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Fernie’s Catholic Women’s League celebrates 100 years

A church service and banquet were held on Saturday to celebrate their centennial anniversary

The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) in Fernie celebrated their centennial anniversary on Saturday (Nov. 5), with a church service and banquet.

Celia Roccamatisi, past president of the CWL and master of ceremonies for the Saturday celebration, said their motto has been ‘For God and for Canada’, and that their objectives have been to deepen faith, do service, and attain social justice.

The CWL was organized nationally in June, 1920. Fernie was the first charter in B.C. and the ninth in Canada.

“We’re celebrating the centennial. We’re having it a little later because COVID delayed our celebration, and I thought it was important to organize, one, because we’re with the original charter. And out of respect for the women who signed the original charter, I just through we should have a celebration,” Roccamatisi said.

The evening featured a service at 5 p.m. at the Holy Family Church, followed by a dinner attended by a broader group at the Family Centre starting around 6 p.m. There were about 60 people in attendance throughout the celebrations, which featured speeches, socializing over cocktails and coffee, a full ham and turkey dinner, and a musical performance.

After the celebrations, Roccamatisi said “I think they enjoyed themselves.”

A write-up, prepared by the CWL, was placed at everybody’s dinner seats. It explained some of the history of the organization and named the signers of the original charter.

It says the Holy Family Church was constructed by the men of the parish from 1909 to 1911, and is viewed as the primary heritage Catholic Church for B.C.

“Complementary to this, the Holy Family CWL Council (Fernie) was formed with the original 1920 Charter signed by Belle Guerin, the first National President.”

“From the League’s inception, CWL members, with the Knights of Columbus, have been the heart of the parish, participating in all the ministries serving their church and community.”

It adds that on the provincial and federal level, members serving on resolution committees have caused some resolutions to become legislation.

The write-up goes on to say that on the parish level, league members have focused on the immediate spiritual, social and financial needs of the parish.

“The Pastor has always needed assistance to evangelize, to minister the sacraments and to bring parishioners together to socialize. Particularly, in the early years of the parish, the church, was the social center of the parishioners’ lives, having teas, dances, pageants, suppers, and luncheons frequently hosted by the CWL Council. These events have helped with the financial management of the parish.”

Roccamatisi said that 100 years is a long time, but that it passes quickly.

“I just think this was an important thing to do, because the Catholic Women’s League has accomplished a lot of good things. And just out of respect for our ancestors… The people who came before us.”

According to the CWL write-up, the first members who signed the Charter were: Mrs. J. Aiello (Guiseppina Josephine), Miss Elizabeth Banks (Lizzie), Mrs. J. Bella (Mellia Jane Curts (Nellie), Mrs. Edward Caufield (Mary Elizabeth), Mrs. Jack Caufield, Mrs. T. Costanzo (Thomasina), Mrs. Crisafio (Maria Concetta), Mrs. F. Denison, Mrs. Wm. Eschwig (Mary), Mrs. Wm. Morris (Ann), Mrs. Penney (Roseanne), Mrs. Wm. Turner, and Mrs. Staff Wilson.

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