Gladys Brown, CWL's archdiocesan president, anticipates 800 to 1000 delegates will attend the national convention in Edmonton next August.

WCR File Photo

Gladys Brown, CWL's archdiocesan president, anticipates 800 to 1000 delegates will attend the national convention in Edmonton next August.

December 12, 2011

From helping women and children flee domestic violence to supporting new immigrants, the Catholic Women's League has a reputation for responding wherever there is a need.

"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," Father Mike McCaffery said about the league last June.

"They are exemplary witnesses to the virtues of faith, love and hope in action."

Archbishop Richard Smith once called the league an organization rooted in Gospel values that calls its members to holiness through service to the people of God.

"They want to be of real and lasting service by reaching out to those in need in accordance with the principles of the Gospel and the doctrine of the Church," Smith said of the league in a written statement last January.

Although the CWL was formed nationally in 1920 in Montreal, its roots were established in Edmonton in 1912 – all thanks to the vision of Katherine Hughes.

While travelling in England, Hughes became aware of the league and its works in that country. Upon her return, she spoke to Bishop Emile Legal about it. Hughes said the league would be useful in assisting immigrant women in the city and Legal agreed, asking Hughes and Abbe Casgrain to organize a meeting.

That first meeting was held Nov. 13, 1912 at St. Joachim's Church under the direction of Mrs. Samuel Gorman. The group adopted a plan of work and decided to call itself Catholic Women's League, after the English group.

The council began assisting immigrant women in Edmonton and opened the first shelter for them two years later. The CWL next started Edmonton's first job bureau.


As time went by, the league expanded its work to include protecting the rights of the unborn and assisting with the development of the Edmonton Youth Emergency Shelter, WIN House and the Lurana Shelter to name a few.

The league also became an important lobby group, lobbying all levels of government on issues from affordable housing to the rights of foreign workers.

The CWL will kick off the celebration of its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Gala at the Edmonton Expo Centre Feb. 11, 2012.

The celebration will continue with a Centennial Mass and reception at St. Joseph's Basilica April 26. Archbishop Smith will preside at the Mass.

In June, the Provincial Archives will unveil a display featuring pictures, banners and writings of the CWL over the past century. The display will be open to the public for three months.


Then in August, part of the display will be taken to the CWL's national convention at the Shaw Conference Centre. The convention is being held in Edmonton in honour of the 100th anniversary.

"We are expecting from 800 to 1,000 delegates and guests," said Gladys Brown, the CWL's archdiocesan president. "And the city is very happy for us to be hosting it too because that brings revenue into the city."

Brown is excited as well "because the CWL was started in Edmonton" and is now a true national organization.


The league's archdiocesan executive is asking each council in the archdiocese to hold a major celebration commemorating the league's 100th anniversary.

There are about 69 councils in the Edmonton Archdiocese with 4,839 women plus about 50 girls, ages 10 to 15.

So far about 25 league members are working on the 100th anniversary activities.

"To be very honest we don't have that many ladies involved right now," Brown said.

"What we are really looking forward to are ladies to come up and volunteer in the various activities. We need them to help with hospitality, with welcoming and guiding (national delegates) along."