This report is concentrated on the response of our organizations to the four resolutions we adopted at our General Assembly in Dakar.
1. A Healthy Planet Depends On Us All
In the United States, the theme of the National Council of Catholic Women for this past year has been based on the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, as had been announced two years ago. It is NCCW Reflecting God’s Joy: Caring for God’s Creation. Our Education Committee, charged with enhancing the faith formation of our members, wrote a beautiful 30-day reflection on Laudato Si to guide our members through that document. In addition, we have had speakers and service projects throughout our country with the help of our partner, The Catholic Climate Covenant. Elementary and High School students have participated in the St. Francis Challenge that has resulted in small changes such as the installation of water fountains that can easily fill water bottles rather than using disposable plastic bottles and cups and a change was made to use silverware and china in school cafeterias rather than paper and plastic products, to larger ventures such as the installation of solar panels, all accompanied by awareness education of the need to conserve and care for our planet in concert with care for each other. Parishes have benefited from going green and weekly statements are in the bulletins about the need to take measures to save our planet. Our members have also received practical education for implementation of conservation at home, building awareness of the need to protect our planet for future generations and remembering our brothers and sisters around the world. Earth Day was celebrated around the nation as was Arbor Day with the planting of trees and cleaning of public spaces. The theme of our National Convention to be held in August is Caring for God’s Creation and our speakers will address both environmental care and awareness of meeting the needs of others. Our NCCW now has reusable water bottles and mesh vegetable bags with our NCCW logo for our members as well as a special NCCW prayer for Caring for Creation. There has been so much work done on this that there is not room in this brief report to cite anything but these few examples.
In Canada, the CWL Canada adopted the theme, Care for Our Common Home in 2019. They also have participated in environmental awareness education and have had speakers at diocesan conventions, support of clean water projects in indigenous communities in Canada and reminded their members to take shorter showers and to use re-useable straws. They have planted trees and cleaned parkways and signed petitions to advocate for clean water and air as well as recycled clothing.
The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada has called on its members to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic and Styrofoam. They have also implemented a program of Human and Environmental Development by establishing local committees in the parishes to solidify the connection of personal consumption and its effect on the world. The Eastern Churches believe that the environmental crisis is symptomatic of a spiritual crisis.
2. Caring for the Family in Difficult Situations, Especially the Most Vulnerable
In the United States, the National Council of Catholic Women has long had a widely recognized and lauded program against Domestic Violence called Women Helping Women. They have staffed pregnancy crisis centers, prayed at abortion clinics, participated in the Masses and Marches for Life, staffed homeless shelters and food pantries, advocated against euthanasia, and financially supported all these endeavors. We have also long advocated for the mentally disabled and those who are addicted, making NCCW prayers for all these issues available to our members in concert with our service work. We support financially and with volunteers Catholic Charities throughout the country, an agency that provides counseling, settles refugees, and provides shelter for the homeless, teaching them useful skills for jobs. We have long had a Respite Program that provides relief for caregivers of the homebound, allowing them to have time to themselves while our trained volunteers take over care of the homebound for a few hours each day at no cost. Our NCCW has implemented an anti-human trafficking program that has 5 components: Prayer, Education, Advocacy, Mentoring of youth at risk for trafficking, and provision of items needed by homes that shelter survivors as they are rehabilitated. We instituted a Kind Card in the last year that is a small business-sized card that assures the recipient that their life has value and meaning and that they are loved by God, to be given to those who are depressed. The NCCW also instituted a beautiful Rosary Reflection on Peace and Healing for those suffering from bullying, grief, or the loss of a loved one from suicide. Since 1943 when they were founded, we have been partners with Catholic Relief Services that provides our international outreach to assist families. Four programs are reserved to the NCCW by CRS; Water For Life, the Madonna Plan, Help-a-Child, and the Refugee Women Emergency Assistance Fund. Again, there is much more, just as for our sister organizations, than cannot be included in a brief report.
