to be able to attend for two reasons. First to lend support to this important and effective Catholic lay organization of women and secondly to visit the city where I lived and went to school in grades 9 and 10.

So I went a couple of days early and visited with friends, Paul and Carol Duggan. Paul and I were classmates during those two years and have kept up a connection over the fifty or so intervening years. It was very pleasant to spend time with them and to visit some of the old places. Some are long gone and others are still there.

Paul and Carol were warm and welcoming hosts. Carol is an accomplished singer who was one of the stars on a national TV show from St. Johns in the 60's & 70's, "All Around the Circle." All Around The Circle was a weekly half-hour program of good music, song, variety and travel from St. John's, Newfoundland. It originally aired only locally but made its debut on the CBC-TV network in the summer of 1969.Regulars appearing in the first nationally televised summer series included singers John White and Carol Brothers, musician Ray Walsh and Don Randell and The Band. Each program featured a special guest or guests and on numerous occasions there were film visits to places of interest. (TV

I managed to find an old photo of the group which some may remember. The show was on CBC from 1969 to 1975.
There is also a connection here with Regina as Carol is good friends with well known Regina Soprano, Lynn Channing who is Professor of Voice at the University of Regina.

I was also VERY warmly welcomed by Annie, their golden lab. She put her retriever instincts to work immediately, bringing me stuffed toy ducks by the mouthful every time I sat near her. She would have loved to sit on my lap! Energetic affection by the ton.

I also had the opportunity to visit Brother John Batterton, shown here between myself and Paul. Brother Batterton taught me during my time in Holy Cross School on Patrick St. in St. John's. He was an accomplised and dedicated teacher. Indeed I have very fond memories of the Christian Brothers who taught me there. They were devoted to their vocation and to the teaching of a school full of boys, giving them a sound and very high quality education. Brother Batterton, is still very active and exercising a sharp and insightful mind. It was a great pleasure for me to spend some time again with him both to renew memories and to hear his insights into comtemporary matters.

One of the famous landmarks of St. John's is Cabot Tower on Signal Hill at the mouth of the St. John's harbour. It was from here that Gugliemo Marconi received the first trans-atlantic telegraph signal in 1901. Fr. John Weckend, who also attended the Convention as Diocesan Spiritual Advisor was out walking the path around the hill and came across a man who was standing on the hill sending pictures of the tower to his daughter in Australia on his phone. Marconi would have been fascinated.

One get's a good view of the city of St. John's from the hill.

And very prominent on the sky line is the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of the city. Itself a building with a facinating history. (

A drive around the harbour gives some very picturesque views, here a few fishing boats with the Battery in the background across the harbour.

The convention opened with the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica. It's is a very beautiful building with a huge seating capacity and built between 1841 and 1850 when the population of St. John's was 19,000 people.

There were over 700 delegates in attendance who went right to work on the business of the Convention. The first business day began with two keynote addresses. Building on the theme, Women of Peace and Hope, the morning’s keynote speakers were Myrtle Power Ph.D and Fr. Mark Miller, C.Ss.R. Ph.D. Dr. Power encouraged members to be “pillars of change” bringing hope to this world by witness and testament to the gospel. Fr. Miller provided insight into end-of-life palliative care, sharing his personal experiences in palliative care ministry, and empowered members to be frontrunners in caring and support for the dying, their caregivers, and their families. I particularly appreciated Fr. Miller's description of palliative care as helping people to live as they are dying and showed the great value of giving love and support to people in this stage of their lives.

The National President, Danielle McNeil-Hessian of Bedford, NS did a superb job of chairing the various discussions and exchanges.

Our Saskatchewan Provincial President, Gerri Holmes, represented the province with great competence and effectiveness.
The CWL does excellent work in many fields. Its interaction with the Federal Government on important matters concerning women and the faith is effective and respected. The three resolutions passed are as follows:
Resolution - 2009.01Exit Strategies for Prostituted Persons

Submitted by: B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council
Whereas, Persons wanting to exit a life of prostitution require safe and reliable access to the services crucial to begin their rehabilitation; and
Whereas, Problems that lead into a life of prostitution also act as obstacles to exiting; and
Whereas, A higher success rate is shown when exit strategies meet economic, social and educational needs; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 89th annual national convention assembled, urge the federal government to provide sustained core funding to the provinces and territories for services that meet the needs of persons wanting to exit a life of prostitution and to regain control of their lives; and, be it further
Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 89th annual national convention assembled, encourage provincial councils to urge the provincial, territorial and municipal governments to identify and support institutions and organizations offering rehabilitation services for persons wanting to exit a life of prostitution.
Resolution - 2009.02Protection and Support Services for Foreign Victims of Human Trafficking
Submitted by: B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council
Whereas, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s policy for temporary residence permits offers limited protection and support to foreign victims of human trafficking; and
Whereas, This policy may be discretionary and/or temporary; therefore legislation would provide national standards; and
Whereas, Canada ratified the United Nations Trafficking Protocol in 2002, of which articles six and seven address implementing measures to provide support services and immigration permits for victims of trafficking; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 89th annual national convention assembled, urge the federal government to enact legislation for protection and support services for foreign victims of human trafficking; and, be it further
Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 89th annual national convention assembled, encourage provincial councils to urge the provincial and territorial governments to provide necessary support services for foreign victims of human trafficking.

Resolution - 2009.03Hate Messages
Submitted by: B.C. & Yukon Provincial Council
Whereas, The proceedings under Section 13 Hate Messages of the Canadian Human Rights Act permit a low burden of proof which can damage persons or organizations against whom an unjustifiable complaint has been filed; and
Whereas, Hate provisions are addressed in the Criminal Code which allows for a burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt, application of the rules of evidence and the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven; and
Whereas, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states in section 11 (d) a person charged with an offence has the right “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal”; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 89th annual national convention assembled, urge the federal government to:1) restrict proceedings on matters of hate solely under the Criminal Code; and2) repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act entitled Hate Messages.
The briefs that accompanied these resolutions can be found on the CWL website at

The Saskatchewan delegation went out to dinner together one evening and were well looked after at "The Hungry Fisherman" on Water Street in St. John's. Here in the middle is Velma Harasen of Regina who is National President Elect.
Velma joined The Catholic Women's League of Canada as charter president of St. Gerard Parish Council in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Upon moving to Regina, she joined St. Martin Parish Council where she continues to be active. Velma held executive positions on both diocesan and provincial levels and served as Saskatchewan provincial president from 1999 to 2001. She assisted in the amalgamation process when the province went from five to three dioceses. She coordinated Project Grow in her province and was a facilitator. The completion of Leading the League and chairing the ad hoc committee was a fulfilling experience. In 2002, she was awarded a life membership in national council.
Seated on Velma's right is Jean Mahoney.

And the Provincial President, Gerri Holmes.

Fr. Francis Hengen, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Redvers, SK is the Provincial Spiritual Advisor sitting here with Louise Dennehy.

Here is the whole happy Saskatchewan delegation to the Convention.

The closing Mass was held Mary Queen of Peace church in St. John's. The Presider was Bishop Douglas Crosby,O.M.I, Bishop of Cornerbrook and Labrador.

Archbishop Martin Currie, who was in Holy Heart Seminary, Halifax with me is seen here in the centre with Bishop Crosby on the left and myself on the right.

I had this great view from my hotel window of the harbour with the Narrows opening out onto the Atlantic Ocean with Signal Hill and the Battery on the left and South Side Hill and Fort Amherst on the right. A lovely sight to end a great week with some wonderful, competent and very effective Catholic lay people.

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