PHOTO | JEAN ASHDOWN
The Catholic Girls League group from St. Thomas More Parish enjoys games and companionship.
EDMONTON – With the Catholic Women's League comprised of mostly older women, several parishes throughout the Edmonton Archdiocese have been devising new ways to attract younger members.
One way was starting the Catholic Girls League. The group is for girls aged 10 to 14. The initiative, which started about five years ago in Alberta, helps young girls get involved, with the hope that they will want to join the CWL later.
There are now 11 such groups in Alberta. St. Theresa's Parish in Edmonton was the first to start a group, led by Natalie Rose. Holy Family Parish in St. Albert and St. Maria Goretti Parish in Devon have active groups as well.
Fran Lucas was active in starting a CGL at Jean Forest Leadership Academy, which is associated with St. Joseph's Basilica. When the girls turn 15, they qualify to join the CWL. That's what has been happening.
"They are finishing, and moving on to becoming CWL members, so what a beautiful recruitment tool. I am a huge advocate for it because with our numbers not moving up as quickly as we would like, this is a great venue," said Lucas.
The group sold Rice Krispie squares and candy-filled plastic Easter eggs, with the money forwarded to worthy charities. They have purchased school bags and clothes for underprivileged children their age.
"These girls do a lot of fundraising. They want to help others," said Lucas.
The CGL has the same basic hierarchy as the CWL, including its executive positions, such as chairperson and secretary.
With the Jean Forest Academy group, one girl wanted to let her name stand as president, but found she was ineligible because she wasn't Catholic. So, for months, she told her parents that she wanted to become Catholic and finally she did, said Lucas.
Another active CGL group, led by Jean Ashdown for the past three years, is at St. Thomas More Parish.
"Part of it is that we fulfill a need in the parish for a youth group. We have no youth minister, no youth group," said Ashdown.
Initially the group was set up informally. They meet on Saturdays, twice a month. There is no formal agenda, but the members participate in youth group-like activities such as doing crafts, watching movies, playing games, and participating in activities that contribute to the rest of the parish.
"One meeting we talked about prayer, and everyone wrote their own prayer, which we used at our future meetings," said Ashdown.
The girls have also done some volunteering, and recently sold roses in support of the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre. They also volunteered at a church supper and helped out with a school lunch program.
"A challenge is that no matter what day you pick for something, some girls can't make it because young people are too busy these days. They want to be involved, but they have other activities going on," said Ashdown.
The group has 20 registered members, with a core group of about 12 to 14 that attend on a regular basis, from October to May. A hopeful sign is that some girls under 10 are already eager to join once they are old enough.
The group takes a break during the summer months. Three CWL members and a couple of young adults in post-secondary school have been helping at the group meetings.
Ashdown's hope is that those who turn 16 will continue helping the group in leadership roles or, better yet, join the CWL themselves.
"We've had good success this year with getting their mothers involved. Their girls join, and then their mothers join the CWL," said Ashdown.