CWL Canada reported that they support Catholic centers for those suffering from domestic abuse, attend pro-life activities, meet with legislators to advocate against abortion and for palliative care, support a program that teaches how to be supportive at the bedside of a dying person, make hospital visits, pray, visit nursing homes, and support Catholic Missions in Canada. Members also volunteer in homeless shelters and food pantries and donate clothing and hygiene products for the homeless.
The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada provides financial aid to agencies that support and protect the vulnerable at home and abroad with much targeted to underprivileged children. The “Home of Hope” in the Ukraine is a project that provides a home and training for women who have “aged out” of orphanages, keeping them from being trafficked. They also support pro-life organizations and participate in pro-life activities.
3. Elimination of Violence and Discrimination Against Women
The USA NCCW has, as mentioned, an extensive educational and service support program against domestic violence. This program has educational pieces for all ages as well as practical service components. Through Catholic Charities, the NCCW provides shelters for abused women and their children as well as for abused men. Our NCCW also has a representative on the board of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography who does a wonderful job of keeping our members informed of porn issues, particularly warning us about various apps that can lure children to porn sites and alerting us to upcoming legislation for which we need to write to our Congress persons. We also maintain our 5-component anti trafficking program working in concert with law enforcement to eliminate incarceration for the victims of trafficking and instead jailing those responsible for these crimes. We also work closely with the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, that organization being the US member of Talitha Kum. Internationally, we work with Catholic Relief Services and Doctors Without Borders to name a few organizations that permit our work to extend to those women we shall never see but who need our help.
CWL Canada reported that they provide education on domestic abuse to schools and parishes and purchased a safe house for those abused. They assemble period packs so girls in developing countries can still go to school during their monthly course. They have contacted their federal police force to examine ways to keep women from prostitution and promoted resolutions against porn sites. They have a major concern over the treatment of their indigenous women throughout Canada and continue to help Christians living in the Middle East as well as help newly arrived immigrants.
The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada reported that their perception is that gender equality in Canada is pretty accomplished. Discrimination based on gender is most visible, however, in recent immigrant groups coming to the country. UCWLC does educate to prevent domestic violence by promoting respect in their children and sympathetically recognizes the need for assistance for victims of domestic violence which is often hidden until a very violent episode when public authorities must intervene.
4. The Call to Holiness
The USA NCCW has always had as part of its mission to educate, support, and empower all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership, and service. Spirituality is considered the most important for it underpins all that we do. There are NCCW prayers, retreats, mini-retreats (4 hours long) and rosary reflections for many themes. Our most recent resource addresses the issue of the “nones” the loss of our youth from the Church and is called Passing the Faith to the Next Generation. Another new resource addresses the need for religious vocations and is called Families Foster Vocations. We have a monthly Call in Rosary in which our members from across the country pray together. We offer faith formation education by exploring Church documents, the most recent being our year-long perusal of Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si joined by Gaudete et Exsultate. These studies allow our women to be familiar with and understand these important documents so that they can incorporate the teachings into their lives.
CWL Canada reported that they have focused on separated and divorced parishioners to make them feel welcome. The organization has also produced a new booklet, Annulments Today, Merciful and Just. They also have speakers on the call to holiness and share personal faith journeys.
The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada has proposed a resolution to be considered at their National Congress in October 2019 that calls for their women to read Gaudete et Exsultate, to have speakers that explore this document to facilitate discussion at the parish level, to make a daily commitment to walk in the path of holiness, and to encourage the participation of women in promoting Christian values in politics, government, education, and medicine.
There is so very much more that all of our organizations could report concerning the implementation of these resolutions and I hope that the above gives you the certainty that the resolutions have been adopted well and fully by our North American women.
Thank you and may Our Lady, Queen of Peace, ask her Divine Son to bless us abundantly that we may continue to carry forth our work to bring our world closer to that envisioned by the Creator.