WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
EDMONTON — From helping women and children to flee domestic violence to supporting new immigrants, the Catholic Women's League has a reputation for responding whenever there is a need in Edmonton.
The Catholic Women's League of the Edmonton Archdiocese is this year's recipient of the 2011 Monsignor Bill Irwin Award of Excellence.
The prestigious award acknowledges organizations and individuals who have lived up to Irwin's ministry of meeting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged.
"The trail forged by the women of the Catholic Women's League, Edmonton Archdiocese, serves as a sign of hope that God is ever present and loving to those who pray," said Father Mike McCaffery.
"By their actions they have ensured that the timeless Gospel values of loving service, social justice, and solidarity with people in need are faithfully put into practice," McCaffery said when presenting the award at the CSS annual meeting, held June 24 at the Northlands Expo Centre.
Accepting the award on behalf of the CWL was archdiocesan president Gladys Brown. Close to 30 CWL members attended the meeting.
McCaffery called the CWL prophetic models of Christian sacrifice, humility, compassion and selfless service.
Irwin founded Catholic Social Services in Edmonton in 1961. Today, the agency provides professional service to people of all faiths and cultures, through more than 130 programs.
The largest agency of its kind in Canada, Catholic Social Services has more than 1,200 staff, almost 2,000 volunteers, and will serve more than 60,000 Albertans this year. The agency has offices in Edmonton, Red Deer, Wainwright, Bonnyville, Lloydminster and Wetaskiwin.
Although the Catholic Women's League was formed nationally in 1920 in Montreal, it was founded in the Edmonton Archdiocese in 1912 when Catholic women set up an organization to support immigrant women and girls seeking work in the city.
"During the economic depression of the 1930s, the CWL responded to basic human needs by funding food banks and clothing depots," said McCaffery. "They raised more than $100,000 to open Centennial Villa for homeless girls in Edmonton in the late 1960s."
Over the years, the CWL has made significant financial contributions to many charitable organizations, including the Youth Emergency Shelter, St. Mary's Boys Home, Lurana Shelter, St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College.
The CWL has been supportive of Catholic Social Services since its inception in 1961. League members volunteer for special projects and raise funds for the Sign of Hope campaign.
McCaffery said CWL members have been "exemplary witnesses to the virtues of faith, love and hope in action."
Five outstanding volunteers were also lauded for their selfless efforts. Winning the outstanding volunteer awards were Sister Margaret Mary Benoit, Misook Hong, Brittany Malo, Stephanie D'Agostini and Patricia Bacchus.