With over 80,000 members across the country in 2019, the Catholic Women's League of Canada (CWLC) represents the largest organized body of Catholic women in Canada. It is officially recognized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as a lay association of women and is affiliated with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. The CWLC national office is in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Catholic Women's League of Canada Logo. Image: Catholic Women's League of Canada website (www.cwl.ca).
According to its mission statement, “The Catholic Women’s League of Canada calls its members to grow in faith, and to witness to the love of God through ministry and service.” (See Catholicism and Christianity).
The CWLC was organized nationally in 1920 and federally incorporated in 1923. In 1917, Bellelle Guerin (baptized Mary Ellen Gueren, born September 24, 1849 in Montreal, Quebec, died in 1929 in Montreal), President of the Catholic Women’s Club in Montreal (formerly the Loyola Club) wrote to Catholic Archbishop Paul Bruchési. She asked for his blessing to form a Montreal chapter of the Catholic Women’s League, an organization which already existed in Edmonton, Alberta. He agreed, and by 1920 the Montreal branch had grown to 440 members. In June of 1920, a meeting was called to unify the branches of the CWL. Guerin was elected first president of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada.
Bellelle Guerin, first President of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Photo credit: the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory.
The CWLC is committed to faith development, upholding Christian values and education, the understanding of religious freedom, social justice, peace and harmony, the recognition of the human dignity of all people and the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. The organization is structured to enable members to make their views known at parish, diocesan and provincial levels. The CWLC, through its National Council, actively translates the objectives of the organization into statements and briefs to the government on a wide range of concerns.