Archbishop's Blog

  • 69th Annual Convention of the Provincial Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada:

    Posted on June 5, 2017

    Sacred Heart Parish in Virden,  Manitoba was the setting for this year’s Provincial Council for the Catholic Women’s League. There were women delegates from many parts of our province in attendance and the theme : “Women Inspired by the Spirit Respond to God’s Call," served as a spiritual focus throughout the Convention agenda and Liturgy. I had the privilege of celebrating the Liturgy with all convention attendees along with members of Sacred Heart Parish. Fr. Leo Fernandez, pastor of St. Rose du Lac and Missions, is completing his last term as Catholic Women’s League ProvincialAdvisor. I include here, my brief homily for the occasion:

    Catholic Women’s League Provincial Convention 2017

    Inspired by the Spirit, Women Respond to God’s Call is your theme for this year’s Provincial Convention.  Reflecting on your theme, I would say that it not only describes something about the Catholic Women’s League itself but serves also as an instruction on how to be Catholic Women in the League.
    In the Gospel account today, we hear of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on Easter night when they were huddled together behind locked doors. This in itself indicates that there was a conflict and a fear about being who they were as disciples – we can translate that into our own modern context if you like. Jesus stood among them – this too is useful for us as we recall that “where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there among them.”  A reminder that in every gathering and work of the CWL, he is there among the members! Jesus then says on two occasions: “Peace be with you.”  Familiar words to us at every liturgy and indeed at the Sign of Peace during the Mass. Jesus says Peace be with you at the beginning of his encounter with the disciples and they with him. We too at every liturgy, hear these words, spoken by the priest, in Persona Christi, at the beginning of the Lord’s encounter with us and we with him. Finally, the Lord’s words, Peace be with you, ushers in a manifestation of his power when he breathes into them to receive the Holy Spirit so that sins may be forgiven through the ministry of these Apostles.
    Women who are breathed into or inspired by the Holy Spirit are given power to go forth and witness to Christ before all nations and make disciples for him. Deeds of power accompany the presence of the Holy Spirit in every woman and man who opens their hearts to this divine presence.  In the Acts of the Apostles we learn that when the disciples were speaking in tongues that they were speaking about one thing – “…we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power." The mere fact of the active apostolate of the CWL in Canada since June 17, 1920 , is a sign that women have responded to God’s call through the Holy Spirit. Your first President, Bellelle Guerin, was a remarkable women of talent and faith. All this is an extraordinary witness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit not only in our Archdiocese but in Canada from coast to coast. The Opening prayer for this Pentecost celebration captures very well what we should be praying for: “ ... we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth and, with the divine grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more the hearts of believers." Now for the instruction that is contained in your theme.  This has to do with this convention and every council meeting and every committee that is part of the faith life of the CWL. When Jesus said: Peace be with you, he did not use the word Peace, but rather Shalom – the Peace of God is Shalom - the peace of the Holy Spirit is Shalom. Shalom is a very rich and complex word that has many nuances – the presence of God in our lives has many nuances and implications. Shalom means things like: yes, peace; but harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, tranquility, to name a few.
    This is precisely what we pray over the person next to us at Mass when we give the Sign or Kiss of Peace. We pray that this person will receive Shalom – not our shalom – but Christ’s shalom - it is entirely beside the fact that we try to reach as many people as possible during the Kiss of Peace because there is only one peace being exchanged and it is not ours! Therefore we need to be mindful of what we do and the sincerity with which we do it!
    Women inspired by the Spirit, Women Respond to God’s Call. Has everything to do with this Shalom. Every gathering and every deliberation that is undertaken needs to be under the action of the Holy Spirit so that one can respond to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. This means more than simply starting things off with a prayer because that’s what Catholics do – rather to make the listening to and invocation of the Spirit among us, something continuous and part of the faith-life and faith-action of the League. Remember that at the beginning of the encounter between Christ and the Apostles – the Holy Spirit was given – the Shalom was given - He breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit.
    Saint John Paul II once instructed us in one of his letters that: There is a principle called, The Primacy of Grace: If in the planning that awaits us we commit ourselves more confidently to a pastoral activity that gives personal and communal prayer its proper place, we shall be observing an essential principle of the Christian view of life: the Primacy of Grace. There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work; that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that “without Christ we can do nothing.”
    St. Paul learned this principle of the Primacy of Grace, probably through the hard way of many mistakes and human failure – just as we must, yet he instructs us that we are of One Body and in this Body here are many individual gifts, yet we are all made to drink of the one Spirit.
    So, as members of the Catholic Women’s League, you have been and are inspired by the Holy Spirit, the question constantly before you, as it is before all of us, is, do we respond to this call, not just once, but continually? And with regard to being witness throughout the world, Paul really does remind us that, “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit."

    Head table at banquet with current Provincial President and Archdiocesan President with Spiritual Advisor and guests.

    Faith Anderson, Provincial President  at the podium along with Archdiocesan President, Rosemary.

    Some old time musical entertainment after the banquet.

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