The history of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada began with the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum (“On the New Things”) by Pope Leo XIII, May 18, 1891, which emphasized the dignity of the poor and supported the emergence of private societies. Later Pope Pius XI called for Catholic lay action designated as “the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy”. In 1906, this call was heard in England by Margaret Fletcher, and she founded a national organization for Catholic women.
Word spread across the Atlantic and in 1910 the call for lay action was brought to the Eucharistic Congress in Montreal by Cardinal Bourne of Westminster. About the same time, Katherine Hughes of Edmonton became aware of the Catholic Women’s League in England while traveling overseas and brought the message home to her bishop.
Bishop Legal recognized the need for organized assistance for these women and called upon Katherine and Abbe Casgrain to organize a meeting, which was held on November 7, 1912. This group was called the Women’s League of Canada, after the English group, with objectives to provide protection and support to women and girls, especially immigrants, seeking work in Edmonton.
Catholic women’s groups in Canada were forming in the major cities of Montreal (1917), Toronto (1918) and Halifax (1919) with each group functioning in its own territory whether in parish or diocese. The first national conference was held in Montreal, and on June 17, 1920 the Catholic Women’s League of Canada was founded. More than 100 subdivisions (councils) were organized within the first year by women traveling across the vast country by train, visiting small and large centers in every diocese, inspired by the motto ‘For God and Canada”.
To join St. Joseph’s Catholic Women’s League, please contact our Parish Office at 403-289-2591.