The Catholic Women’s League has changed a lot over its 100-year history, adapting to the times and issues of the day. Above, a scene from the 2016 annual convention. Register file photo

CWL takes centennial celebrations online

By 
  • June 7, 2020

Like much of the nation, the best-laid plans of the Catholic Women’s League have been set aside by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 100th anniversary celebrations of the Catholic women’s organization planned for its convention in Montreal this August have been cancelled — but that doesn’t mean the CWL won’t be commemorating its roots in this centennial year.

“We’re still celebrating as best we can,” said Anne-Marie Gorman, national president of the CWL, which was founded June 17, 1920.

Its centenary committee has been working on this special anniversary for the past five years and intends to do what it can to salvage the celebration.

A number of projects planned in conjunction with the anniversary have been taking place, including each council planting 100 trees for the centenary, said Gorman.

“People want to be doing something, they want to take action even though we’re planted (at home) for safety reasons,” said Gorman. “Things are going on.”

An historic photo wall was something members could have expected if they were in Montreal for the planned Aug. 9-12 occasion. These will still be shown, most likely in some online format.

Even the August celebrations will go online. It won’t be the huge celebration that was expected for the 75,000 women-strong league, but it will be the best that can be done in the circumstances of a nation in virtual lockdown. Various committees will be meeting virtually, there will be online presentations and keynote addresses from bioethicists Sr. Nuala Kenny and Cory Labrecque as well as Donna Orsuto, co-founder of the Lay Centre in Rome.

“It will be more or less like we’re going to a convention, at least in the program part,” said Gorman.

In some ways, Gorman wonders if the CWL would be “so immersed” in its mission “to grow in faith and to witness to the love of God through ministry and service” if not for COVID-19.

Indeed, a quick look at the CWL website shows things have not slowed down. Communiques continue to be published regularly for members and Gorman says its committees are meeting on a continual basis, just by new means. Ten working groups have also been formed to work on matters ranging from Catholic social teaching to the league’s focus on social justice.

“This time, as stressful as it has been and the amount of uncertainty that it has presented has provided all kinds of opportunities for people to find different ways of being in communion with each other, connected with each other,” she said.

The CWL will host its next convention in Toronto in 2021 and it should have some centenary celebration aspect to it as it will be the 100th anniversary of the first convention.

As for the league’s other work, it carries on. The annual meeting with MPs from all parties on Parliament Hill March 30-April 2 was cancelled due to the virus, but members continue to add the league’s voice to issues like Bill C-7 on medically-assisted dying.

“That’s what we’ve done,” said Gorman. “Women of faith, they serve, they’re into social justice in a big way and they will continue to do so.”

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