900 women attended CWL national convention in Edmonton in mid-August. Photo by Ramon Gonzalez

CWL, Sisters of Service start foundation for women’s leadership

By  Ramon Gonzalez, Canadian Catholic News
  • August 22, 2012

EDMONTON - The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in partnership with the Sisters of Service of Toronto, is setting up a $1-million private charitable foundation to train women in leadership in the Church and in society.

As part of their legacy, the Sisters of Service are giving $500,000 to begin the foundation which will train about 24 women a year.

The CWL has vowed to match the Sisters’ donation. At its 92nd annual national convention in Edmonton, the CWL voted to take $100,000 from its treasury to get the foundation rolling and to raise the remaining $400,000 from donations across Canada.

Outgoing national president Velma Harasen made the announcement at a news conference Aug. 15, just hours before she completed her two-year term.

“We feel there is a real need to speak up for our Christian values and therefore be out there in the community, on school boards, on hospital boards, on parish councils and in society at large,” she said.

“This will hopefully help our women be a little more empowered to speak up and feel a bit more confident to do that. So with the blessing of the convention, we will proceed with this charitable foundation.”

The CWL has worked in partnership with the Sisters of Service since the 1920s. Today, only 20 Sisters of Service remain in Canada and the youngest is 78. The congregation was established to help meet the spiritual and social needs of immigrants settling in rural areas of the Canadian Prairies.

“So they are planning for their future when they are no longer with us,” said Harasen.

A board of directors will run the foundation, which will be incorporated and therefore able to ask for donations and issue tax receipts, noted president Betty Anne Brown Davidson of Wellington, Ont., who took over the reins of the CWL following the news conference.

“The foundation will be separate from the league and will have a totally separate board,” she said. It should be up and running in about a year.

At the convention, delegates also approved a resolution urging the federal government “to strongly enforce the criminalization of the purchase of sexual services.” Also approved was a resolution urging the government to provide for an extra 15 weeks of Employment Insurance benefits for adoptive mothers.  

The convention also approved two motions to send letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition parties on social justice issues.  One letter opposes the federal government’s funding cuts to faith-based development agencies; the other expresses concern about poor living conditions on First Nations reserves.

The Aug. 15 closing Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica was offered for the repose of the soul of Fr. Joseph Christenson, spiritual advisor for the CWL in Halifax-Yarmouth. Christenson died suddenly while attending the convention.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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