In 1906, the National Organization of Catholic Women was formed in England. In 1912 Bishop Legal of Edmonton called together, all the Catholic women's organizations in Edmonton as a Federation, which was affiliated with the National Organization of Catholic Women in England. During the next few years, groups were organized around Canada doing charity work for the sick, the homeless and the poor. On January 25th 1917 a group of women in Hamilton from different parishes came together to discuss the advisability of forming a society to care for the religious needs of the soldiers quartered in Hamilton. This group was known as the Catholic Women's Guild.
A meeting was held in Montreal on June 17th 1920, which resulted in the formation of the National Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada. Miss Bellelle Guerin of Montreal was named the first National President of the League. Attending that meeting was Mrs. Frances Lovering of Hamilton Ontario who was named the first Treasurer of the National Council. In September, on her return to Hamilton, Frances Lovering motivated the Catholic ladies of that city into forming the Hamilton Council of the Catholic Women's League of Canada. These ladies drawn from eleven councils were busy at work caring for the needs of soldiers in military hospitals and sanatoriums while some worked in orphanages and other social agencies.
In 1932, resolutions were passed that dealt with work programs for people on welfare, boycott of products produced under bad working conditions by underpaid workers, help for unwed mothers, school taxations policies and objectionable publications on news stands.
In 1940, Hamilton Diocese was the second largest in Canada with a membership of 1,990 ladies. The members were involved with caring for the needs and comforts of the armed forces. Across Canada the League donated $25,000 to the war effort with almost $8,800 from the Hamilton Diocese.
The membership in the diocese was 10,000 in 1957 and concerns were still growing about the social conditions in our country. By the mid 60's, there were 100 parish councils belonging to the League with membership of 14,858 and we had donated $9.500 to the Vanier Institute of the family.
In 1970 the members of the League participated in the formation of Birthright and Right to Life organization and served as volunteers. 1975 saw a brief being presented to the Provincial Commission on Violence in the Media and in 1976 briefs were presented to the Provincial Commission on Human Rights and on Property Taxation Reform.
The 80's raised our awareness of our planet, nuclear weapons being stockpiled, and the ozone layer thinning out. We started fund raising for others; first we saved pennies to buy a truck for Bishop Marskel in Brazil, and then a photocopier for the Cape Croker First Nations Mission. The councils contributed funds to a children's camp in Zimbabwe run by the Marist Brothers. Donations were made to the Pro Life film 'Feel the Heartbeat' in the amount of $16,000 for which the Diocese was mentioned in the credits.
In the 90's, the members of the diocesan executive kept up the busy pace as they travelled in teams of two to the parish councils with the Fieldworkers Program for the National office. Our members took part in leadership programs under the various convenerships, now named 'Standing Committees'. The big fund raising project was to help Bishop Lobsinger in Whitehorse B.C. rebuild his church. The Bishop came to the 1992 convention in Kitchener and received a cheque for over $16,000. The year 1996 saw the establishment of the Frances Lovering Bursary at St. Jerome' University. This bursary is awarded to a female student who meets the criteria set forth by the university and the Catholic Women's League of Hamilton Diocese. Our ambitions were high as we elected to raise $60,000 to help fund renovations at St. Jerome's to make a residence wheelchair accessible. It was a challenge that we met in a little over five years.
The 90's were a truly busy and growing time for our diocese as we widened our field of activity. In honour of our 75th anniversary year, it was decided to place a suitable memorial gravestone marker at the grave in Hamilton of our second national president, (more important to us, she was our first Diocesan President) Frances Lovering. The Pornography Hurts bus campaign was initiated. Funds were raised by League members and the Knights of Columbus were invited to take part in the campaign. This campaign runs during the month of October annually. The 'Pennies for Seminarians' collection was instituted during this time, parish councils were encouraged to save pennies towards the education of seminarians.
The year 2000 dawned bright in the diocese with various celebrations being planned. The League chose to offer a new award to the parishes giving each a chance to nominate a deserving lady in their parish for the 'Frances Lovering Annual Award'. A Committee selects the winner from all the nominees and she is honoured at the annual convention. Another League initiative was the Mass for Vocations. The Serra Club and the Knights of Columbus were invited to work with the League to celebrate at Vocations Mass annually in different parts of the diocese.
The members of our diocese are very active. They volunteer in over a hundred clubs and organizations in their communities. They raise money for a variety of causes at home and abroad as is needed. We have conducted workshops on actions that we should take in the prevention of Elder Abuse and what we should do in ending Sexual Exploitation of Persons, (women, children and young boys/men). Our Resolutions have been presented to all levels of governments with wonderful results. Resolutions originating in our diocese include ones on Landmines, disposal of disposable diapers, discontinued use of plastic shopping bags and the age of Consent for Sexual activity to name but a few.
And, finally, each year we search for a candidate in our diocese to receive the Bellelle Guerin Plaque as a member who represents the foresight and driving initiative of our first national president, Miss Bellelle Guerin. We have 103 parishes in Hamilton Diocese with almost 12,000 members and each year we raise over $400,000 for the causes that we support. Our members support the missions at home and abroad and particularly our missions in Northern regions of Canada.
Revised: January 29, 2008, by Mary Carlin