The St. Andrew’s CWL council hosts a garden party in 1953 with Fr. James Kirby. Photo courtesy St. Andrew’s CWL

St. Andrew’s CWL marks century of caring

  • July 24, 2022

Terry Murphy is the fifth generation in her family to serve as part of the Catholic Women’s League at St. Andrew’s Parish in Oakville, Ont.

Her great, great-grandmother and great-grandmother were among the original charter members in 1922, and Murphy grew up observing her grandmother, mother and the other women’s dedicated and active involvement in the league.

As the thriving council of more than 100 members commemorates its centennial with a year full of events, Murphy and current council president Yvette Vukanovich say the essence of service that marked the council that emerged after the First World War remains the same today: being a part of the council is about being a person of warmth and good character.   

“I remember being told my great-grandmother lived fairly near the railway tracks,” recalled Murphy. “During the 1930s when people were riding the rails, they would know that there was food if they went by her Maple Avenue home. It’s about that whole small-town care for everyone, not just in your church but in your community as a whole.”

“Really the fabric of the league has been the same through the years,” said Vukanovich. “With each spiritual and temporal act, it may be unremarkable by itself, but intertwined together it’s a timeless constitution that becomes more valuable with time.”

In days gone by, the council held garden parties to raise funds for causes it supported. Now it is house tours at Christmas that help support the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities and various non-denominational organizations helping the needy.

With a firm foundation of faith and community, the council’s centennial festivities began in February. A rosary event in the late spring drew everyone from young families to women in their 90s and included performances from the church choirs to end 12 hours of prayer for palliative care.

The council’s latest incarnation is about community and inclusivity, says Murphy. Whether at a point in life where they can serve a lot or a little, women are encouraged to contribute in any way they can. Over the past five years they have been meeting with MPs to advocate for conscience rights for health-care providers who refuse to perform certain services on religious or moral grounds. They have also been advocating for palliative care and mental health supports for youth, particularly in light of federal legislation proposed to expand medical assistance in dying to include mature minors.

Playing a highly visible role in the Church and community, Vukanovich has been intentional about “leading by example” in service and celebrating those who contribute. Having the full backing and support of church leadership led by pastor Fr. Cornelius O’Mahony has been instrumental and contributed to the council’s continued growth.  

“Fr. Con has been very supportive of our initiatives and has an open-door policy,” said Vukanovich. “He guides us and gives us wisdom and he’s always there supporting us. I think that’s a big bonus. He’s very approachable and he attends all our executive meetings, so we’re very well connected in that way in the parish.”

The council bought a commemorative bench for its 100th and a builder in the parish installed the concrete slab free of charge. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for July 23. The council is currently working on a memorial garden.

Celebratory events are scheduled to run through December. The executive team has been so grateful for what God has done through the council and has made a point of honouring those who have contributed time and energy to its causes.

“I guess I’m celebrating the sisterhood that we have built and the energy that we have put back into the parish,” said Vukanovich, who has served as president for the past eight years. “It’s all about kindness, respect and acknowledging people. I think that’s what I’m celebrating — the energy that’s in our CWL that hopefully continues going forward.”

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