Service group celebrates 75 years

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An Okotoks service group celebrated its 75th anniversary last month.

The Catholic Women’s League (CWL), based out of St. James Parish, first charted in 1942. Now 95 members strong, the CWL is dedicated to serving both Okotoks and the church community.

Shirley Mutschler, CWL president, said the organization is focused on educating its members and donating funds to local initiatives.

“We donate money to the schools to help with their hot lunch programs,” said Mutschler. “Then at a meeting we might have somebody give a talk about how they’re progressing and what they still need, if what we’re giving isn’t quite enough.”

Presentations at meetings may range from informing members about the Rowan House Emergency Shelter, to issues such as physician-assisted suicide and hospice care, pro-life, or the Okotoks Food Bank, she said.

It’s an opportunity for women to learn about different organizations in the Foothills that may be in need of support, whether through visiting and providing helping hands (like at the food bank) or providing monetary donations, she said.

Sometimes they might take a matter beyond their own borders, she said.

“If we feel there’s a topic that’s very important, say euthanasia, we will write up a resolution, which we send to National and then they review it and expand on it and then take it to the government and see what they can do about it,” said Mutschler.

The CWL of Canada has held close ties with all levels of government, right up to federal, since its inception in 1920, according to Calgary Diocesan Council president Janet MacPhee.

“The motto of, ‘For God and Canada’ defines who the Catholic Women’s League serves,” said MacPhee in a written statement.

She said the CWL focuses on principal ministries of spiritual development, promoting Christian values, advocacy, seeking social justice, and supporting women and families locally, nationally and internationally.

The CWL is one of the largest organizations of women in Canada, with more than 82,000 members, she said. There are 50 CWL councils under the Calgary Diocesan Council, which stretches from Hanna south to the U.S. border and from the B.C. border east to the Saskatchewan border, she said.

“The League is organized and pledged to serve all citizens and has often received the commendation and keen appreciation of federal, provincial and municipal authorities for the voluntary services ably performed by its nationwide membership,” said MacPhee.

In Okotoks, service comes in many forms, such as helping with Magic of Christmas or providing a scholarship to young women pursuing post-secondary education. They organizatio has also donated items to the kitchen in St. James Church’s new parish hall, she said.

Funds are raised through funeral lunches at St. James Parish, selling flower baskets in the spring, a pie sale in the fall and a Christmas bake sale.

Although it operates out of the church, the CWL is entirely self-funded, she said. Members pay an annual fee of $25, which goes toward the national organization, Nickels for the North, and travel within the St. James council to attend educational conferences, she said.

Nickels for the North helps their sisters in remote areas of northern Canada, she said.

“Because of the distance they have to travel to go to any conventions, we have money that goes toward their travel expenses and accommodations when they have to travel outside of their area,” said Mutschler.

Despite its name and affiliation, the CWL is open to all women over the age of 16. They do not have to be Catholic or Canadian citizens to join.

The Okotoks chapter meets once per month, on the second Tuesday of each month following mass at St. James Church. For more information visit www.stjamesparishokotoks.ca or www.cwl.ca.

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