February 20, 2012

EDMONTON – The Catholic Women's League is most notable for its fidelity to the Church, Archbishop Richard Smith told a gala celebration marking the CWL's 100th anniversary.

"Your identity as Catholic informs all that you do and you are very public about that and unapologetic," Smith said.

The archbishop sung the praises of the CWL in a brief talk at the Feb. 11 event marking the kickoff of celebrations for the centennial of the league's founding in Edmonton. About 650 people attended the event at the Northlands EXPO Centre.

The league will have a series of events throughout the year, including hosting the national CWL convention in August, until the actual centennial in November.

Smith spoke of how he has watched the CWL since his mother became a charter member of the CWL council at St. Michael's Parish in Halifax.

"I watched the members step up to the plate and do whatever they could to serve the needs of the parish and the people in the community," he said. "I saw them at Mass and I saw them at service and in this way, they gave witness to me and to others of the inseparable link between the two."

Since then, he has served as spiritual advisor to CWL councils in parishes, at the diocesan and provincial levels and, finally after becoming a bishop, he spent five years as the national spiritual advisor to the league.

Catholicism, he said, is more than a set of beliefs, but is also a personal relationship of love and friendship with Jesus Christ.

"To be Catholic is to be convinced in every fibre of our being that there is nothing more beautiful than to know Jesus Christ."

Smith lauded the CWL for its consistent commitment to Church teaching and its willingness to bring that teaching to bear on issues in society.

"To be Catholic is to reach out in love and compassion to the needy," he said, noting that the first council was formed in Edmonton to meet the needs of immigrant women.

Gladys Brown of Fort Saskatchewan, the archdiocesan CWL president, told the gala of the efforts of the first league members to do spiritual and temporal good works.

They established a hostel, visited hospitals and ran a pre-employment service for immigrant women and girls, Brown noted.

Velma Harasen of Regina, the national president, said that Katherine Hughes and the other founders of the CWL "must be very proud of how the league has thrived and how the women of Edmonton, Alberta and Canada have carried the torch."

Work with marginalized

Today, the CWL continues to see work with immigrants, refugees, foreign workers and the marginalized as an important part of its mission, Harasen said.

Society has changed enormously over the past 100 years, she said. "But our role continues to be perhaps more important than ever in a modern-day secular society."