St. Mary’s University Unveils Centennial Commemorative Bench Donated by the Catholic Women’s League

In a heartfelt ceremony held on the evening of June 3, 2024, St. Mary’s University proudly unveiled a commemorative bench to mark the centennial anniversary of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL). This meaningful donation by the CWL not only celebrates 100 years of dedicated service but also honors the long-standing relationship between the CWL and St. Mary’s University.

A Legacy of Support and Advancement

The choice of St. Mary’s University as the site for the centennial bench is a testament to the pivotal role the CWL has played in the institution’s history. It was back in May 1992, during the Calgary Diocesan CWL Convention, that the CWL proposed the establishment of the CWL Chair Foundation. This initiative was aimed at fostering the advancement of education at St. Mary’s by creating and maintaining the CWL Chair for Catholic Studies.

The foundation’s inception was no small feat. Spearheaded by the Calgary Diocesan Council of the CWL, a formidable fundraising campaign was launched in the 1990s. Every member and Catholic woman in the community was encouraged to contribute one dollar a week, with the ambitious goal of raising one million dollars. The fruits of their perseverance were realized after seventeen years of tireless effort.

The CWL Chair for Catholic Studies

On June 14, 1995, the St. Mary’s CWL Chair Foundation was formally established. This historic agreement, signed by Dr. Terry Downey, then-President of St. Mary’s, and Mrs. Mary Heinzlmeir of the CWL, laid the groundwork for what would become a cornerstone of Catholic education at the university. By 2010, the determined fundraising had culminated in a $1.2 million endowed fund. The official establishment of the CWL Chair for Catholic Studies was celebrated on June 3, 2010, ensuring the continuous support for a full-time professor and covering associated building and administration costs.

A Tribute to Perseverance and Faith

The unveiling of the Centennial Commemorative bench serves as a symbol of gratitude and remembrance. Dr. Sinda Vanderpool, President of St. Mary’s University, highlighted the significance of the CWL’s contributions during the ceremony. “St. Mary’s would not be the institution it is today without the unwavering support and vision of the Catholic Women’s League. This bench is not just a seat, but a testament to a century of faith, perseverance, and dedication to education.”

Renne Spohn, Diocesan Past President, expressed her pride in the enduring partnership. “The Calgary Diocesan CWL Council’s relationship with St. Mary’s University rests on a solid foundation. It was formed from God’s call. Together we heard Him ask us to commit to Catholic education and bring His light to our youth. He has guided our journey of prayer, support, and continually renews our passion to strengthen our Catholic community. We are blessed that our 100th Anniversary Commemorative Bench is located on a historic site, the Le Fort Centre. It allows us to gather, to rest, to reflect, and to nourish our spirit knowing that we have many more years as women to build our Catholic Women’s League and collaborate with St. Mary’s University who enriches the minds and hearts of our Catholic youth.”

Diane Miedema, CWL 100th Anniversary Committee Chair added, “It is an enduring tribute to our pioneering sisters and to the generations of women who followed their steadfast call to ministry. It symbolizes the League’s vibrant history in Southern Alberta and honors the contributions of every member and council in the diocese.”

A Place for Reflection and Inspiration

Located in the heart of the university campus, the bench provides a serene spot for students, faculty, and visitors to reflect on the legacy of the CWL and its impact on Catholic education. As the centennial celebrations continue, the bench stands as a reminder of the collective effort and spirit that have shaped St. Mary’s University over the years.

With this commemorative bench, the Catholic Women’s League not only celebrates a milestone but also reaffirms its commitment to fostering education and community spirit. St. Mary’s University looks forward to many more years of partnership and shared success with the CWL, as both institutions continue to inspire and educate future generations.