The group is rooted in gospel values and is the largest organized grassroots group of women in Canada. The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) of Canada celebrates its 50th Annual Diocesan Convention on April 21 and 22 at Sacred Heart Church.
Some of its steadfast members can recall the early days when chapters were first taking shape.
On Sunday, a few of them met to pull together some costumes old-style dresses, costume jewelry and hats that will be part of a fashion show the group is putting on depicting their long history. Andrea McKenzie first joined in Michel-Natal in 1946. She’ll be wearing fashions similar to those worn by ladies in the 1920’s, the Flapper Era.
Although the group is celebrating its 50th anniversary, many councils received their charter before 1956.
“The Sacred Heart Council received its charter, then called a subdivision, in 1926,” said McKenzie. “All councils in the diocese have been invited to take part in the fashion show and wear fashions from the year in which they were organized. So I’ll be wearing the flapper’s costume. I put it all together myself.”
Long time member Agnes Leslie is also preparing for her fashion plate role as Ramblin’ Rose of the historical Klondike Goldrush era.
“When I first joined the Catholic Womens’ League it was war time,” said Leslie. “I was 21 in 1942 and living in Regina. We used to greet the trains of soldiers arriving in our city and bring them sandwiches and coffee.
“We would go wherever we could help, part of the war effort. In Vancouver, we raised money to help build a church. Today we help with all kinds of things like our project in Africa for women.”
McKenzie joined in, “The project is in postnatal obstetrical and and gynocological care. We send money over there to help out. Really we do whatever we can for God and country which is our motto.” The senior said she doesn’t have to read about the organization’s history in books, “I am history,” she laughed. “I was there.”
Convention publicist Marlene Scoville said the group expects about120 for the convention. Her experience with the CWL is a little different from the other two women, she said. “I don’t have the continuing history they do. I’ve kind of dropped in and out of the league as time permitted between having children and being busy with my teaching career. But I find it very comforting in the 30 years I’ve been with them, that when I’ve come back things are much the same. It is a very stable organization so I always feel quite at home. When the group was started, your church was your focus. And it kind of grew out of there. Now we help out with Seniors Tea, Blood Donor Clinics and we support our local schools through scholarship.”
The 50th anniversary CWL event includes guest speakers like Most Rev. Gerald Wieiner, O.M.I. and Kay Matthews, a midwife just returned from Nigeria, who will be speaking on promoting safer childbirth in Africa (Mater Care). For more information about the CWL convention phone Marlene Scoville at 563-6057.